Osterley may “ring bells” given that it’s en route to Heathrow Airport and many journeys on the Piccadilly Line have likely been spent eagerly looking at the tube map counting down the last few stops to the gateway to hotter and sunnier climes.
Aforementioned, my dalliance with Osterley had always been in passing. Osterley Park itself has been on my list of places to visit for sometime now, having first been captivated by a photo I had seen of one of its lakes, through which a sneak peak of a well-maintained manor could be seen through dense trees. Whether it was daydreaming of a dream home or what, I had always felt drawn to Osterley’s charm.
A quiet winter’s day following the Christmas period felt like the opportune time to head out west. It did seem kind of odd breaking the Piccadilly Line journey at Osterley, but daydreaming of far flung places aside, this wonderful bit of greenery in Greater London is especially worth the journey.
One of the last surviving country estates in London, Osterley Park is largely tucked away from urban Hounslow, even in spite of the M4 motorway which cuts across the middle of the park. A short walk from the underground station, which passes a dual-carriageway and a quiet suburban street with few shops, you wouldn’t be wrong in wondering where this jewel of nature could be hiding.
Heading along Thornbury Road, a sign for Osterley Park and House soon became visible. The transition from Hounslow houses to country estate is quick. Leaving suburban life behind quite literally, visitors are greeted by a tree-lined promenade, which passes through farmland and a field of horses before heading towards the centre of the park where Osterley House and its Gardens sit.
As one with a strong affinity with cedar trees, I was delighted to have made that promenade walk within the protective shelter of various species of cedar. There were plenty of guests too, along that walk, mainly in the form of low-flying planes making their descent into nearby Heathrow Airport. I have to admit, you can even smell the pollution generated by heavy air traffic as you walk along the promenade, which crosses the flight path above.
Do not let the whiff deter you however as spectacular parkland does await. As you would expect, being so close to the airport, the air quality isn’t at its best. As I walked along the promenade absorbing nature while hearing planes go by, it suddenly dawned on me that hale and hearty trees and greenery in parklands in West London and South-West London like Osterley Park, Richmond Park, Syon Park and Kew Gardens must work above and beyond, and do one heck of a job in protecting the environment and staving off pollution, especially given their close proximity to the second busiest airport in the world. Hats off to nature always!
As the promenade comes to an end, visitors to the vast parkland are treated to one of three lakes at Osterley – all of which have wonderful views of the late 18th century manor house, which is today managed by National Trust.
If you are planning on visiting Osterley, while the park itself is free, an entrance fee is charged for a visit to the House and its Gardens. Whether you’re an avid gardener or new to getting your fingers green, the Gardens at Osterley House is a must, especially the ornamental vegetable garden – which although a bit scant at this time of year, was a pleasure to walk around in and spot various winter vegetables.
Another treat was the 1/4-acre Winter Garden, which tucked away, offers some flowering blooms including small alpine blooms with cobalt blue petals, as well as the rather timely, holly. The 142-acre flat parkland on Osterley House’s estate is also home to a semi-circular garden house and a Doric Temple of Pan.
The wider Osterley Park has numerous trails and activities to get involved in including cycling and boating. Osterley Park is a great stretch of parkland for families to visit. Kids can have fun in nature, with numerous trails and local wildlife to spot, and there’s the added bonus of “plane spotting”.
Split in to two sections by the M4, the park extends further north on the other side of the motorway where it is largely used for agriculture.
Osterley House is not open for tours during the winter months, other than for a visiting exhibition. The current exhibition, Made for the Table, is a display of rare and antique silverware which charts the evolution of dining from the 1600’s through to the present day.
Whizzing around the few rooms and stairwell that was open for the purpose of the exhibition, this was an opportunity to marvel over the interiors rather, catching a glimpse of this well-maintained manor. Although the spring and summer months are likely the best time to visit Osterley Park for both the Gardens’ and parklands’ blossoms, being able to see part of the manor house was also enough to warrant a second visit to Osterley.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea