1. Ham House. Terrible name, wonderful house. This gorgeous 17th century mansion is on the banks of the Thames River near elegant Richmond on the edge of London. It was home to Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart, a woman very involved in political life during the time of the Civil War, that shortlived time when England was a Commonwealth without a king or queen. She was also part of the restoration of the monarchy with the return of King Charles II. Some accused her of witchcraft for her political influence but really she was just very clever. She was friends with Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the rebellion but only to cover her loyalty to the king. As was normal in that time, she was rewarded for this loyalty with a grand annual pension and thus Ham House is full of fine furniture, textiles and treasures. Explore the house then take cream tea, enjoying the peaceful gardens by the river.
2. Ham Polo Club. This is the last remaining polo club in greater London. Established in 1926, they have a clubhouse and polo ground next to Ham House. During the summer, there are polo matches every Sunday which the public are welcome to attend. They’ll even help you understand the rules as the well-bred horses thunder up and down in front of you ridden by equally well-bred English men. But remember this is polo and thus there is a dress-code: smart casual clothes – no shorts and only ‘smart jeans’. The next match is not until May 2012 so you have time to pick our your outfit.
2 1/2. Petersham Nurseries. Not really in Ham but a bit further along the river (or up the road) towards Richmond, the Petersham Nurseries sit amidst a riverside farm. The nurseries act as more of a character-filled café now, with mismatched tables and chairs in a greenhouse and excellent cakes. Walk the calories off along the river back into Richmond passing placidly grazing cows and watching rowers drift past on the Thames. Lovely.