Years ago, I stayed in Richmond to visit Kew Gardens, the National Archives and Ham House was also on my list. I took a city bus for a couple of miles, then walked a mile to the house from Petersham Road, only to find on arrival the house was closed. It was disappointing, to be sure, but a blessing in disguise. I made my way around Ham House to the river and that’s where I found the Thames Path. I stood at the iron fence that separates the National Trust property from the river and, after promising myself I'd return, walked the 2 miles back to Richmond along the Thames Path and experienced for the first time the ease of walking along a waterway and the beauty that only boaters, walkers and cyclists see.
My 3 days of walking this year covered only about 11 miles of the Thames Path, plus the distances to and from train stations at Hampton Court, Twickenham, Richmond, and Kew. But this section of the walk is packed with wonderful places to visit, maybe the best in the entire 184 miles, so I may be forgiven the slow pace. Wanting most to feel the path beneath my feet on the first day, I admired Hampton Court Palace as I walked past, but Ham House was waiting for me on the second day. The third day was a walk I’d done years before with a friend, from Richmond station around the western edge of Kew Gardens that abuts the river and it’s this wondrous place, the Royal Botanic Gardens that completes the triumvirate of powerful sites along this stretch of path.
Looking at the map, the distance to Ham House from Teddington Station and from Richmond Station seemed to be about the same. I enjoy Richmond upon Thames very much, have stayed there several times, so I headed there from my room in Wimbledon on the District Line of the London Underground, with a change at Earl’s Court. It was raining when I arrived at the station and, since I’d walked the path from Ham House once before and would return again that way to Richmond later in the day, I decided to give my feet a break and take a cab from the station.
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty is the organization entrusted with the care of many of the United Kingdom’s historic properties and landscapes, those the nation has deemed most worthy of preservation. Ham House and Garden, with a “grade I” listing, the highest classification, was built early in the 17th century in the “Stuart” style during the reign of Charles I. The Trust describes it as "unique in Europe as the most complete survival of 17th century fashion and power.”
I was in no hurry, after years waiting, so took my time enjoying the house with it’s treasures, architectural integrity and atmosphere. I had lunch in the tearoom, took pictures in the garden, then made my way to the Thames Path at the same spot by Hammerton’s Ferry where I’d discovered it for the first time and where I'd left the path the day before. I had little memory of the walk back to Richmond from all those years ago so it seemed new to me. Just 2 miles to Richmond Bridge, the rain had let up, the park at the foot of the bridge was full of people, dogs and bicycles and, content in the knowledge that I’d be back in the morning, I headed for the station.
Unable to enter on my aborted first visit, it was the garden
I remembered all these years and which brought me back.
Ham House and it's Treasures
Bathing, 17th century style...
...and the kitchen.
Wisteria in bloom outside the National Trust tearoom.
Leaving Ham House, its front facing the river...
...walking the Thames Path toward Richmond...
...to Richmond Bridge...
...and the station, where I'd arrive again next day to continue my walk.
Visitor information can be found on the National Trust website:
Read more of the history of Ham House on Wikipedia:
The National Trust website is a treasure
trove of inspiration for visitors to the UK:
The Royal Oak Foundation, American partner of the National Trust,
supports the UK organization and membership allows free entrance
to NT properties, among other benefits:
Next week, The Path from Richmond Bridge to Kew Bridge.
Find all episodes of ‘PortMoresby in England’ here.