Location, location, Thameside
Turn down Barnes Terrace any day of the week, and you might well wonder if you’re strolling through a breezy port rather than a city suburb. With its swishing oars and rolling clouds, its windswept greens and nesting swans, Barnes can seem like the perfect weekend retreat every day of the week.
You go back in time in Barnes…
‘Oh, I know Barnes,’ nodded the London cabbie as he rummaged through the Knowledge of London in his head. ‘You go back in time in Barnes, don’t you…? There’s a cobbler, there’s a butcher, there’s a baker, there’s…ah…pond…and there’re boats in Barnes, aren’t there…? Yes, Barnes is very nice…’
Coming from fume-filled Hammersmith, you know you’ve reached Barnes when the air smells of freshly watered gardens, even in winter; when swans have right of way at the crossroads, and cygnets stall rush-hour traffic for photo-shoots…and no one hoots; when rushed commuters stop to stare at slow-burning sunsets and slow-motion scullers; when most of the roads are lined with trees, and most of the pubs line the riverside.
A savvy sense of location
The Edwardian entrepreneurs who developed the Elm Bank Estate on the Terrace had done their homework. They didn’t just pick a picturesque stretch of the Thames with a ringside view on racing days; they chose a prime position on a fashionable Georgian terrace strategically placed between two historic boating inns, Ye White Hart and the Bull’s Head. Around the corner, a well-stocked high street plied, and still plies today, every convenience, from fish and fruit to cuffs and collars.
Then as now, the waterways offered endless distractions, from seasonal races and festive regattas to leisurely fishing, paddling, ice-skating and, until the 1980s, pond-dipping. The equally abundant greens staged, as they do today, lively summer fairs and farmer’s markets, village cricket, rugby and even bowls.
For a cultural night out, a stroll away on Church Road, the critically acclaimed Barnes Theatre – now the restored Olympic Cinema – drew rising stars, such as John Gielgud and Robert Newton. For more on Barnes’ cultural and natural hotspots, scroll on to A-Z Highlights.
>> The early Mortlake regatta drew quite as many crowds as the annual boat race does today. >>
Not much has changed, although swimming is now banned in the tidal Thames, and pond-dipping is reserved strictly for the birds. The boating calendar, though, remains just as buoyant with daily exercises for year-round races (see boating events here).
For the best guides…
to Barnes, including interactive maps on eateries and amenities, try the LINKS and HUBS here.
on the local nature reserves, cultural hotspots and sports hubs, scroll on to A–Z Highlights.
From Art to Tides...
Trail – Barnes Trail
Fishing lines: © Penny Faldon; 1900s pond: Derek Courlthard; Remainder: © bcw private collection/ebm. All rights reserved.