I suspect Covid-19 has made many Silver Travellers explore their local areas more, and we are no exception. Whilst Richmond isn’t exactly on the doorstep of our Walthamstow home, it’s a relatively simple journey on London Underground (the Victoria line to Victoria and then a change onto the District line all the way to the end of the line). Our day was centred around a mystery dining assignment I’d chosen: lunch in a Richmond pub (mystery dining is like mystery shopping apart from the fact I eat instead of buy something).
I knew very little about Richmond, so a stop at the tourist information booth inside the station was a must. A very helpful, and possibly bored, chap produced a map and guide and highlighted a walking route which would give us an overview of the town.
Our first major sight was the Richmond Theatre on Little Green: a grand, grade II, red-bricked Victorian building. It first opened on 18 September 1899 with a performance of ‘As you like it’ and our leaflet told us it was the first theatre in Britain to have unobstructed views of the stage.
Diagonally opposite was Richmond Green where we were advised to stop at the information boards at opposite ends of a long diagonal path. The green was a large expanse of grass and whilst it was pleasant to walk across it was rather boring with no play area for children or gardens. In the past it was used for Tudor jousting matches, but now it’s the location for various festivities throughout the year, including May Fair and Victorian Evening at Christmas time.
At the far end we found the original gatehouse of Richmond Palace, rebuilt after a fire by Henry VII in the early 1400s. It was named Richmond as he and his father were Earls of Richmond in Yorkshire. Despite coming from Yorkshire, I’ve never associated the two together. Henry VII died from tuberculous in the palace in 1509 with Elizabeth I following nearly 100 years later.
We walked through the arched gatehouse and down Old Palace Lane passing Trumpeters Lodge and Gate, Maids of Honour Row and several enticing flower decked pubs (not the one that we were to visit), before eventually arriving at the Thames.
We took a right turn along the tow path with the river on one side and Old Deer Park on the other, passing the lime green Richmond Bridge, which according to its plaque was ‘made and erected in 1908’.
Continuing onwards, we passed a second bridge by the Richmond Lock and we decided to wander halfway across for better views. On the south side of the river boats were moored outside splendid houses with river front terraces and we both wondered about how often they flooded. It was a gloriously sunny autumnal day and lots of people were out strolling, jogging and cycling.
However, the relative peace and tranquillity was frequently interrupted by the noise and sight of the huge planes, which flew extremely low overhead.
As lunch was looming, we eventually turned back retracing our footsteps until a short footbridge took us into Old Deer Park and back into town.
In the centre we found our lunch destination – an independent pub said to have south west London’s largest selection of draught beer and a whiskey and cocktail speakeasy called Dropkick Jonny. I’ll leave you to work out the name.
Fortified with pints of beer and excellent food, we mooched around the shops, although there was nothing particularly enticing. However, I found Marks and Spencer and decided to try on coats, until a rather officious lady told me I wasn’t allowed to and that the coats would now have to be quarantined. The following day, my partner was at M&S in Stratford East London where a sign reminded customers to wear hand sanitiser before trying on the coats. Naturally, I wrote a letter of complaint and was told that the policy depended on the Covid-19 rates. I found it hard to believe that the deprived London Borough of Newham had lower levels than posh Richmond, but it did, with Richmond hitting the top of the London Borough Covid-19 Poll. Perhaps I’ll wait until all this is over before I return.