As you know, this isn’t my first time living in London. Many, many, years ago, I ran around this town with a lovely little British accent of my own. There’s plenty of proof in the form of VHS and tape recordings which will remain locked up for many more years to come…the accent was cute. Me? Not so much. Thankfully and yet disappointingly, most of the pictures from this time period are also hidden deep in a storage unit in the US (there were a few cute ones, I’ll admit), so you’ll have to try your best not to laugh at the few we could access electronically from this stage in life!
My family lived in the tiny village of Petersham, right on the River Thames just outside the town of Richmond (not too far from where we live today), and with my parents and grandmother in town, it seemed a good time to take a trip down Memory Lane and head back to our old stomping grounds.
We first took the train out of the city past famous Kew Gardens and into the heart of Richmond, then strolled down the high street, stopping briefly at the Green to watch a bit of cricket, and made our way down to the walking path along the river. The stretch along the water has come alive since our time there, with numerous restaurants now overlooking the Thames and its many houseboats. (Though it seems the sky hasn’t changed one bit! Here’s a little “Then&Now” of the waterfront)
Head through the kissing gate at the end of the path – a kind stranger used to sit here and would lift our bikes over the gate in exchange for cookies! – past the cows, down a wooded street and you’ll arrive at Rutland Cottage, our home. Built in 1660, it was previously used as the gardener’s cottage for Rutland Lodge, the main estate.
While our house in Germany several years later was the first place I felt “at home,” this little cottage is the first house in which I have vivid memories – laying on the heated kitchen floors, playing on the back patio, swimming in the pool, picking berries while my mom played tennis with a neighbor and hiding from babysitters. I also recall the old intercom system in the house, dreams of massive spiders in my doorway and our front gate being taped shut by vandals…
Nearby, you’ll also find the German School my brother attended tucked away between the woods and the last remaining polo club in Greater London. Down the street and around the corner? My British nursery school, the Sudbrook School, where I first learned I dotted my “I”s too boldly. (It was intense.) Both schools look just as I remember them!
Along the back of our property and new to the neighborhood since we left, is Petersham Nurseries – a GORGEOUS plant nursery, restaurant and café that I highly recommend if you find yourself in London searching for something completely unexpected. It is serene and “garden-y” yet seriously tucked away, classy and borderline magical. We spent time roaming the aisles of pretty flowers and munched on delicious salads, quiches and frittatas amidst the plants and fountains in the greenhouse. In the restaurant, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a fabulous mix of nature, large wooden tables and crystal chandeliers.
After lunch, we made our way through Richmond Park (stopping to play on my old playground!) and back to town in time for an afternoon refreshment on the Green. We then splurged a little and made the trip back in to London via river boat rather than the train – an experience we had not indulged in while we lived in the area. We spent two hours motoring against the current, through locks and past both historic and up-and-coming neighborhoods. The views from the river as we made our way back in to London were a great ending to our day!
Aside from simply being a great day trip from London, it was a lot of fun for me to return to Petersham with my parents for the first time in 20+ years and spend time sharing memories in a place that has played a small but also significant role in my life growing up and my journey back to London.
*Photo Credit: Margie Becker and Troy Tomasik…anything sub-par is my fault :)