Twickenham & Richmond – Walk the Walk
Twickenham is most known for rugby and Twickenham Stadium. I was fascinated by all that I read about the ‘hippy island’ Eel Pie Island, the town’s riverside location and the famous houses York and Marble Hill. So on a sunny Sunday afternoon, me and my best friend decided to head over to Twickenham to do some exploring.
Twickenham is situated 10 miles from the center of London and feels to be a completely separate entity from the bustling city. No wonder, as its borough is approximately half parkland.
Eel Pie Island
When you enter Twickenham by train, it is easy enough to walk down busy London Road. The road itself is not too interesting, but it is this route that will lead you the the riverfront. This is where you want to go, as 1. it provides you with some wonderful photo opportunities of the river and the small boats lined up against the quay and 2. because here is where the bridge is leading to Eel Pie Island.
The island gained celebrity status back in the 50’s and 60’s when artists like Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones and the Who all performed on this little piece of land in the middle of the Thames. They performed in the Eel Pie Island Hotel which sadly had to close in 1967. But until today, Eel Pie Island is home to about 120 inhabitants, most of them being artists.
It is quite incredible to visit this place and to see the eccentric houses that are scattered around the area. We almost felt like a couple of intruders, even though the area is public space and can be accessed by everyone.
York House and Gardens
The next stop on this walk is York House. While we were doing some exploring around Twickenham, we accidentally stumbled upon this stately home in the middle of town. We learned that York House currently serves as the town hall of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Therefore we were not sure whether we were allowed on the grounds. After seeing a couple and their little dog in the gardens, we figured that it was ‘safe’ enough for us to enter.
We quickly walked around to the back of the House and discovered an even larger garden with plenty of families picnicking on the lush grounds. There were quite a few paths leading us over small bridges and ponds, to impeccably landscaped gardens. Finally we reached an incredibly flamboyant water cascade with statues called ‘The Naked Ladies.’ It somehow reminded me of the Cascada Monumental in Ciutadella Park in Barcelona, Spain. I leave it up to you to judge whether the water cascade is pretty or not…
After we had taken enough photos of the incredibly beautiful flowers in York House’s Gardens, we made our way to Church Street. I must say, I became extremely excited upon seeing this street, as it reminded me of streets in my home country. Much as at home, Church Street is a completely car-free street in London where the pubs and restaurants have set up their terraces outside for people to enjoy. I do miss this in the city sometimes, so it is good to see that I do not have to go far to find it! And what are the odds, there is even a ‘Eel Pie’ pub in Church Street!
The Ferry Crossing From Marble Hill House
We continued our walk along the Thames River towards Richmond Town. This lead us through the most adorable little streets, mews and riverside pubs (The White Swan). This is where we found people dressed in their fancy Sunday clothes. It seems like I have to up my game if I ever want to move here!
Not too long after we reached Marble Hill House on our left. I had seen it a few times from Ham House on the opposite side of the River, and it has always fascinated me. This probably means that I need to come back soon to make a proper visit. Nonetheless, so much to see, and so little time!
Instead of visiting Marble Hill House, we take the ferry boat to the other side of the river. Again, are we really still in London? It is hard to believe.
I had a purpose with crossing the river. Namely, I wanted to show my friend this adorable hidden gem in Petersham, right on the border with Richmond. We passed by the friendly cows on Petersham Meadows (again, are we still in London? Okay, I will stop now), before turning right to Petersham Nurseries. If you need any flowers or plants for your garden, this is where you want to be. However, you can also enjoy a lovely afternoon tea here in all weather type conditions. The cafe is situated in large greenhouses, which are lavishly decorated with vintage garden furniture. Also, I truly believe that the best cakes in town are served right here.
King Henry’s Mound – Richmond Park
And to finish our visit to Twickenham and Richmond in style, we visited London’s largest public park. In Richmond Park we were treated with stunning views of the London skyline in the distance, and views of Surrey on the other side.
There was one other stop I really wanted to make on this little trip. According to many resources, there is a law in London preventing contractors to build any buildings blocking the view of St Paul’s Cathedral.
We walked along one of the main paths in Richmond Park to King Henry’s Mound, where we found a telescope. Eagerly we peeked through the lens and guess what we saw? Exactly: a perfectly straight-lined-view of St Paul’s Cathedral, 10 miles to the east. No buildings or trees are to impede this view, which reminded me of the view from the keyhole of Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta towards St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This has a similar concept.
We shared the telescope this afternoon with two British ladies, one of which could simply not comprehend how this view was possible. ‘Did you see this? It is amazing! Look, it is St Paul’s Cathedral! I cannot believe it!’ she told us over and over, even after we had ensured her that we indeed had seen the incredible view. And the lady was right. It is an amazing view.
We finished our visit in the gardens right next to King Henry’s Mound. These are well worth a visit in the Summer months as the flowers are in full bloom.
Yes, Twickenham had absolutely exceeded my expectations. Maybe next time I will return to educate myself about rugby?