Staying at 20 The Barons, one feels instantly part of a vibrant community. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the crackling atmosphere surrounding the local sporting events on any given Saturday. Last Saturday was a case in point. Setting off from the tranquil surroundings of St Margarets, The Baron could hear the roar of the crowd from nearby Twickenham (a brisk 20-minute walk away) as England’s Rugby Union team battled back to beat the Wallabies 20-13 in the first of three November internationals. He considered taking a 20-minute taxi ride north-east to Craven Cottage to indulge in some Premier League football, but anticipated Fulham’s resounding 1-3 defeat by Manchester United. Instead, The Baron took a 40-minute bus ride south-west to Rectory Meadow to support his favourite local football team. Hanworth Villa were formed in 1976 and have since scaled the league ladder to compete at the top of the Combined Counties Premier Division. At a time when another local club, Chelsea, failed to field a single English player under the age of 21 last season and pays its players a weekly salary far exceeding most supporters’ annual income, The Baron enjoys getting back to the traditional values of non-league football. Kick-off at 3 o’clock, tickets a pensioner can afford, standing up to cheer on local players, it’s like travelling back in time. Hanworth Villa’s clubhouse, The Ranch, is a focal point for the community when many public houses are closing down. There is an academy scholarship scheme, a Ladies team, and first-team goalkeeper Terry Buss has just made his 500th appearance. There’s also no lack of drama. Yesterday, Hanworth played Epsom & Ewell (“The Villains” versus “The Salts”), scoring twice in injury time to salvage a 3-3 draw. As FA chairman Greg Dyke’s new commission explores ways to create more players for the England team, he could do worse than to join The Baron at Rectory Meadow and discuss the club’s aim of: “Providing facilities for all local people, regardless of gender and age, to be able to play football at whatever level.”
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At 20 The Barons, if it’s Halloween, it’s all about the pumpkins. While The Baron favours a traditional diamond-toothed interior decoration (dimly lit, so as not to attract the trick or treaters), St. Margaret sees All Hallows as the ideal time to display her artistic nature.
Whether you have children or not, there are all manner of pumpkin attractions in the local patch. Kew Gardens is the leading light, with master vegetable grower Tony Finch demonstrating his pumpkin-carving skills; carved and uncarved pumpkins for sale; plus the magnificent Pumpkin Pyramid in the Waterlily House. This tower of squash rises 4 metres out of the pond and features 75 varieties in an awe-inspiring autumnal display from blacks and greys to oranges and yellows.
At the National Trust’s Osterley House, where the autumn colours are even more dazzling than around the Barons, there is a Pumpkin Festival on 26-27 October, with giant pumpkins and pumpkin carving.
If you prefer to choose your own pumpkins, you can head south-west to Garsons Farm, Esher, or to Crockford Bridge, near Weybridge. For Halloween decorations on a smaller, sweeter scale, you can pop down to Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery, on Church Street, Twickenham, for a box of cupcakes with perfect pumpkin decorations. You may wish to offer these to visiting trick or treaters, or follow The Baron’s lead by turning off the lights, opening the cupcake box, and indulging in your Halloween celebrations undisturbed.
Halloween is the perfect night to draw the curtains, dim the lights and watch your horror movie of choice in glorious HD goriness. The Baron has selected a suitable Top 20 list of monocle-dropping thrillers and chillers, all of which feature production or post-production work from Twickenham Film Studios. TW1 Studios, as they are known today, are The Baron’s most famous neighbours. Turn left out of the front door, and they are a minute’s walk away, or 20 seconds if you’re a runner. Founded in 1913 on the site of the old ice-rink, the sound stages have played a long and glorious role in the history of cinema. In the 1960s, key productions included Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alfie, The Italian Job and A Hard Day’s Night. For a hair-raising Halloween night in, The Baron’s personal selection is Repulsion, the first in Roman Polanski’s apartment trilogy.
