The Doves with doves at Claremont

February 6, 2017

It was one of those days where it was drizzly outdoors but we were craving fresh air. By the time we reached Claremont, the rain was slightly heavier but we were itching to blow away those cobwebs. It always makes me laugh as parents we’ll head out whatever the weather whereas in years gone by we’d probably be more inclined to stay in the warm. Claremont is a wonderful spot though, the estate was once a dukes’ retreat and a playground for princesses and Queen Victoria.

The 18th century garden is steeped in nearly 300 years of history and it’s full of interesting features. From the grass amphitheatre, the Belvedere Tower and the Camellia Terrace to the beautiful Serpentine Lake. Aside from all the green space and the Ha-ha, there’s also a children’s play area and thatched cottage with toys, games and clothes to dress up in. It’s a great place to lose yourself for a few hours and while it’s incredible in the warmer months, it’s a great sanctuary in winter too.

There’s always an abundance of wildlife on the Serpentine Lake and we were told there were lots of doves on this particular day. So the Doves set off with a bag of bird food on the hunt for doves. We didn’t have to venture far as they came looking for us, I suspect they smelt the food! POD sprinkled some on the ground and within seconds we saw doves, moorhens and even geese appear from nowhere. While she was a little taken aback at first, she quickly familiarised herself with them and there were giggles all round.

Initially it even felt like we had Claremont all to ourselves although there were other crazy families out that day too. They must have thought we’d completely lost it as we larked around chatting to the birds in the rain. The ‘POD Father’ even had a few land on him much to our amusement. They’re really not fussy birds are they, they’ll just go where they think the food is.

The landscape at Claremont really is wonderful and one of our favourite places has to be the turf amphitheatre, thought to be the only surviving one in Europe. The views are superb from the top with the lower level a great spot for picnics in the summer. Opposite the amphitheatre is a little man-made island with a pavilion which was once upon a time a retreat favoured by the Duke of Newcastle.

After the hilarity with the doves, we headed round the Serpentine lake past the three caves, towards the Ha-ha. In essence the Ha-ha is a ditch which in the eighteenth century was used to stop livestock getting into the pleasure grounds. POD always enjoys running up and down it and we’ve had some great times doing that although it was way too waterlogged today. Instead we may our way past some of Claremont’s statues up to the Camellia Terrace and Belevedere Tower. This impressive Grade II-listed tower was built over 250 years ago and it’s a highlight of Claremont. You can climb to the top (April to October) and take in superb views which on a good day span Windsor Castle, The Shard and Wembley Stadium.

With the rain becoming heavier, we took cover in the Thatched Cottage which is great fun. It wasn’t the day for dressing up but there are lots of toys and games to play with from the Georgian and Victorian era. We then headed back round the Serpentine Lake for more puddle jumping. We even found some more doves who were eager to take the last of our bird food. Feeling a little peckish ourselves, we dried off in the Claremont cafe where we enjoyed superb coffee and the most delicious cake. It would have been rude not to don’t you think?