Have you ever lived in a place for a while and not realised you have a jewel in the vicinity, and then one day you discover it?
For the last year I have been living in Highgate, quite near to Hampstead Heath which I have explored extensively……but it would seem, not extensively enough! Last week I discovered Kenwood House! and what a discovery it was! I recently wrote a blog about the 5 Great London Parks for a Summer Picnic and one of those was Kenwood House Estate. So I thought I had better visit!
Wow!!! What a fabulous place! My route took me past the Highgate ponds and along the way I met some interesting folks that I stopped to chat to, one of whom, a gentleman asked what I was photographing………..”everything said I”.
Suddenly, to my amazement and in no time at all, I reached the gates of the estate! What an delightful surprise it turned out to be. Firstly the estate is way bigger than I imagined and had some amazing treasures and areas to explore and discover: Thousand Pound Pond, Sham Bridge, Wood Pond, a Henry Moore sculpture, Stable Field, a Bath House and of course the main house. This was going to require more than one visit for sure!
The woods are delightful and I felt like I had been drawn into a symphony of green and birdsong. A thick canopy of leaves towered above my head and on all sides thick green tangled undergrowth hid trilling birds and all manner of creatures. The sandy paths are fabulously clean, meandering this way and that, taking you on journeys of discovery.
I approached the house from the south-east gate and on the way saw what looked like a bridge that on closer inspection turned out to be just the facade of a bridge. weird! I took some photos and thought I would like to visit the body of water I could see beneath the structure.
As I walked the temptation to meander off and just follow the diverging paths was strong, but I managed to resist and carried on and as the path lead on up the hill I noticed a marvellous green lawn…..well a bit more than a lawn really, more like a very large field….but beautifully manicured and kept. There on the left of this green sloping jewel was the pond, that turned out to be Thousand Pound pond!! Across the south-east corner of this lake is the Sham Bridge (about 1767-1768, Listed Grade II*), attributed to Robert Adam, which consists of a timber three-span facade with a balustrade.
The pond is gorgeous and the bridge across the corner creates a glorious romantic image, offset by the wonderful greenery, reed beds and trees on the perimeter. Spring is in the air and I noticed two sets of babies; 5 duckings and 2 goslings.
All happily pecking away looking for snacks in the grass. I took loads of photos as you can imagine! Following the perimeter of the pond I noticed a derelict rowing boat beneath the trees, thick reed beds bright with yellow irises and onto the smaller pond; Wood Pond where I noticed a tiny stone bridge.
I got my first glimpse of the magnificent house on the crest of the hill, a massive cream structure, imposing and grand it looked out across the green wooded landscape, as I rounded the lake.
The lawns of the area known as Pasture Ground are beautifully manicured and lend a sweeping vista flowing down the slopes of the ground to the ponds. After stopping on the Stone Bridge and takes loads of photos of the pond, I headed off uphill to see the Henry Moore sculpture. The view from there was phenomenal.
By now it was close to 3pm so I headed for the house and to my surprise as I neared the house I noticed an air of unkempt faded elegance; paint peeling and shutters dusty. Nonetheless it was grand and imposing. My first stop was the Bath House; built in the early 18th century when cold plunge bathing was fashionable. Over the years it fell into disrepair, filling up with silt, but has since been cleaned up a restored. Fascinating.
Next I explored the kitchen, in the corner of which is a fabulous old fashioned oven,
then the gardens where I met up with a friend for tea and cake…yummy! I chose a slice of the best tasting chocolate cake I have had for ages.
a fab afternoon, a fab place and now on my list of favourite places to go! and since it is so close…. in the words of Arnie…….. “I will be back”. I have been living in the UK for almost 10 years now and of those, in London for the last 2 years, as well as approx 3 years on and off between 2002 and 2007! I have explored the city and the parks, the churches and museums and the more I discover the more I realise that I haven’t touched sides yet!
Kenwood House, managed by English Heritage - This elegant villa, remodelled by Robert Adam in the 18th century, houses a superb collection of paintings, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner and Gainsborough, as well as the Suffolk collection of rare Elizabethan portraits.
NW3 7JR – How to get there: by car via B519 (there is parking available, but it does get busy so get there early)
By bus 210 from either Golders Green tube station or Archway tube station on the Northern Line.
Kenwood House is open most days 11:30-16:00 and the estate grounds stay open longer; please see site notices for summer and winter opening times.