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Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime

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Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime
Author: John+Gallop, Published: 14 Jul 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star0 Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime Walking Guidestar0 Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime Walking Guidestar0 Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime Walking Guidestar0 Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime Walking Guidestar0 Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime Walking Guide
London, Teddington
Walk Type: History trail
Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime
Length: 7 miles,  Difficulty: boot Conflict between Ridiculous and Sublime Walking Guide
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The walk starts in the streets of Teddington, a suburbanised ‘village’, taking in some popular culture trivia (verging on the ridiculous), then meanders through Bushy Park, second largest of the royal parks. Here is a concentration of more recent history, much of it relating to ‘conflict’ (especially WWII and the influence of ingenuity on the art of war). Mixed in are some nuggets from posh peoples’ pasts and one or two minor struggles of the proletariat. On the far side of the park we attain the sublime, in the form of Hampton Court, a very grand former royal palace and home to some serious stiffs, amongst the intellectual and artistic greats of the past.

IMPORTANT NOTE: One part of the walk follows paths through the Woodland Gardens within Bushy Park. Dogs are NOT allowed in these gardens.

A Brief History: Left to its own devices a large river, nearing its mouth, will carve out a broad flat valley for itself, meandering over centuries back and forth across the valley bottom and laying down the soil beloved of farmers. The lower Thames is no exception, flowing through a wide flat valley formed first as a sideshow from the Alps mountain-building episode, then by the Anglian epoch Ice Age event. This latter caused the river to change its seaward route from north of the Chilterns to its present southern course through the London Basin. Jumping forward a few thousand years to the Middle Ages, greedy locals (farmers, fishermen and particularly millers) began to stop the river’s wanderings with banks and mills and weirs, fixing its route for ever. Wealth came to the area due to London’s proximity, also attracting rich and important people. Around this same period powerful landowners worked hard to protect their parcels of the most desirable land, enclosing them with fences and walls. The deer park, which later became the royal park, was first fully enclosed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1514 but much further jinking and weaving over the next two hundred years enlarged Bushy Park and Home Park to their present sizes. Finally, kick-started by the arrival of the railways, capitalism moved in, to make more money from the land by burying whatever they could buy under a weight of buildings. Fortunately for the diversity of this walk no single powerful group was able to have its own way entirely so elements of this whole process survive and can be glimpsed everywhere. But this walk through history follows these processes backwards through time (approximately).

The walk starts at Teddington Lock and finishes at Hampton Court train station.

Getting to the start point at Teddington Lock: Frequent buses from Kingston upon Thames train station (285 or 281) or Richmond train station (R68) will take you to Teddington Lock in around 10 to 20 minutes. From the bus stop head east to reach the lock itself.

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Walk Sections

Start to Teddington Lock
Start to Teddington Lock

Start point: 51.4288 lat, -0.3241 long
End point: 51.43 lat, -0.3221 long

From the bus stop head east to Teddington Lock itself.

Constructed in 1801, the lock and weir were the most recent effort to confine the river and stop its meandering. The weir meant that finally the tidal flow of the Thames stopped here, although previously the wider shallower stream had allowed the tide to spread a further 30km upstream as far as Staines. In spite of rumours to the contrary (fed by Rudyard Kipling’s poem) Teddington is not a corruption of ‘Tide End Town’ since the name dates from Saxon times. The lock and weir are worth visiting. There is a two-part footbridge across the river and lock, leading to the south bank of the river where you can join the Thames Path National Trail or follow a variety of paths across Ham Lands.

Over the last century this area has been associated with comic literature, film and TV, the ridiculous part of this walk. Teddington Lock is the start of the journey described in the Edwardian comic novel Three Men in a Boat from where J and his friends hire a skiff to row up the Thames. More recently a film studio, later a TV studio, was home to many comic performers, movies and programmes including Tony Hancock, Eric and Ernie and the Benny Hill Show. Benny Hill had a home nearby and is remembered, along with other comics, by a blue plaque on the site of the former studio. His humour was basic and sexist but in the 1990s he was wildly popular around the world, although he had already passed his sell-by date in the UK.

