Dave Sergeant

I had a lovely day out yesterday to Ham House and the circular walk from Richmond Station. I have done this quite a few times now, at 4 miles for the walk and however many miles you do at Ham itself it certainly gives you some exercise. Only difference this time was the house and cafe were closed, although the lady at the gate said the cafe was opening on Monday, how exactly since most places are take away only until July 4th.

The walk starts on Richmond Green just yards from the hustle and bustle of Richmond town centre. Then through the gatehouse of the old Richmond Palace favoured by Henry VII and where he and Royalty including Elizabeth I lived and died. Most of the Palace was demolished after Charles I was executed in 1649 but parts remain.

Then down to the Thames for a short stretch. Some eating places open for takeaways and some activity at the various boat houses but a lot closed. Lots of cyclists. Then the well kept gardens of Trumpeter's House. Previous years they had it open for tea parties but obviously not this year.

Then the route turns off the Thames and up the steep Richmond Hill, fairly busy with lots of small shops open. Towards the top are the Terrace Gardens with the statue of Bulbous Betty in them and spectacular views of the Thames valley. Ham House, my destination, is directly ahead. Leaving Richmond Hill I entered Richmond Park, closed to vehicles at the moment but countless bikes. Heading to Pembroke Lodge - a cottage where Lord John Russell lived but now an upmarket cafe if it were open - the path reaches King Henry VIII's Mound, the highest point in Richmond Park. St Paul's Cathedral is visible in the gap with the supplied telescope and is a protected view with building prohibited on the line. Windsor Castle in the other direction is less easy to find.

Now down the steep slope to Petersham, passing Sudbrook Park Golf Club and a lovely group of young deer. Out of the park there is a short section along busy roads then past the Deutsche Schuele and Ham Polo Club (closed but some horse riders on the bridleway outside) down to Ham House itself.

So Ham House in all its glory but of course closed at the moment. Owned by various Earls over the years it has a long history with royal connections. Looking somewhat abandoned after the months of lockdown but somewhat better than Osterley last week. Quite a few gardeners trying to get it back to order.

The bottom part of the estate is known as The Wilderness and at the moment it is ironically even more so. The kitchen garden below the cafe is just as overgrown, this normally supplies produce to the cafe kitchen but don't think it will be doing for while. Sat enjoying my picnic lunch for half an hour or so which was very pleasant. In fact every seat, nook and cranny and all the tables outside the cafe were taken with people doing exactly the same. Even with timed ticket entry it was surprisingly busy.

So after a good wander round I left and rejoined the Thames with a pleasant, though somewhat exhausted, walk back to Richmond Station. The main street had 2 metre distancing markers everywhere but apart from outside M&S no queues. Pleasant journey back home although it certainly was a hot day.

7th April 2021

With lockdown further easing I decided it was a good time to revisit Ham House and the pleasant Richmond walk. It was a chilly day and there had been a few snow flurries earlier in the week but the forecast did not look too unreasonable. So off on the train again to Richmond where I arrived on time at 9.45. The walk through Richmond and up Richmond Hill was pleasant enough even though there was a bit of traffic in the town centre.

The view from Richmond Hill was excellent and my destination, Ham House was very clear. Further afield Heathrow and the few planes landing was very obvious but although I could see the little hill on which Windsor Castle stood the castle itself was too small to make out. But this was more than made up for when I reached King Henry VIII's mound where St Paul's Cathdral was very visible even to the naked eye and a long zoom photo did it justice. The best I have ever seen it from there. Sadly no sign of Windsor Castle.

So down to Ham House where I arrived a few minutes before my booked 11.30am slot. With the house still closed it was relatively quiet and the sign outside said that they were taking walk in visitors. I had seen Ham many times now so I just had a quick walk around the grounds. The kitchen garden had been well worked on and new crops planted. Some of the grounds were still a little unkempt but by and large it looked a lot better than last summer. Lunch from the cafe is take away only and with the outside eating area removed I had to find a spare bench some distance away. The makeshift dinner table did the job and the Italian sausage casserole tasted good. I didn't find the roll and butter in the bag till later, trying to butter it outside in the stiff wind was not the easiest of things to do...

The cherry garden in particular seemed to have had a lot of work done on it and it looked superb with its cones beautifully topiaried. There were things for the children to do as part of Easter Fun, presumably replacing their normal Cadbury Egg Hunts. Here one of the tasks is to count the cones, should keep them busy for a while...

The tree arch leading to the front of the property was also in good condition. So leaving Ham I walked the short path to the river and along that back to Richmond. I didn't notice Hamilton's Ferry and wondered if it was still running, it seems it is so I must have been blind, but it was their lunch time when I passed. Not much traffic on the river itself apart from this lovely paddle boat, possibly one of the various cruise boats which operate but with no takers for passengers. Back through Richmond town centre to the station then home after a pleasant but slightly chilly day.

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