As Autumn began to arrive in suburbia, I decided it was time to get my walking boots back on and get out and explore my new surroundings.
I started looking into some local walks and stumbled across a route on The Guardian website which started at Kingston railway station, taking the Thames Path to Ham House & Gardens, and heading back into Kingston through Richmond Park. Adding on the distance from my flat and back, this looked like it would be a decent 10-mile hike.
On a beautifully sunny autumnal day in September, I donned my walking boots and headed off along the Thames towards Ham House.
Kingston to Ham House
The first leg of my journey was a 4-mile walk along the Thames Path to Ham House & Gardens. I have to admit I hadn’t even heard of Ham until I started flat hunting in the area, so I was intrigued as to what I would find there.
Ham House & Gardens
The walk to Ham took me a good hour and a half, largely because I followed the Thames Path right round to the outside of the house. There are shorter routes where you can come off the path much earlier to take a more direct route, but I’m a sucker for punishment and wanted to feel my legs burn by the end of it! I also love any excuse to stop and take photos which is why all of my walks tend to take longer than they should!
Ham House & Gardens is a National Trust property, and although the house itself hadn’t re-opened at the time of my walk following lockdown, the gardens were open. I pre-booked my ticket and time slot the day before (as with all things post lockdown – advanced booking is still an absolute must) to ensure I would be able to gain entry on the day.
The walk to Ham took me around an hour and a half. I had decided to follow the Thames Path right round to the outside of the house. There are shorter routes where you can come off the path much earlier to take a more direct path. I also love any excuse to stop and take photos which is why all of my walks tend to take longer than they should!
Ham House & Gardens is a National Trust property, and although the house itself hadn’t re-opened at the time of my walk, following lockdown, the gardens were open. I pre-booked ticket and time slot the day before (as with all things post lockdown – advanced booking is still an absolute must) to ensure I would be able to gain entry on the day.
Ham House is a beautiful 17th-century building, which was created by the Duchess of Lauderdale and her husband, who transformed the house into one of the grandest Stuart houses in the country. It’s internationally recognised for its collection of paintings, furniture and textiles.
As I walked up to the entrance, I was pleased to see there was no queue, just a few people in front of me who hadn’t quite grasped the concept of pre-booking, and another lady who wanted to cycle around the gardens. Needless to say, the lady on the gate was having none of it, and insisted the lady lock her bike up at the entrance and enter, like everybody else, on foot.
The lady at the gate looked relieved when I strolled up to the entrance with my pre-paid ticket. She explained what was open, and where the café and toilets were as by that time I was ready for a pit stop and a piece of cake!
After a short stop at the Orangery Café, I set off to have a walk around the gardens. First up was the Kitchen Garden which had the remains of this year’s vegetables waiting to be picked, as well as a lovely selection of insect attracting plants.
As I left the Kitchen Garden through the beautiful archway as seen in the photo above, I then took a right turn and headed away from the house into The Wilderness. The Wilderness comprises of 16 grassy compartments divided by hedgerows. Each compartment contained a summerhouse, which makes a lovely place to stop and have a socially distanced picnic!
I left The Wilderness behind after creeping myself out (the hedgerows were taller than me, I couldn’t see beyond them, and although I was alone, I’m not sure I was…), and I headed across the Plats, an area made up of 8 squares of lawn (apparently grass was expensive to maintain back in the day, and was a sign of the wealth and status of its former occupants), and up the steps to the Cherry Garden.
Now, I may have watched one too many episodes of Doctor Who, but the statue in the Cherry Garden completely freaked me out! I kept imagining it was going to corner me and not let me out, and I had this odd sensation that I was being watched…
I made a swift exit from the perfectly manicured Cherry Garden and decided it was time to head to Richmond Park before starting my walk home.
On my way out of the exit, I overheard the lady at the gate telling a couple that Ham House is one of the most haunted National Trust properties in the country, which may explain why I was spooked in The Wilderness and in the Cherry Garden!!
From Ham House, rather than heading back towards the river, I turned away from the waterside and headed towards the village of Ham, before taking a left turn towards Petersham and then into Richmond Park via Petersham Gate. From there I took a slight left up the hill to King Henry’s Mound.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been to Richmond Park, I always find sections I haven’t been to before. This being one of them. The view from King Henry’s mound was unexpected and just beautiful.
As I left these stunning views behind me, it was time to walk into the wilderness to see if I could find some of Richmond Park’s famous inhabitants. Admittedly I had to leave the main trails behind to see them, but I was lucky enough to share a few moments in the same space as this beautiful stag before I carried on my way.
It was a much longer walk than I had anticipated, but it felt so good to get some more miles under my belt. I used to do a lot of hill walking during my 20’s, but since moving to London, hiking has taken a bit of a back seat.
It’s great to be back in the suburbs with the countryside and nature on my doorstep.
Where are your favourite walks in the UK?