A sunny stroll in Hampstead

We’re north Londoners, it turns out [for the moment at least]. I’m not quite sure why, but what it does mean is that we have the joy of Hampstead Heath on our doorstep. Every time we go we ask ourselves why we don’t go every week – I guess those National Trust properties won’t visit themselves…

After a short walk from Gospel Oak Overground station, you end up here at the top of Parliament Hill, looking out over London. Spottable are the Shard, St Pancras station, St Paul’s and other highlights of the London skyline.

View from Parliament Hill

Facing the other direction, though, was another popular activity – kite flying. Ostensibly for children, there were a fair few parents not too keen to give up the reins…

Kites over Hampstead Heath

Although the end of summer is fast approaching, this only meant that on this day the foliage was even more stunning as it turned.

Tree on Hampstead Heath
Our walk through the Heath was as beautiful as ever; we love how you can walk for a few moments and feel miles out of London. It’s also fun to play the “if I could have any house in London which one would it be” game. Perhaps this one, which overlooks the pond in the Vale of Health:

Vale of Health at Hampstead Heath

We strolled down into central Hanpstead, and passed a plaque to this old friend… Prizes if you can remember where we last encountered her?

Daphne du Maurier plaque

(OK, we’ll tell you; it was here!)

Past more beautiful houses…

Doors in Hampstead

Bike next to front door in Hampstead

And into Fenton House, which is now owned by the National Trust but is a fascinating 17th century merchant’s house. It is now home to a large collection of porcelain and of musical instruments, particularly harpsichords – you can probably guess which we were more interested in… [I’m really not fussed about porcelain]

Harpsichord in Fenton House

This beautiful virginal, dating from 1540 and the oldest in the collection, is remarkably well preserved and fine in execution, with intricate decoration on the parts of the instrument which would have been visible when in its protective case.

I particularly like this shot; to me an unusual camera angle which almost feels like a “player’s eye view” to this rusty pianist.

Virginal in Fenton House

The bedroom, lived in by Lady Binning in the 30’s and decorated accordingly, featured a striking photographic replica of a tapestry which she took with her when she gave the house to the National Trust.

Bedroom in Fenton House

Her room was still adorned with crystal, as well as the aforementioned porcelain (I love the reflection here!):

Crystal vase in Fenton House

A brilliant part of this house is that an unassuming servant’s bedroom opens out onto a tiny balcony with this view of London:

View from balcony at Fenton House

I’d love to know what it would have looked like when the house was built; Canary Wharf especially…

The gardens were lovely, and a relaxing oasis in what would have been the countryside but now feels very much like a part of London.

Garden at Fenton House

There is an apple festival in a few weeks – you can see why!

Apple trees at Fenton House

To finish off our relaxing [!] day, we took in 2 Willow Road on the way back to the station. The home of Ernö Goldfinger and his family, the house is a seminal piece of Modernist architecture inside and out, and dates from 1939. Different in every way from Fenton House (and not as well documented because we weren’t allowed to take photos), it made for a refreshing, brutalist change to the gilded splendour. However, as you see a glimpse of their original toiletries, bookshelves and kitchen facilities, in a way it almost feels more like looking back into the past.

2 Willow Road

Ian Fleming (James Bond author and Hampstead resident) apparently detested the destruction of Victorian cottages for these houses to such an extent that he named his villain after Ernö. So now you know.

What did you get up to at the weekend? Tweet us and let us know!

We also wanted to let you know about this offer, if you’re based in London – 50% off entry to some great places for National Trust members. There are definitely some there we’ll be checking out – watch this space!

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