1. Repulsion (1965)
2. Cul-de-Sac (1966)
3. An American Werewolf In London (1981)
4. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
5. Interview With The Vampire (1994)
6. The Crucible (1996)
7. Hellraiser (1987)
8. The Others (2001)
9. World War Z (2013)
10. The Witches (1990)
11. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
12. The Mummy (1999)
13. To What Red Hell (1929)
14. Gallow Walkers (2012)
15. The Believers (1987)
16. Copycat (1995)
17. Dracula (1974)
18. High Spirits (1988)
19. Mindhunters (2004)
20. The Disappeared (2008)
Behind St Margarets’ genteel and gentrified façade, there beats a rock ’n’ roll heart. Richmond was the cradle where the jazz baby of the ’50s grew into the rebellious rhythm and blues child of the ’60s, a fact currently being celebrated at the Stables Gallery, Orleans House. The gallery is set in tranquil wooded gardens across the river from the eastern point of Eel Pie Island, and thus a Rolling Stones’ throw away from the island’s legendary R&B venue, the Eel Pie Hotel. This iconic setting, with a wooden floor that bounced beneath the dancing crowds, played a key part in the cultural history not just of Richmond and Twickenham, but of the world. The nineteenth-century building had hosted ballroom dancing in the Roaring ’20s, and in the ’50s local trumpeter Brian Rutland began running jazz sessions there. These laid the foundations for the R&B gigs of the next decade, which are still spoken of in reverential tones. Bowie, Clapton, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones all performed at the Eel Pie Hotel before it closed its doors in 1967, unable to meet a £200,000 bill for improvements demanded by the police. It finally left the stage in suitably rock ’n’ roll style in 1971, consumed by a mystery fire. The Stables Gallery exhibition features photographs, artwork and memorabilia from the hotel’s heyday, and is curated by island resident and author of the book Eel Pie Island, Michelle Whitby. It includes first-hand accounts from musicians and concert-goers, original passports to what was known as “Eelpiland”, and the earliest known colour photographs of the island. Documentary movies narrate a truly unique time and place in London’s history, and you can select your own musical memories on an original record player. Photographs include Cyril Davies, The Yardbirds, Rod Stewart; plus the impossibly youthful-looking Rolling Stones who back then had a Wednesday residency and this summer, 50 years later, were still raising a Crossfire Hurricane in Hyde Park.
This weekend is your last chance to see the exhibition The Birth of Rhythm and Blues. Orleans House is less than a 20-minute walk from 20 The Barons. Just head south to the banks of the Thames to taste a historic slice of Eel Pie. Entry is free.
I’m up to my eyes in new kitchen appliances as our new suite at 20 The Barons nears completion. It’s been a long hard winter but today, looking out of the newly dressed window, I catch a glimpse of the sun. And summer is coming. And when it does finally arrive we’ll have another two-bedroom luxury apartment available to our guests. And there’s so much on offer in out beautiful neck of the woods. I, for one, am excited about the beginning of the polo season at Ham Polo Club (www.hampoloclub.com), which is just a few minutes away by car or taxi.
This polo club has the distinction of being the last remaining polo club in the Greater London area. Established in 1926, there is a fine clubhouse available for events, such as wedding receptions and corporate functions, and there are more than 21 acres of polo fields on which to land your helicopter (should you have one!)
Matches take place from May to September and, for a fee, spectators can attend. The fee varies depending on whether you are on foot or in a car but at only £5 per spectator on foot it is not prohibitive. As you’d expect the dress code is ‘smart/casual’ and no shorts of any kind are permitted. Phew!
And should you be brave enough, polo lessons are available. You can hire all the necessary equipment (including the horse). Ham also hosts the ‘Polo Experience Learn to Play Day’, which is ideal for corporate entertainment, team building or as a party day.
You can get to the Club from Richmond station in five minutes by taxi or you can take the No 65 bus, which stops outside the Club gates. If you fancy a stroll along the riverside, it takes 25 minutes from Richmond.
We’ve been running 20 The Barons now for six months. It’s hectic but great fun. We are now about to start upgrading a two-bedroom apartment, which means within a month we will have two two-bedroom suites and Hill View Loft, our luxury serviced studio – with a view across the rooftops to Richmond Hill.
Hill View loft is the perfect home for anyone working at Twickenham Film Studios, which is a stone’s throw away in the Crescent. The loft is quiet and has a tranquil atmosphere, which is perfect for home working, but also perfect for a 2 minute walk to work! With the blinds open it is airy and spacious with a tree-top feel, and when they are closed it feels very comfortable and cosy. And, to quote Leonardo Da Vinci “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.”
Hill View Loft really does have everything you could need. There is a king-size bed, plenty of storage, a smart TV with full Sky package, a fully equipped kitchen with Neff oven and the all-important Nespresso coffee maker (sadly George Clooney is not included). The beautiful tiled bathroom has a walk-in shower and lots of fluffy towels. It’s heavenly (almost literally as it’s on the third floor of building). The sliding glass doors that open onto the terrace allow the light to pour in, and the view of Richmond Hill from the terrace really is stunning.
And, of course, it is a serviced apartment, which means should you wish it, you can have fresh croissants delivered to your door for breakfast or a home cooked curry for supper!