I shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t be telling everyone about this pristine patch of verdant riverside, a protected piece of natural heritage that lies almost in the middle of London. Heck, it’s my very own private secret, shared with a bunch of other Chiswick residents and well, perhaps a bunch of Barnes-ers on the other side of the river. But since I promised
, here goes. Sigh.
If you haven’t seen the map of London and happen to be around the mad Hogarth Roundabout on the A4, I bet you’ll saw your arm off if I tell you that you could get to this if you walk southwards for less than five minutes.
(click on pictures to enlarge)
You’ll get your first glimpse of the Thames, surprisingly close and within reach, as you hit the Chiswick Mall – a pretty road lined with houses from various periods – some as old as the 15th Century! Then you’ll realise that the A4 seems far away – the sounds of traffic are replaced by those of lapping water, the ducks, gulls and other birds, and well, the occasional huffing runner or cycler. The Mall gets partially flooded in high tide and you can see ducks happily floating around on what was a tarmaced road a few hours back! In low tide you can walk down to the rocky riverbeach with a book or a camera or just your solitude.
The Mall continues down the embankment that follows the curve of the river. Along this sit gated housing estates, a boating club, a posh cafe, and a Church with a cemetery (which I’m saving for yet another post).
Some of these houses have their private gardens across the Mall – overlooking the river. Oh my, how I’d love to own one of these quaint little patches, never mind a house to go with it.
On the other side is the river, and the Chiswick Pier, where I’ve spent many an hour just listening to the sounds of the river (broken by the roar of an airplane on descent course to Heathrow, every few minutes. Aarrgh.)
The occasional raft will speed by, sending the gulls flapping. You might occasionally meet someone mooring their houseboat here. At times, you might come across someone feeding the gulls. You could watch the sun go down behind Dukes Meadows. Or you just might be ‘accompanied’ by another soul simply mesmerised by the river.
And then you get to the Thames Path – the protected National Trail
that goes all the way down the river to almost as far as you care to walk – well, actually upto Greenwich via Battersea. You would need a sturdy pair of legs to walk that
. Adjoining the path lies the Dukes Meadows, that I wrote about here
. This is the stretch that’s my favourite – nothing else in London calms me down or gives me a pick-up when I need it the most.
The little fluffball at the back was valiantly trying to ‘scare’ me at this point, sending me into a fit of giggles. That agitated him even more, but he was called off by his laughing owner before he could do anything about it. Oh my.
I feel lucky to live within minutes of this divine patch. It gives me the perfect excuse to pause and reflect, to take a break from my urban life, to recharge my batteries. You should do that too, but hey, go find your own! :)