A fantastic opportunity dropped into my inbox one day – to stay for two nights in one of Fuller’s Beautiful Bedrooms at the White Hart Hotel at Hampton Wick. It was almost too good to be true, the perfect sponsored tie-in, Fuller’s – brewers of London Pride. I didn’t hesitate to accept.
I built a 3-day itinerary around my stay at the White Hart:
Day 1 – walk the Thames Path from Richmond to Hampton Wick
Day 2 – Hampton Court Palace and continue along the Thames Path
Day 3 – Bushy Park and time permitting continue along the Thames Path to Walton or double back along the Thames to Strawberry Hill (Horace Walpole and all that)
Thames Path – Richmond to Hampton Wick
I’ve been slowly making my way along the Thames Path over the last year or so and had made it to Richmond during the summer. Having a base at Hampton Wick would allow me to explore this next stretch in a little more detail. It was raining heavily when I arrived in Richmond and I wished the ferries were running – a grand way to arrive at Hampton Court. But alas they only operate in the summer season from March till October, so I made my way along the Thames Path in the rain.
Even in late November the Thames is resplendent – the water running fast and high, the river ever threatening to breach its banks and flood the path. I passed the magnificent Ham House and the famous Eel Pie Island, home to one of the tidal Thames last boat yards.
A stone monument just before Teddington Lock marked the end of the jurisdiction of the Port of London Authority, the Lock itself the end of the tidal Thames. Passing this point is a hugely symbolic moment on a passage along London’s sacred river. In Ben Aaronovitch’s brilliant Rivers of London novels this section of the river is the borderland between the domains of the deities of the Upper and Lower Thames – Mamma Thames and Old Father Thames. Another stone on the riverbank denotes the border between the Royal Boroughs of Richmond and Kingston.
At sunset I arrived at the ancient town of Kingston-Upon-Thames (Cyninges tun), coronation site of seven Anglo-Saxon kings. The Coronation Stone still stands in the town centre with the names of the Anglo-Saxon kings who ascended the throne carved around its base.
The White Hart Hotel – Hampton Wick
Crossing the old bridge over the Thames I was reminded of passing this way in the opposite direction earlier in the year walking the London Loop. After three hours walking in the rain I was ready to take refuge in a comfortable inn and there right opposite the end of the bridge was the White Hart Hotel where not only would I have a room for two nights but dinner and breakfast as well.
I was greeted by an open fire and a friendly receptionist who told me that my room, the Jane Seymour room, was her favourite in the whole hotel. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I have to be honest and say I was blown away. This was not a room but a suite. A portrait of Jane Seymour seemed to be indicating the way to the huge four-poster bed. I carefully took off my muddy boots by the door. There was a large bathroom where the deep bath filled in less than ten minutes, the soak in that tub was in itself dreamlike at the end of a rainy walk along the Thames Path. I donned my bath robe and made a cup of tea from a wide selection and munched the complimentary handmade biscuits, before having a snooze on a mound of soft pillows on the bed.
Dinner took the experience to the next level. The menu was extensive and creative. For the first night I had the Owton’s dry-aged 8oz sirloin steak with triple cooked chips, grilled tomato and mushroom, plus a watercress and herb salad, which I washed down with two pints of Fuller’s London Pride. The steak was cooked to perfection, the beer was fresh and clear, and the service was exceptional. A fire crackled away by the wall throwing out shadows onto the deep wood interior of the restaurant. I wafted back up to my opulent room in a daze and supped a bottle of London Pride from the mini bar in front of the TV on the sofa before crashing out.
Thames Path to Hampton Court
Breakfast the next morning of course had to be a Full English (which I had without the beans and black pudding) and like dinner the night before was spot on. It set me up nicely to stroll the next stage of the Thames Path to Hampton Court.
It’s a delightful 3 miles along the Thames from The White Hart to Hampton Court. It was a brisk bright morning, sun shimmering over the surface of the river – perfect walking weather. I wondered whether the £23.75 admission to Hampton Court Palace would be worth it, but to be fair, although steep that ticket opened up a world of wonders that would keep you occupied for an entire day. I drifted in awe through the apartments of William III with stunning views out across the gardens. Henry VIII’s great hall is like stepping back into the Tudor world (minus the disease and executions). I even managed not to get hopelessly lost in the maze.
I wanted to get more of the Thames Path under my belt so headed over the bridge to East Moseley in the last hour of light as a glorious sunset painted the sky deep orange. Moseley is an ancient settlement, recorded as far back as the 8th Century, and looks a fine town worth exploring. The opposite riverbank is decorated with a colourful parade of stationary houseboats, the most notable of which contains Pink Floyd’s recording studio. As I started to wonder about how to return to Hampton Wick a lovely lady walking her dog offered to give me a lift across the river in her boat. In the summer months they run a ferry service here that’s been in operation for over 400 years.
Dinner at the White Hart
A shower back in my opulent room at the White Hart and the ambience of Hampton Court lingered around the four-poster bed, an extension of the Elizabethan experience. It’d only been a day but the dining room had started to feel like home. I went for a full three-course meal
– Fuller’s London Porter smoked salmon
– Malt & barley smoked cod
– Vintage Ale Sticky Toffee Pudding with Fuller’s salted caramel ice cream
This was naturally washed down with a glorious pint of London Pride. Everything about that meal was on point – from the sourdough bread that came with the smoked salmon, through the chive butter sauce on the cod to the incredible Fuller’s Ice Cream. I celebrated by taking a pint of London Pride back up to my room.
It was difficult to choose what to do with my final day – Strawberry Hill has intrigued me ever since seeing it in Patrick Keiller’s film London and visiting for a writers’ conference some years ago. But with the bright clear morning sky Bushy Park was calling. After a marvellous breakfast of Eggs Benedict served on an English Muffin and a fruit salad it was time to say goodbye to the White Hart. I was sad to leave that beautiful bedroom with its sumptuous bed and cosy Elizabethan vibe. But those two nights by the banks of the Thames at Hampton Wick with stay with me for some time to come.