The next time you’re heading out towards Heathrow, I want to you go about 3 hours earlier than normal. No, I haven’t lost my mind (at least I don’t think so) but googling things to do near a beer festival my better half was keen to go to, I discovered a stately home in the area – Osterley House and Gardens. I used my powers of persuasion to convince him of breakfast and a visit enroute. (Spoiler: I ended up wandering for about 4 hours and missing the beer festival, oops!)
(Click these photos to enlarge them properly)
I didn’t realise that whilst wandering through Osterley House and Gardens I would discover a bluebell glade, uncover a Hollywood Batcave entrance, hitch a leg over gate stiles in front of some judgemental kids, learn some quirky London history, drink too much coffee (no surprises there thought), browse through fresh veggies, admire priceless paintings, go on an Easter bunny hunt and discover a luxurious summer home. (The National Trust should put that on their website.)
After stepping off the Osterley tube station feeling like proper Londoners, we began with a quick wander through the nearby fields, said hello to a few bovine residents, admired a few equestrian mounts and enjoyed the blossoming trees. To quote my husband “well, even though we’re in zone 4, we’re definitely in the countryside. Smell that poo!”. Yes, quite.
Passing under a driveway lined with gnarled trees, quaint cottages and a farm shop we traced our way along a small lake to Osterley House & Park properly. We made our way to the Stables, now a cafe and coffee shop and enjoyed a little breakfast in the sunshine.
We managed to slip in just in time for one of the volunteer’s tours called ‘500 years of history in 15 minutes’ (incidentally, perfect for thirsty companions). We learned that the interior of Osterley House is one of the most intact Robert Adam (a fashionable architect in the 18th Century) interiors left making very special in modern times.
All I know is that the elegance is breathtaking.
As we promenaded walked through the house, we learned of the amazing history, admired the Library which doubled in the Dark Knight Rises as Batman’s Wayne Manor, discovered the passion volunteers have for the eccentric history and sort of wished we could move-in in a Downton Abbey-esque daydream.
We learned about devil-among-the-tailors – an old pub game of table skittles, heard gun-toting tales of Gretna Green elopements, discovered Osterley was the home of the Home Guard in the Second World War, helped a couple of kids spy Easter bunny-rabbits and ate a slice or two of cake.
Not too bad for a boring old building huh?
The home is typical of a country manor used by rich London society members who used it as a summer home when they felt the need to escape the hassle of London. Upstairs is beautiful and downstairs is far more utilitarian but quite beautiful. (I did giggle to myself at he Pinterest photoshoot possibilities that some foodie bloggers I know would give their left hand for.)
Having enough of history Mr Kiwi shot off to the pub, but I stayed “just for half an hour or so”. I think as the words left my mouth we both knew they were lies.
It was just so pleasant rambling through the grounds with my new camera and in sunshine I couldn’t make myself hurry.
And then, and then I discovered amongst the patches of daffodils, a glade of bluebells. Simply magical – English woods at their best.
There are follies dotted around the large gardens, desk chairs for lounging in much like the Victorian socialites, ample room for picnics under large spreading trees and plenty of space for kids to run (and one budding 6-year old photographer to capture the day with his family on his own cute camera.)
Eventually the day became cooler so I made my way out of the gardens for a caffeine top up and a rummage through the farm shop.
Osterley House and Gardens are a little bit magical. And very easy to visit, just outside central London.
Who could resist?
Oh, and this little piece of countryside idyll? It’s 32 minutes from Green Park on the Picadilly Line with an 8-minute stroll through residential streets. I timed it.