Brentford is not an obvious short break destination and in places is quite shabby, however while staying in the Premier Inn London Kew Bridge in order to visit Kew Gardens (see my previous review) my husband and I explored as much as time allowed and found the area fascinating.
Walking to our hotel from Kew Bridge Station we passed what looked like an impressive tall chimney but is in fact a standpipe tower built to house vertical pipes at the Kew Bridge Pumping Station: this was built in 1838 as the water then being taken from the Thames at Chelsea had become very polluted and Brentford was then very rural and the Thames water there was clean. The site now houses the London Museum of Water & Steam (formerly the London Museum of Steam) and has a large collection of stationary water pumping steam engines and much more. See the website for more details – https://www.waterandsteam.org.uk I’d have loved to see the museum but during school terms it is only opens at weekends. It has been used as a location for many period tv and film programmes. Further along Kew Bridge Road we passed the Musical Museum, which I’d read about online; it’s in a large, modern building and only opens on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and is another place I’d like to visit in future. For more details see their website – https://www.musicalmuseum.co.uk
Just past the Premier Inn is Ferry Road, at the end of which is a path that leads to the Thames and the site of a disused ferry; If only there was still a small ferry here the Premier Inn’s customers would be able to reach Kew Botanic Gardens in about 10 minutes! Some school children were having canoeing lessons and to the right we saw where the River Brent/Grand Union Canal waterway meets the Thames with houseboats moored along the banks, many of them in the shadows of the numerous blocks of new apartments and restaurants. The Thames Path goes in both directions from the end of Ferry Road. Following the path west we walked along Point Wharf Way which follows the bank of the River Brent, passing a large boatyard before heading back to the High Street and then into Dock Road where we saw a yard with a collection of old London buses, including Red Routemasters available for hire. Then more views of the boatyard and water rushing down a weir before we followed one part of the Thames Path that went along the side of Thames Lock, across another bridge and through scrub and trees, past old houseboats, interesting looking businesses and art studios, before ending in Catherine Wheel Road, which was lined with specialist car works and dealers. This area is undergoing an enormous regeneration programme and I fear many old buildings have been demolished to make way for yet more apartment blocks, which made me rather sad. Syon Park and House wasn’t much further on but we weren’t able to visit due to its opening hours and our lack of time.
The Thames Path heading east from Ferry Road towards Kew Bridge goes past many more houseboats and a boatyard on Lot’s Ait. Much of this area is now modern apartment blocks and the nearer to Kew Bridge you get the more expensive looking they are. The Thames Path continues through the rather scruffy grounds of the Watermans Arts Centre and then through Watermans Park which has a play area. It was a beautiful evening and we watched people paddle boarding or canoeing on the water sheltered by the Brentford Ait (island) on the shore of which we saw five herons, ducks and many Canada geese. The route of the TP goes up to Kew Bridge Road for a while before returning to the banks of the Thames as far as Kew Bridge; there are huge blocks of apartments on one side of the path and desirable looking houseboats with gardens on the other. At Kew Bridge there is a large restaurant/bar called One Over the Ait, which on such a warm evening looked like a good place to have a drink while taking in the views. However, we chose to eat near our hotel, at the Ferry Lounge, a Lebanese restaurant in Ferry Road beneath one of the many apartment buildings. We were the only people eating there early in the evening but it was very tasty, and also reasonably priced.
After our long day out at Kew Gardens the next day, and to celebrate my husband’s birthday, we went out for a meal at La Rosetta – a traditional Italian restaurant in Brentford High Street. It was a gloriously warm evening and the whole of the front of the restaurant was opened up and everyone was eating at tables outside. The atmosphere was magical and the food good, especially my favourite Venetian style liver, which although here served in an Anglicised way, with vegetables and potatoes instead of polenta, brought back happy memories of Venice. Brentford has a good selection of restaurants covering all types of cuisine and a few old pubs have survived the regeneration. In addition to Syon Park and the museums mentioned above, Brentford Dock, the Gauging Lock and the start of walks into the countryside along the banks of the Grand Union Canal would certainly tempt me back to this area. See https://www.canaltrust.org.uk for details of the Grand Union Canal. There’s a lot to see and do during a short stay in this part of Brentford but I recommend a long weekend rather than a midweek stay as more attractions should be open.