It was really hot and sunny on Saturday – lovely – except that I had promised to take Alfie along on a walking tour of Charming Chiswick. I was immediately worried that a small dog walking for around two hours in the heat was probably not a good idea. But I packed up some water and took the train and the tube to Turnham Green tube station which was the meeting point.
I'd arrived early - just as well as my friend who I had arranged to meet there needed to make an urgent detour to find some food. After a hasty visit to Marks & Spencer, we arrived back at the meeting point at 145pm as instructed. I was amazed to see such a large group of people gathered - there must have been around 60 or so milling around (and queuing to pay their £9 ticket price for non members, £7 for members) on Acton Green.
It seemed to take an age but finally, around 210pm we were broken into three groups. Alfie was the only dog - but was admired and petted by many of the fellow walkers. One admitted that she had a Chihuahua at home - but hadn't bought her along because it was so hot. I felt bad - but Alfie was enjoying watching the other dogs in the distance on the green.
Our guide, Diane, moved our group of about 25 people into the shade and explained that we were on the site of an English Civil war battle between the Royalists and Parliamentarians - apparently the losers retreated to Hounslow!
Then we set off across the road to Bedford Park - which isn't actually a park but a residential development by Jonathan Carr on some of the Duke of Bedford's land. I began to think that it would be a good tour for any would-be estate agents in the area - as we then inspected some of the red brick developments, balconies (particularly those on the church we were admiring) and heard about the Queen Ann revival.
But for those with more contemporary interests we learned that famous residents included Colin Firth (fleetingly I thought of that scene where he walked across the field all wet from the swim....it was a hot day, just maybe...), Jeremy Vine and Richard Briers.
The nearby Tabard Inn was noted for its special decor - including contributions from William Morris. Then we moved to Priory Avenue and learned about The Victorian Society (my friend - a property man - scowled at the mention) and the Rational Dress movement (responsible for liberating women from tight corsets into looser clothing - yayy!).
Then we walked (marched) down to Chiswick High Road - noting that there were no public loos on the walk - and diving into nearby pubs and cafes (well, it was a hot day and we were all drinking lots of water to remain hydrated).
We stood amongst the bustling shoppers and inspected the statue of Hogarth. I missed a bit of what was said here as I was trying to get Alfie to drink some water while he was more intent on eating the bits and pieces he could find beneath the bench I was sitting on momentarily.
We walked down a rather nice road full of up market shops (no time to admire the shoes) and my friend pointed out a well known restaurant. I made a mental note to return at some point for some more leisurely window shopping.
Then we arrived at the rather busy Hogarth Roundabout and Chiswick flyover (which my friend later discovered was built in 1961). The guide pointed out the Fullers brewery across the way before taking us through the underpass and along the A4 (not the nicest place to walk) until we reached Hogarth's House.
We stopped here in a delightful green and shady glade (I sat on the grass so that Alfie could have a hug on my lap - and more water) and heard about Hogarth's links to the Foundling Hospital in London and his wife's links to Savile Row and the Burlington estate. This was definitely a tour for property peeps!
Then we did some more walking along the A4 until we entered the park at Chiswick House. Now this was the highlight of the tour for me - a fabulously wild and green park, fantastic shrubbery, a rather modern coffee shop and loads of people (and dogs) having a lovely time.
Our guide stopped us in front of Chiswick House (see the photo above) and talked about the Devonshire family (and mentioned the link to the film The Duchess). I have to say I was sorely tempted to leave the tour and explore this beautiful park a little more - it was so lovely. I must have passed the entrance a million times in my life - and always vowed to visit one day. I shall return!
Anyway, the group moved on and we passed Chiswick Cemetery and finally reached the river at Chiswick Pier. You go through a somewhat modern residential development to get there but the river views are fantastic. I have to say that the breeze was rather welcome - we were beginning to get a little tired now.
Diane was doing a valiant job explaining about Corney House and the Duke of Bedford, and about the historical industrial background to the area but I was really feeling the need for a sit down and a proper drink. Alfie was flagging too.
Finally, at around 420pm - after inspecting Hogarth's grave in a rather pretty church, and checking out a couple of lovely riverside properties - we ended up at the tiny Chiswick Square and the tour ended. Thankfully, we were right next to a pub and my friend was expedient (Thank you!) in collecting a glass of chilled white wine to revive me.
It was a lovely walk - but possibly a teeny bit long bearing in mind the heat of the day. But I am so pleased to have discovered that lovey park and Alfie and I will be returning soon.
Charming Chiswick is described here http://www.cultureseekers.org/events/60801112/
and other walking tours are shown here: http://www.cultureseekers.org/