From Richmond Hill, the spectacular view of Ham and Petersham, tucked in a sweeping curve of the River Thames, has been protected by an Act of Parliament since 1902 – as have swathes of land along the river from Ham to Petersham. Today, locals and visitors alike enjoy Ham Lands, the communal riverside meadows which have become a nature reserve, and the 120 acres of grassland and woodland on Ham Common.
This abundance of green space and a sense of rural tranquillity make it difficult to believe that London’s West End is only 10 miles away. Given the stunning location, it is hardly surprising that affluent members of society in the 17th and 18th centuries chose to build their grand houses here. Of these, the National Trust’s Ham House is the most spectacular, built in 1610 and virtually untouched for 400 years. In summer, it’s possible to travel by pedestrian ferry to Marble Hill House, a Palladian villa in Twickenham. Also in Twickenham is Strawberry Hill House, a Gothic-style castle with fairy tale turrets set in beautiful gardens. The gardens of Hampton Court Palace, along the river, host musical events, a winter ice rink and a summer flower show – and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, on the banks of the River Thames, are a delight all year round.
With its village common, ancient pond and historic 18th century inn, Ham Common has all the character, charm and appeal of a quintessential English village. At the heart of the village, the common is a place to walk and ride, a venue for the annual summer fair and the backdrop for cricket matches played at the 200-year old Ham and Petersham Cricket Club. A good selection of village shops supply all the daily provisions you’ll need – along with artisan breads, cakes, pastries, cooked meats, delicious cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, fine wines and hand-made chocolates.
On Upper Ham Road, there’s a branch of Sainsbury’s and Ham Pantry delicatessen. If you want the taste of home-made food without the fuss, a ‘Cook’ shop is located next door to the delicatessen and there’s a choice of fine wines on offer at Taylors wine merchant. For something a little different Ham Parade hosts a monthly market where you’ll find food and crafts. Ham village is also home to a local dental practice, a medical surgery and an optician’s – and Richmond, with a host of shops and services, is less than two miles away.
Meeting friends for morning coffee, afternoon tea, lunch or dinner? You won’t need to travel far. On Petersham Road, there’s the traditional home-cooked food of The New Inn or The Dysart Arms. The casual glasshouse restaurant at Petersham Nurseries is renowned for its seasonal, Italian inspired food but, for a light lunch or coffee and cake, the Orangery Café at Ham House is ideal.
With a picturesque stretch of the River Thames on hand, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy outdoor sports – and to ‘mess about’ on the water. Richmond Bridge Boat Club attracts rowers of all ages but, if you don’t want to power your own boat, there’s the Richmond Yacht Club on Eel Pie Island. As one of the oldest motor cruising clubs on the River Thames, it offers a programme of events, on and off the water.
For golfers, there’s a stunning parkland course at Richmond Golf Club, adjoining Richmond Park and Ham Common along with a club house, Sudbrook House, that’s one of the country’s finest examples of 18th century Palladian architecture. For a different perspective on Richmond Park and Ham Common, take to the saddle; Ham House Stables is just one of the local riding schools. If you’re more of a spectator when it comes to horses, there’s no better place to watch ‘The Sport of Kings’ than Ham Polo Club.
There are so many ways of keeping fit in the area, whether you prefer to work out in a gym or fitness class – or just walk or ride around the park. The Pools on The Park in Richmond’s Old Deer Park is a local leisure complex with lido, indoor pool, spa and fitness centre. Wimbledon is within easy reach – but Ham and Petersham Lawn Tennis Club play on courts near Ham House and, in the summer, Richmond Lawn Tennis Club shares its ground, adjacent to Kew Gardens, with Richmond’s Archery and Cricket Club.
In Richmond, it’s easy to relax into the ‘café culture’ with gourmet coffees, specialist teas and organic juices on offer at an array of cafés and bars.
If you’re lunching with friends or dining out, there’s a mouth-watering selection of places to eat and drink – from pavement cafés to fine dining experiences. Afternoon tea or early evening cocktail? Richmond has it all. In the heart of vibrant Richmond, designer brands and High Street names sit alongside a host of boutiques and independent retailers selling everything from clothing, jewellery and accessories to flowers, fabrics, homeware and furniture. For the weekly shop, there’s a branch of Waitrose.
Richmond’s lively cultural calendar is perhaps the best on offer outside London. West End shows often preview at Richmond Theatre and The Orange Tree Theatre with its seating ‘in the round’. One of Richmond’s three cinemas, The Curzon, received an LBC award for the ‘Best Neighbourhood Cinema’. For those who enjoy quiet pursuits, Richmond is home to several galleries, a museum and wonderful riverside walks.
Living on Ham Common means having the best of all worlds – a location with a rural feel but with excellent road and rail links and a regular bus service. A home at Orford Place means having everything you need almost ‘on the doorstep’.
If you choose to travel further afield both Richmond and Kingston upon-Thames are just a couple of miles away and Twickenham, home to the famous stadium which hosts rugby, sporting events and concerts, is just over three miles away. From Richmond, there are underground and overground rail lines which mean you can be enjoying the ‘bright lights’ of London in around 19 minutes – and the A3 at Kingston means an easy journey south to Guildford and towards Portsmouth and the South Coast.