What can I say about Hampstead Heath except that it lives in the mind as a preserve for brigands and highwaymen; a wild and woolly expanse of nature that can only be traversed at one’s peril? Okay, okay, I know that it has shrunk’s considerably in size until it now totals 790 acres and that the Heath has grown decidedly tame, more’s the pity, but I still want to see it with me own eyes. Located just four miles from Trafalgar Square, the Heath is one of the highest points in London, includes 26 ponds, a few bogs and includes an area of land that runs from Hampstead to Highgate.
In June, I want to visit Hampstead and see the Heath. Hampstead is supposed to be worth a trip in and of itself, a picture postcard pocket of London. I’m looking forward to exploring an area of London I haven’t seen before and to strolling the streets and promenade, visiting the shops and the Spring at Well Walk and to simply enjoying the scenery. Oh, and to stopping in at Louis Patisserie, which everyone says has the best cakes and pastry ever. Afterwards, I plan to head out on foot across the Heath to Kenwood House.
Kenwood House is a former stately home on Hampstead Heath with an art collection boasting Rembrandts, Turners, Reynolds, Gainsboroughs and Vermeers. The House itself is a stunning neoclassical white villa whose Adam Library is considered one of the most important rooms designed by Robert Adam in the country. The home was owned by the great judge, Lord Mansfield
. Later Earls of Mansfield redesigned the parkland and Kenwood remained in the family until 1922.
When developers attempted to buy the estate, the house and grounds were saved for the public by the brewing magnate, Edward Cecil Guinness
, the first Earl of Iveagh, who bought Kenwood House and 74 acres of parkland in 1925. In 1928, when he died, the Earl bequeathed the Kenwood Estate and part of his collection of pictures to the nation. As you may expect, I’m especially anxious to see The Brummell Children
, painted 1781-82 by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yes, that
Brummell, and his brother, William.
This is the first year that I’ve been gardening seriously – from digging out the garden, to planting it and to babying it. So I’m especially eager to see Kenwood’s gardens, which were laid out by Humphry Repton
in the 1790s. Thankfully, the farm, dairy, stables, kitchen garden, lakes, woods and meadows are all still in existence, as is Repton’s strictly ornamental false bridge shown at right. You can read more about the gardens here
Oh, and if you happen to be a Blondie fan, she’ll be giving a concert at Kenwood House Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 7:30 p.m.