England RichmonduponThames

Tired of the incessant buzz of traffic and humanity in the centre of London? Located further up the Thames and accessible by tube, Richmond offers a marvellous breather thanks to its immense royal park. This peaceful borough of Greater London, popular with artists and celebrities, is a good place for a day of relaxation. Wear a good pair of walking shoes, there's a lot to see!.Twenty minutes by tube from the centre of London, Richmond is a pleasant little leafy rural town set on the banks of the Thames. From its rich aristocratic past it has retained some Tudor-style vestiges, beautiful patrician residences and charm in abundance. Which is why it has always played host to royalty, artists and eminent figures, from Henry III to Virginia Woolf and Bertrand Russell.

Today, numerous stars from the worlds of film, stage and music - Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend for starters - have settled on Richmond Hill to enjoy a magnificent view of the Thames. Its been painted time and again by Turner; the only view in the whole United Kingdom to be protected by an Act of Parliament!.Richmond's main attraction remains without any doubt its park, the oldest and largest royal park of the crown of England (1,000 hectares/2,470 acres). Add to that a few old pubs, interesting boutiques, footpaths and cycle tracks and the possibility of hiring a boat and you will realise that Richmond offers a wonderful bucolic daytrip far away from the bustle of London.

On leaving Richmond station (tube and train), turn left immediately into Kew Road. Before exploring Richmond Park, it's worth taking a stroll around the town centre and along the Thames. Rock fans can head straight to the Edwardspub (ex-Crawdaddy Club), where the Rolling Stones gave a few concerts in 1963. In the 1970s there was an embryonic rock scene in Richmond: the Twickenham studio of Pete Townshend of The Who attracted many fast-living musicians. The guitarist still lives at the top end of the town, in Richmond Hill.

Turn right into Duke Street. You are now facing Richmond Green, considered to be the most beautiful urban green in England. It was used as a jousting ground by the Tudors then as a cricket ground. Originally built in 1770 the Cricketers pub is a part of this sporting past.

On the other side of Duke Street, the Victorian façade of the Richmond Theatre might give you a feeling of déjà-vu: this is understandable, since it appeared in the film The Hours, in which Nicole Kidman played Virginia Woolf.The urban complex surrounding the green exudes an English charm. This is particularly the case of a row of four houses fronted by finely wrought railings, known as Maids of Honour Row. Built in 1724 at the request of George II, they housed the maids of honour of the Princess of Wales.A little further on, a single old Gatehouse bears witness to the huge Tudor palace that stood there until 1649. Of the old Tudor palace there only remains three redbrick houses.

At the far end, Trumpeters' House, recognisable by its pedimented portico, is another residence built using remains of the palace. The main façade is on the garden side - you can see it from the banks of the Thames. Of course, all of these buildings are private and should be admired without disturbing the tranquillity of the place, or the inhabitants.Head down to the Thames via Old Palace Lane (at the far end on the right), another leafy, flower-filled street of irresistible charm.

Here the banks of the Thames offer a bucolic setting totally unlike, for example, the ultramodern district of Canary Wharf, the most recent riverside development in the heart of London. Stretching out to the right is a vast expanse of green, Old Deer Park, which extends as far as the famous botanical gardens of Kew. The footpath (the former towpath) that runs between the Thames and Old Deer Park is recommended for all walkers and cyclists.If you turn left onto the quay it will lead you to the famous Richmond Bridge, the oldest bridge in London.

Built in 1774 by James Paine, this bridge leads to Twickenham. Of course, it was considerably altered in the 20th century (in 1934 to be precise), when it was widened to allow cars to cross. Heading back down towards the meadow you'll come to a metal gate that gives access to a path which crosses Petersham Meadow, where a few cows graze. In the distance the bell tower of the little red-brick church of St. Peter stands out. This has been a known place of worship since at least the 8th century and is open to the public only on Sundays.

Its churchyard is a cemetary, where graves are covered with roses and daffodils. The navigator and explorer George Vancouver is buried here. If you cross the road and go 300 m left up the pavement on the other side, you'll find one of the entrances to the largest royal park in Greater London. Its origins date back to the reign of Edward I (1272-1307), when it was known as the Manor of Sheen. It took its current name during the reign of Henry VII and was subsequently fenced in by Charles I in 1637. Since that time, this old wild and hilly hunting ground has not changed one iota.

Squirrels, rabbits, stags and deer roam free here, beneath age-old oaks, for the pleasure of young and old alike. Scattered with small ponds surrounded by rushes and reeds, this very typically English park is full of secret nooks and crannies where you can lose yourself.As for Pembroke Lodge, it is an old cottage that has been converted into a restaurant.

Bertrand Russell, the iconoclastic philosopher and mathematician, spent the first years of his life here. You can also go horse riding, cycling, fishing and even play golf here. From the terrace at Pembroke Lodge, the view takes in an incredible panorama, from Windsor Castle as far as the dome of Saint Paul's Cathedral.Travelling by train/tube/bus: Richmond station: District line, South West Train, SilverLink Train (British Rail), bus (33, 290, 490, H22, R68, R70 and 65).

But be warned, there are more tubes to get there than to leave (reckon on 25 minutes' waiting time). You can find information on taking a boat up the Thames on

.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Tourism.Article Source:

By: Michael Russell

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