If anything is going to put the drudgery of spring cleaning into perspective, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at Ham House’s conservation programme during the winter months. Filthy filters from museum brush vacuums and bags of dust and dirt, meticulously recorded for study and scrutiny, shared table room with badger and hog hair brushes and pots of furniture beetles. Two experts in stockinged feet padded around on a 400+ year old carpet, methodically and silently replacing furniture for the imminent re-opening of the house to the public. Their description of the painstaking and lengthy process of cleaning this carpet, the oldest one of its kind in Europe, compounded my own feeble reluctance towards housework.
A mini insight into the conservation of this particular great old house was fascinating. One of many, free, themed tours of Ham House during the dreary winter months when the house is closed for its annual deep-clean, this was an entertaining and informative way of spending a bitterly cold and blustery day. The Orangery Café was a welcome distraction after the tour and although meteorologically-speaking it was now spring, the hot chocolate beckoned, and there was always The Orangery Library just off the main area for some peace and quiet and a book to go with it.
The gardens offer the obvious attractions of fresh air and outdoor discovery – the ornate Cherry Garden, the formal Kitchen Garden, the Plats and the Wilderness, all beautiful at any time of year – at whatever pace suits you (and your children).
You can enjoy views of Ham house from a distance as you walk or pedal along the Thames Path just beyond the House’s ‘front garden’, or have a picnic on the river bank. You can catch a ferry to Twickenham – ‘just shout’ across to the far bank and a pedestrian/cycle ferry will pick you up and carry you back to the floating boathouse from where you can make your way to Marble Hill House.
Ham House is a grand stepping stone for plenty of satisfying trips, though I won’t be going anywhere until I’ve at least found my feather duster.
Submitted to and published by A Berrylands Companion (Issue No: 109 June 2016)