Ramblers 2 • Leader Helen Salmon
Thames Path walk from Hampton Court to Teddington Lock on 22nd
It was a beautiful sunny autumnal morning when we began our walk on the
north bank side of the River Thames, glimpsing the formal gardens of
Hampton Court Palace through its ornamental railings. Walking on, we
passed Thames Ditton Island with the Victorian waterworks and marina on
the south bank of Thames Ditton. Continuing the walk, we saw the little
island of Ravens Ait and the Italianate tower of St. Raphael’s Church and,
as we walked towards Kingston Bridge, there was a picturesque view of
swans, geese and houseboats. Walking across Kingston Bridge, we
reached the river by the steps at the southern end of the bridge and
continued our walk on the south side, passing under the railway bridge into
Canbury Gardens with its bandstand, riverside seats and pub. Following
the river, we took the raised pavement and joined the riverside at the Half
Mile Tree. Enjoying the scenic views along the way we continued to
Teddington Weir and Lock where a local pointed out a plaque
commemorating a flotilla of over 100 small boats launched to assist in the
evacuation of Dunkirk. Completing the walk, we took the footbridge across
to Teddington where we enjoyed a nice lunch in the Tide End Cottage
Pictures taken during this trip may be viewed on the Gallery page of our
Book Reading • Leader June Reid Ù
Our book for October was The Cactus written by Sarah Haywood and
chosen by Liz. After reading the heavy tome that was Lamentation last
month, this book was such a contrast. It was a romance with a quirky
sense of humour. The heroine, Susan Green, leads a perfectly ordered
life; emotions do not enter into her planned lifestyle. She is self-sufficient,
owns her own home, is good at her job and her social needs are taken
care of by her equally self-sufficient man friend. Suddenly, her perfect life
falls apart when two events happen; she finds she is pregnant and her
mother dies leaving a will which must be contested immediately. This is
the story of one woman’s fight to let go and to embrace the unexpected.
We all enjoyed it.
Local History 3 • Leader Christine Withams ¸
The October visit to St. Bride’s Church and Dr. Johnson’s house was well
attended by 16 members of the group. From Blackfriars Station, we
walked to Fleet Street where we made a quick visit to St. Bride’s Church.
The church is famous as the journalists’ church, with many of the seats
sponsored and dedicated to famous journalists past and present. The
church crypt contains an interesting history of the church and the site itself,
which dates back to Roman times, and has several artefacts on display.
Dr. Samuel Johnson’s House is set within a small square off Fleet Street
and consisted of four levels with two rooms on each level. The visit
included a guided tour of the house given by the Vice Curator and was
extremely interesting and useful in not only appreciating the house, but in
giving us an excellent understanding of the life and times of Dr. Johnson.
He had lived in the house at the time he was writing his famous dictionary,
and, after his death in 1784, the house was bequeathed to his faithful
servant. Since then, the house has passed through various hands, so none
of the furnishings etc. belonged to Dr. Johnson and various owners had
adapted the house to suit their own needs.
The house has now been restored to reflect the period in which Dr.
Johnson lived and contains various paintings of Dr. Johnson and important
people in his life, as well as copies of his dictionary and other work by him
and his biographers. The guide took us through the house level by level.
She stopped at each floor to tell us more about his life and work, often
referring to the portraits to explain the subject’s connection to Dr. Johnson
and the influence they had upon his life. She told us about his early life as
the son of a bookseller in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and his education,
including a year spent at Oxford which was cut short through lack of funds.
She referred to his life in London and how he moved in influential circles
with friends like the famous actor, Garret, the painter Joshua Reynolds and
the writer James Boswell. She also told us a little about his wife, Elizabeth
who died in 1752 and how Dr. Johnson experienced bouts of poor mental
health throughout his life.
The guide talked about the famous dictionary and how it took him ten
years to complete, even though, when he first started, he thought it would
only take three. One unusual fact is that his dictionary is still used today in
America to clarify the exact meaning of certain words in their Constitution.
I enjoyed the visit and was really pleased we had the services of an
excellent, well-informed and enthusiastic guide to bring the whole house
and times of Dr. Johnson to life.
Parks & Gardens Appreciation • Leaders Jill Bryant & Rinka
Despite a bad weather forecast, on 24th October 12 of our group arrived
to visit St. James’s Park. We went to see the Autumn colours. However,
the flower beds were looking very colourful. A small group of people were
watching a man feeding a squirrel who encouraged it to run up his trouser
leg for the food he had. The exotic border was flourishing including banana
trees, and further on were lots of coots, ducks and a lovely black swan. It
was raining steadily now but we decided to continue walking all the way
round, and were rewarded by seeing about five pelicans resting on large
rocks in the middle of the lake. The Pall Mall Gallery was open showing
paintings of wildlife so we went in and enjoyed a coffee or tea and
admired the many pictures on display.
It was certainly a better way of spending the time with friendly people in our
group instead of looking through the window at home at the rain.
¦Pictures taken during this trip may be viewed on the Gallery page of our
Local History 3 • Christine Withams ¸
On the 11th September, 11 of us met at the top of the escalators at
Waterloo Station to take the 40-minute journey to Strawberry Hill. On
arrival, it was only a short walk to Strawberry Hill House which was the
home of Horace Walpole, the son of Sir Robert Walpole who was Britain’s
first Prime Minister. The house was largely designed by Walpole and his
friends in the Gothic revival style between 1749-1790. He filled the house
with a vast collection of art antiquities and decorative items from the
ancient to the modern. Sadly, at a later date, the inheritors of the house
had to sell most of the contents either due to debt or death duties. Despite
this, the building is very interesting to see. We were unable to book a tour
but the staff in every room were so knowledgeable and eager to tell us
about it that they made the house come alive. When we were about half
way round, the staff advised us that there was a free garden tour - which
most of us joined. The lady described how the garden was laid out,
although most of the original garden does not exist anymore, except a very
old tree from Walpole’s time.