Most visitors experience West London en route to or from Heathrow Airport, either from the confines of the train or tube (which runs overground at this point), or the motorway. The city and its satellites seem to continue unabated, with only fleeting glimpses of the countryside. However, in the five-mile stretch from Chiswick to Osterley there are several former country retreats, now surrounded by suburbia.
The Palladian villa of Chiswick House is perhaps the best known. However, it draws nothing like as many visitors as Syon House, most of whom come for the gardening centre rather than for the house itself, a showcase for the talents of Robert Adam, who also worked at Osterley House, another Elizabethan conversion.
Running through much of the area is the River Thames, once the “Great Highway of London” and still the most pleasant way to travel in these parts during summer. Boats plough up the Thames all the way from central London via the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the picturesque riverside at Richmond, as far as Hampton Court.Read More
Kew GardensEstablished in 1759, Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens manage the extremely difficult task of being both a world leader in botanic research and an extraordinarily beautiful and popular public park. There’s always something to see, whatever the season, but to get the most out of the place come sometime between spring and autumn, bring a picnic and stay for the day.
Of all the glasshouses, by far the most celebrated is the Palm House, a curvaceous mound of glass and wrought iron, designed by Decimus Burton in the 1840s. Its drippingly humid atmosphere nurtures most of the known palm species, while in the basement there’s a small, excellent tropical aquarium.