Sunday, November 22, 2015

Exploring Chiswick House & Gardens

Back when spring was only just, er, springing, I headed to west London to visit Chiswick House & Gardens for a relaxing and delightfully sunny Nice Day Out.

The house itself (completed in 1729) is small but interesting - it was created by the third Earl of Burlington as a space to display his collections and entertain his friends. It's also one of the places that's free to visit if you have an Art Pass. Hurrah! 


The free-entry-with-my-Art-Pass was what took me to Chiswick in the first place, as I'm trying to make the most of my Art Fund membership, but honestly I think the real delight here is the gardens (which are free to visit, whether you have an Art Pass or not).

There are about 65 acres of grounds to explore, with lots of interesting things to see along the way. Created in the 1700s, the garden was (apparently) the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, when formal gardens gave way to an idealised version of nature filled with picturesque views. More recently, the gardens were the location for two promo videos shot by the Beatles in 1966.

It was lovely to wander round the gardens, enjoying the first signs of spring...


... and the ornamental buildings, statues and other curiosities dotted around the faux-natural landscape.

A waterfall! A temple! A pretty bridge across a lake!

The lake itself was rather lovely...

... and buzzing with birds, on and around the water...


... including a family of loudly honking Egyptian Geese and their fluffy goslings.


Here's that temple again, and an obelisk (just what every garden needs), in an ampitheatre-shaped garden that was originally filled with potted orange trees creating a faux Mediterranean grove.


It was quite delightful strolling round the grounds and discovering new and interesting objects round each corner. There are statues of the great and the good, lots of urns...


... some sphinxes, a pair of rather cowardly-looking lions...


... and a statue of a naked lady stuck on top of a column who I thought looked a bit like she's having one of those "finding yourself naked in public" nightmares and is hoping she wakes up soon!

There are also some more formal sections of the garden, lots of interesting paths to wander down and plenty of wooded areas being enjoyed by lots of locals and their dogs. You could play a pretty good game of "dog breed bingo" here I think, I saw so many different types of dogs in one afternoon!

Dotted around the grounds are fun picture frames, with some interesting facts about that corner of the garden and a reproduction of an old photo or painting showing how the view looked many years ago.  These are helpfully marked on the visitor map (click here to view the PDF) along with the main sights to look out for as you explore the gardens.

After a visit to the house, a long walk round the gardens, and some tasty food in the cafe (which is pretty busy at the weekends so be prepared to queue or take a picnic!) I made a final stop: visiting the magnificent greenhouse to see the collection of Camellias. Click here to see my post about the Camellia Festival.

Then it was time to head home and start planning my next Nice Day Out...

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