It's a dazzling winter's day. There is frost on the ground and bright blue sky overhead. There is no better day to take a stroll along the Thames Path from Richmond to Twickenham where every step brings incredible scenery steeped in history.
I have walked this section of the river many times and today I planned to head out in the early afternoon. Of course, I didn't take into account the extra hour I now need to get out of the door, thanks to that baby of mine. By the time I had packed my bag, packed his bag, put his coat on, taken his coat off, changed his nappy, put his coat on, cleaned up the sick, got him changed, put his coat on again and finally left the house, it was 3.30pm and I only had an hour of daylight left. But I was determined not to miss out on the day and bravely carried on regardless.
Travelling to Richmond to begin the walk is pretty easy as there are great transport links here. The train, tube, overground and plenty of buses all service Richmond Upon Thames. If you arrive in to the Station, you need to walk through town to join the Thames. This isn't exactly a chore: Richmond is a beautiful part of London with a wealth of exclusive shops, high street names and cute cobbled streets. If you don't get too distracted, make your way through town, cross over Richmond bridge and take the stairs on the left hand side down to join the Thames Path. This is the start of our Thames walk. The entire Thames Path is around 180 miles long, but that seems a little ambitious for one day, especially as the sun is about to set.
As you amble along, look back towards Richmond Hill. It's a stunning sight and the setting sun brings an incredible red glow. In fact, this is such an iconic view that in 1902 an Act of Parliament was passed to protect it.
Ham House is a beautiful Stuart house built in 1610 with splendid grounds and more than one ghost. It's believed that the spirit of the ruthless Elizabeth Murray, Duchess of Lauderdale, wanders the halls. Cold spots, footsteps and strange smells are just some of the weird things that have been felt and smelt here. Who doesn't a love an old house and a good ghost story?
Back on the Thames Path, opposite Ham House, is Marble Hill Park. This is a spectacular area of riverside parkland that spans 66 acres. At its centre is the remarkable Palladian villa Marble Hill House.
Marble Hill House
Marble Hill House was built between 1724 and 1728 for Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk and the mistress of King George II when he was Prince of Wales. It was intended as a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of London. In 1825, it was bought by Jonathan Peel, the brother of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. The House has been restored and has an impressive collection of early Georgian paintings.
The park itself is definitely worth a stroll too. There are many pathways and places to explore, a dog free area and some decent public toilets. There are plans ahead to improve Marble Hill over the next few years too. The plans include opening Marble Hill House free of charge five days a week, improving the café and improving the sports facilities.
Back on the Thames path, past Marble Hill House, is a large and popular playground. Just a touch further along, is Orleans House Gallery, the principal art gallery for Richmond upon Thames. Built in 1661, it is open but undergoing extensive renovation. The North Stables Café here is one I would recommend. It's a quirky space with wonderful wooden booths and they make a very good cup of tea. It's open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
As you meander further along the path, passing enviable homes that dot the riverside, you hit the wonderful watering hole that is The White Swan. This has probably the best riverside beer garden in London, but be careful, it floods at high tide. More on that here: Best Riverside Pubs in London
The final part of the path takes you in to Twickenham, past a very large sundial. The path here can flood, but there are other routes out if you need to make an escape. Our journey ends here. Twickenham station is about 10 minutes walk away. But if you have a little extra time to spare, a saunter around Twickenham is a wonderful way to pass the time - but more about that another day.