Wallow by the Rich Waters of Richmond
The gentile area is ideal for a civilized day of promenades, boating, visiting historic properties and walking the dog.
Richmond is the David Mitchell of London boroughs: quintessentially British, cultured, and non-threateningly whimsical. This suburban district in South-West London has a bounty of historic buildings and entertainments to enjoy with unparalleled scenery. Richmond has a specific aesthetic and feel to it due to its history: originally it was used as an escape from the inner city by aristocrats who built their country houses there. The location was ideal as it was within a close enough horse-ride to central London to be accessible yet distant enough to considered the countryside. This is testament to the levels of expansion that London has undergone since the industrial era as this gap of ‘country’ space has since been filled with further boroughs and grown into the region we now know as Greater London. Thus, Richmond is resoundingly Georgian with most of its buildings under legislative protection. Based directly along the River Thames, the entire area was designed with the serpentine body of water in mind, producing some of the best river walks in London (as well as some of the best riverside pubs). Indeed, a day spent in Richmond feels akin to stepping into a slightly more urban version of ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome. This goes to show that Richmond has changed relatively little over the last century as the main characters in Jerome’s comic masterpiece embarked upon their boat journey along the Thames from Kingston, which is just down the road from Richmond. So grab your bike, some pocket cash for a few G&Ts, whatever tweed you can find, and head down to Richmond for a day of relaxed meandering.
One of the best features of Richmond is its gardens and walks. At its best during the warmer months, the Thames Path has a particularly lovely section that takes you from the town of Richmond, to Petersham Meadow, past Marble House and Ham House, right up through the Kingston-upon-Thames if you’re feeling particularly energetic. This is one of the most rural sections of the Thames Path where you can really admire the shining white Georgian houses (keep an eye out for the inexplicably cow-filled field between Richmond town and Ham House). If you’re not too keen on walking, then the best option is to hire a boat from one of the many boathouses by Richmond Bridge. Take your pick from pedalos, row-boats and more substantial cruisers. You’ll be in good company as Phil Collins is president of the local yacht club (it may be Against All Odds to run into him, but you can Take a Look at Him Now). When you’re finished wallowing in the water, head down to the splendid White Cross pub for a pint on their swan-filled terrace. Aside from the riverside, there’s also one of the largest parks in London to explore. Richmond Park is the bountiful historic location that has given us such masterpieces as ‘Jesus Christ, Fenton’ and the Isabella Plantation. Spanning 955 hectares, the park is most famous for its fallow deer.
Fulfil all of your period-drama needs with the abundance of historic houses in the Richmond area. Although the flora and fauna of Richmond Park tend to steal the limelight, within the grounds are Pembroke Lodge and the White Lodge. Pembroke Lodge is right in the heart of the park, offering incredible views to visitors as well as a cup of tea. The former childhood home of Bertrand Russell has been open to the public since WWII and doubles as an outstanding venue for weddings and parties. A fairly short walk leads to the White Lodge. Originally a hunting lodge for royalty, it is now the home of Royal Ballet Lower School. Within it lies a secret ballet museum only accessible by private request. The grandest attraction in Richmond remains Ham House & Gardens. A unique time capsule of 17th century life and fashion, it is allegedly one of the most haunted houses in Britain (and probably the only one that offers a good cream tea after ghost hunting).
Richmond is an excellent locale of theatrical culture. Richmond Theatre is a fine standing example of Victorian architecture and has been featured in an array of films including Evita, Finding Neverland, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It has a bustling schedule of productions and is best known for hosting Pre-West End shows. The Orange Tree Theatre is a more modern option. The in-the-round theatre specializes in staging new plays and neglected classics. For a more intimate theatrical experience, look no further than the Petersham Playhouse. It take a unique approach to its production, blending theatre, dance, music and food. The little ones will adore The Puppet Theatre Barge which has defined itself by its wondrous marionette plays. With only 50 seats in the converted barge, booking in advance is essential to experiencing the magical world within.