Nora and I decamped to Osterley Park in West London yesterday because things were being done to the house that we wanted to avoid.
Osterley is lodged deep in my memory. My father used to work near Gillette Corner on the Great West Road, so I was often taken to the park as a child. When I was older and working for my dad in the summer holidays, we would sometimes go to the Hare and Hounds pub nearby for lunch. The Gillette factory is now an empty, but presumably preserved, 1930s shell and the Great West; its elegant, streamlined Art Deco factories, like the Firestone tyre factory that was demolished overnight in an act of architectural vandalism to defy the enforcement of a preservation order, now largely been replaced by shiny, modern and rather characterless office blocks.
I hadn’t been to Osterley for years, not since the children were at primary school. It’s a Georgian stately home built on Elizabethan foundations now owned by the National Trust, so it has the correspondingly expensive car park, which I balked at paying for. However, the warden was very nice when I explained that I was only wanting to walk a puppy, and told me about somewhere I could park off the property but still make my way around into the back of the park, quite officially, of course. He did give me the full spiel about joining, but it’s really not worth my while at the moment.
We drove off and parked in a small lane, which I’d seen on the way and made our way up a track to the main part of the park and across the huge lawn in front of the house. It’s so countryfied around there that it’s hard to believe that it is on edge of London, apart from reminders from aeroplanes taking off from Heathrow airport from time to time and the drone of the M4 motorway in the background, which you can hear if you think about it, as it goes straight through the centre of the park.
Nora loved it and ran about wildly, smelling all kinds of lovely things only she was aware of (thank goodness) and, perhaps because of the time of day or the cloudy weather, there were only a few people about, so we walked unhindered by other dogs whom she had to befriend every two minutes. It tends to make progress rather slow at the best of times, plus some walkers get very irate about their dogs being bothered by a daft puppy. As always, we bumped into some nice people including two women walking a Great Dane that Nora tried gamely to jump up at but couldn’t reach. There were also loads of rather miserable looking horses grazing in a large paddock. I say miserable – I mean, they looked well fed and looked after, just a bit ropey. I suppose I’m used to looking at horses that are a step up from these at Manor Farm.
I’ll definitely be coming here again. It’s so much easier to get to than Richmond Park, which has been our recent long walk escape, and there aren’t any terrifying deer or constantly circling cars to worry about. Next time I come, I must check out the farm shop, which isn’t open every day in the winter. And I was home in 15 minutes.