Richmond: a neighbourhood so charming they had to hide it away at the end of the District line.
But your cross-city trek will be amply rewarded when you arrive at this well-heeled West London enclave. It’s got a real village feel to it, with a bustling high street, a cricketing green, riverside pubs, and flagstone-paved alleyways lined with independent shops and cafés.
Richmond’s history as a royal playground still shapes the landscape, and its slight preferential treatment – the views of the Thames and from King Henry’s Mound are protected by a special act of parliament which bans any new buildings that would mess with them. Only traces of the 16th century Richmond Palace remain, but these days you can pop into the aristocratic piles the royals attracted – Ham House, Orleans House Gallery and York House are all open now for a snoop around (and the gardens are just as impressive).
And if you’re after green space, well, this is the place to find it: the 2360 acre Richmond Park has been home to herds of deer since the 17th century, and is also apparently stag beetle central. In late Spring, the park’s Isabella Plantation bursts into colour with famously beautiful azalea flowers. There’s also Kew Gardens just one stop away on the District Line, with its grandiose Victorian glasshouses, treetop walkway and, er, ten-storey pagoda.
If you fancy a different kind of scenery, take the Thames Path along the river down to Hampton Court Palace, or cross the bridge onto Eel Pie Island, a tiny river islet that’s home to a community of artists (who open their studios to visitors over two weekends every summer). Make sure you end up at one of the many excellent pubs in Richmond, one of which actually gets flooded by the river at certain times of day.
…depending on the last train home.