High Street to WWII Heroes
High Street to WWII Heroes

Start point: 51.4288 lat, -0.3242 long
End point: 51.4226 lat, -0.3411 long

Return to the bus stop and head west up the High Street. Teddington is a quiet, unremarkable, now affluent suburb in South West London, not particularly famous for anything but home to some intriguing nuggets of trivia. Right by the bus stop are two churches on opposite sides of the road. The small one on the right is the original parish church, dating from the early medieval period but on the site of a Saxon chapel. The larger religious building opposite is now the Landmark arts centre. Modelled on Notre Dame in Paris and billed as the Cathedral of West London, building began during a religious revival in late nineteenth century. But funds ran out before the building was half finished. It remained unused and derelict until the 1960’s when a number of music videos were made there, exploiting its gothic appeal, and its future as an arts centre was secured.

At first glance Teddington High Street looks dull and boring, typical red-brick terracing along a minor street. But look more closely and the red bricks span many centuries. A row of cottages just beyond the ancient church dates from 1759 and is associated with Peg Woffington, a famous actress of that era and friend of David Garrick. Further along the road grander Victorian terraces are mixed with an occasional 15th century survival (currently a hardware shop). At the mini-roundabout two dreary 1960s office buildings interrupt the flow of bricks, unwelcome intrusions, which overwhelm Elmfield House here on the right of the road.

Now a dental practice, Elmfield House was once home to the 19th century exiled Russian revolutionary Alexander Herzen (no memorial though). Waldegrave Road, heading off to the right from here has plaques to several less-controversial historic celebs. R.D Blackmore, now only remembered as the author of Lorna Doone, was a respected Victorian novelist who lived in Teddington and is commemorated here in Teddington Library. Two blue plaques almost opposite each other commemorate the birthplace of Noel Coward (playwright, composer and actor) and the home of Edward Whymper, first conqueror of the Matterhorn. They lived here at the same time (at the turn of the 20th century) but meetings between the pre-school Coward and the octogenarian mountain climber were probably limited. However it’s interesting to speculate….

From the mini-roundabout stagger up the steepest ascent of the walk (the approach to a railway bridge). The railway came here in 1865, sparking an explosive growth of the suburb. From the top of the bridge take the left turning down to the Park Hotel (a pub built in the Edwardian style and now a nice eating place). Cross over to Park Lane and walk towards Bushy Park. Halfway along you pass riding stables, unexpected in a street of suburban semis.

Cross over Park Rd into Rayleigh Avenue. At another small roundabout the left fork leads to the back gate of Bushy House. Take the right turn. This is the site of the National Physical Laboratory. You will find an information panel pointing out that Robert Watson Watt, the inventor of radar, worked here in the inter-war period. Also Barnes Wallace tested his first ideas for dam-busting, bouncing bombs in a ship tank just alongside. Another WWII hero, Alan Turing, worked here after his code-breaking successes at Bletchley Park. The house where he lived is on the other side of the park, with a blue plaque. Turn left through the Clapperstile Gate in the park wall and follow the path to the right. Pass the cricket pitches with a small copse on the right.

WWII Heroes to Longford River
WWII Heroes to Longford River

Start point: 51.4229 lat, -0.3511 long
End point: 51.422 lat, -0.3526 long

When you reach the end of the copse (where the park wall reaches a corner), the path forks. Head straight on across the grass towards the corner of a straight sided copse on the right.

You will shortly see signs to the Water Gardens and Cascade, close to Upper Lodge. Make your way there. When you have walked around the upper and lower ponds and visited the Brew House leave by the same gate but pass in front of Upper Lodge, turning left onto the metalled path. The mysterious white Rotunda building is visible through a gate in the wall. It is now a fancy house although formerly a torpedo test building. Just before you leave look back towards the long straight waterway, just a small part of the 17th century artificial river construction which takes water from the River Colne some 20km away to feed the cascade then sending the outflow to join the Thames.

Retrace your steps to a path going right, follow it as it tracks a hedge or fence separating the park from the river in a pasture. At a gate on the right enter and immediately go left through another gate. Follow this path which is running parallel to the Longford River (the feed to the Diana Fountain in Bushy Park and the gardens at Hampton Court), which this walk passes later.

Longford River to Woodland Garden
Longford River to Woodland Garden

Start point: 51.422 lat, -0.3526 long
End point: 51.4145 lat, -0.3508 long

Just before the round Waterhouse Pond take a path to the left which leads through a woodland garden with ornamental streams and fine trees and shrubs (masses of azaleas in spring time). After much meandering the path emerges into the park through a gate. Just go straight ahead through another gate into another woodland garden and continue ahead to the right of a small lake to find a footbridge on the left, leading to the Pheasantry café before turning right by the bridge to exit through the woodland garden gate.

Woodland Garden to Bushy Park
Woodland Garden to Bushy Park

Start point: 51.4145 lat, -0.3508 long
End point: 51.4174 lat, -0.338 long

Follow the path around the end of the woodland garden, going straight ahead across a road, heading parallel to the edge of a sports field. On the right is Chestnut Avenue. When you near the gate out of the park cross this road and take a path parallel to the park wall.

Bushy Park to SHAEF Memorial
Bushy Park to SHAEF Memorial

Start point: 51.4174 lat, -0.338 long
End point: 51.4189 lat, -0.3277 long

After about 200 metres you will see a small memorial off to the right. This is the site of General Eisenhower’s SHAEF HQ in the lead up to D-Day in 1944. From a temporary camp here, the final stages of the invasion of France were planned, the first step in the decisive road to the end of WWII.

SHAEF Memorial to Teddington Barrow
SHAEF Memorial to Teddington Barrow

Start point: 51.4189 lat, -0.3277 long
End point: 51.418 lat, -0.3237 long

Prehistory has been pretty effectively wiped from the landscape around here. A 4000 year old Bronze Age barrow survived just here on the edge of the park until around 100 years ago. It was excavated in Victorian times and yielded interesting grave goods which now are in the British Museum. The barrow itself was removed for road widening….

Teddington Barrow to Heron Pond
Teddington Barrow to Heron Pond

Start point: 51.418 lat, -0.3237 long
End point: 51.4151 lat, -0.3222 long

Turn right off the path to head towards a small copse of trees (Warren plantation). Continue past the left-hand side and then turn right towards the end of Heron Pond. You cross a path just before reaching a bridge over a stream. This is known as Cobblers Path, commemorating an episode in the 18th century when a local shoemaker won a modest campaign to reopen a path through the park from Hampton Wick to Hampton. This ancient way had been closed for 20 years since the park was enclosed in 1734 by Lord Halifax.

Heron Pond to Diana Fountain
Heron Pond to Diana Fountain

Start point: 51.4151 lat, -0.3222 long
End point: 51.4104 lat, -0.3348 long

Cross the small bridge and turn right along the edge of Leg of Mutton Pond then continue alongside the larger Heron Pond, heading towards a round pond with a gilded statue in the middle. It’s known as the Diana fountain (and Diana would be appropriate for a deer park) but the figure is actually of a water nymph.

Diana Fountain to Garrick Lodge
Diana Fountain to Garrick Lodge

Start point: 51.4104 lat, -0.3348 long
End point: 51.4102 lat, -0.3382 long

Walk around to the far edge of the pond to admire the long tree-lined avenue stretching towards the white painted Garrick Lodge at the Hampton end of the park, close to Hampton Church.

Garrick Lodge to Hampton Court
Garrick Lodge to Hampton Court

Start point: 51.4102 lat, -0.3382 long
End point: 51.4067 lat, -0.3371 long

Turn left to take a path towards the Lion Gate, the exit from the park, and cross over the road to enter the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. There is the famous maze (you have to pay to get in) and a cafe in the Tiltyard. Walk ahead to the main gate of the palace and admire the Tudor chimneys etc.

Hampton Court to More Blue Plaques and End
Hampton Court to More Blue Plaques and End

Start point: 51.4067 lat, -0.3371 long
End point: 51.4061 lat, -0.3434 long

Turn right to walk alongside the terraced grace and favour residences to exit onto Hampton Court Bridge. Cross the road, go right then left to find several beautiful and historic houses on the left, one previously lived in by Michael Faraday and another by Christopher Wren, both sporting English Heritage blue plaques. But no mention of another famous resident, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, a prominent suffragette and keen cyclist.

Cross the bridge over the Thames to reach Hampton Court train station. From here trains to Clapham Junction and Waterloo link to most destinations. The R68 bus from the station car park will take you to Richmond for the District Line tube and all points in between.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author Gallop and may not be reproduced without permission.

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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