Richmond

If anywhere in London could be described as a village, Richmond - with its delightful green and riverside vistas - is it. Centuries of history, some stunning Georgian architecture and the graceful curve of the Thames has made this one of London's swankiest locales, home to ageing rock stars and city high-flyers alike.

Richmond was originally named Sheen, but Henry VII, having fallen in love with the place, renamed the village after his Yorkshire earldom. This started centuries of royal association with the area; the most famous local, Henry VIII, acquired nearby Hampton Court Palace from Cardinal Wolsey after the latter's fall from grace in 1529, while his daughter Elizabeth I died here in 1603.

RICHMOND GREEN Mapp208 A short walk west of the Quadrant where you'll emerge from the tube is the enormous open space of Richmond Green with its mansions and delightful pubs. Crossing the green diagonally will take you to what remains of Richmond Palace, just the main entrance and redbrick gatehouse, built in 1501. You can see Henry Vll's arms above the main gate: he built the Tudor additions to the edifice, although the palace had been in use as a royal residence since 1125.

RICHMOND PARK Map P208

"3 8948 3209; www.royalparks.gov.uk; admission free; S 7am-dusk Mar-Sep, from 7.30am Oct-Feb; ■e/(I) Richmond,then (0)65or371 At just over 1000 hectares (the largest urban parkland in Europe), Richmond Park offers everything from formal gardens and ancient oaks to unsurpassed views of central London 12 miles away. It's easy enough to escape the several roads that cut up the rambling wilderness, making the park an excellent spot for a quiet walk or picnic, even in summer when Richmond's riverside can be heaving. Such is the magic of the place, it somehow comes as no surprise to happen upon herds of more than 600 red and fallow deer basking under the trees. Be advised that the creatures can be less

than docile in rutting season (May to July) and when the does bear young (September and October). It's a great place for birdwatchers too, with a wide range of habitats, from neat gardens to woodland and assorted ponds.

Coming from Richmond, it's easiest to enter via Richmond Gate or from Petersham Rd. Take a map with you and wander around the grounds; flower-lovers should make a special trip to Isabella Plantation, a stunning woodland garden created after WWII, in April and May when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom.

Pembroke Lodge (S 10am-5.30pm summer, to 4.30pm winter), the childhood home of Bertrand Russell, is now a café set in a beautiful 13-hectare garden and affording great views of the city from the back terrace.

ST PETER'S CHURCH Map P208

@ 8940 8435; Church Lane, Petersham TW10; admission free; S3-5pmSun; ■©■/(S) Richmond, then (0} 65

This wonderful Norman church has been a place of worship for 1300 years and parts of the present structure date from 1266. It's a fascinating place, not least for its curious Georgian box pews, which local landowners would rent while the serving staff and labourers sat in the open seats in the south transept. Against the north wall of the chancel is the Cole Monument, which depicts barrister George Cole, his wife and child, all reclining in Elizabethan dress - an unusual design for an English church. Of interest to Canadians, St Peter's is the burial place of Captain George Vancouver, who was laid to rest here in 1798; his sim-

pie tomb is on the southern boundary wall of the cemetery.

THE THAMES

The stretch of the riverbank from Twickenham Bridge down to Petersham and Ham is one of the prettiest in London. The action is concentrated around Richmond Bridge, an original structure from 1777 and London's oldest surviving crossing, only widened for traffic in 1937. The lovely walk to Petersham is often overcrowded in nice weather; best to cut across Petersham Meadows and continue on to Richmond Park if it's peace and quiet you seek. There are several companies near Richmond Bridge, including Richmond Boat Hire (@ 89488270), that offer skiff hire (adult/ child £4/2 per hour, £12/6 per day).

HAM HOUSE Map p64

"3 89401950; www.nationaltrust.org.uk; Ham St, Ham TW10; adult/5-15yr/family £9/5/22, gardens only £3/2/7; S house 1-5pm Mon-Wed, Sat & Sun late Mar-Oct, gardens 11am-6pm Mon-Wed, Sat & Sun; -e-/(I) Richmond, then 0371; ® Known as 'Hampton Court in miniature', Ham House was built in 1610 and became home to the first Earl of Dysart, an unlucky individual who had been employed as 'whipping boy' to Charles I, taking the punishment for all the king's wrongdoings. Inside it's furnished with all the grandeur you might expect; the Great Staircase is a magnificent example of Stuart woodworking. Look out for ceiling paintings by Antonio Verrio, who also worked at Hampton Court Palace, and for a miniature of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard. Other notable paintings are by Constable and Reynolds. The grounds of Ham House slope down to the Thames, but there are also pleasant 17th-century formal gardens. Just opposite the Thames and accessible by small ferry is Marble Hill Park and its splendid mansion. There is partial disabled access. Call for more information.

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