MasterShoestring is away on a Geography trip this weekend and MissShoestring had gone off to a visit a friend, so yesterday afternoon we realised that we did not have to get back to make supper for anyone. This meant that we could go on a little outing that MrShoestring has been wanting to make to Hampton Court Palace.
The palace is about an hour's drive away from us and is one of the few places in and around London that neither of us have ever been to. We had looked up entrance costs beforehand and had decided that even with the online discount the full ticket price was too much for us. So, we decided that we would park in a car park close by and pay for parking, but then make the most of all the free places we could go in and around the palace.
The car park was about 500m away from the palace with a lovely walk through open parkland to get there. This is part of Bushey Park, which is absolutely huge and has deer roaming free. We were fortunate enough to see some deer on our way back. One of the good things about visiting later in the afternoon was that everywhere was much less crowded than earlier in the day and we were able to go right up to the deer. Bushey Park is well worth a visit in its own right and if you don't mind a mile or so walk to the palace you can park there for free.
The first thing we did when we got to the palace was go a little way past it and down the Barge Walk. This is an extensive footway beside the River Thames and we watched one of the paddle steamers, which offers cruises up and down the river, come in to its dock. A little further down the walk is a gate on the left hand side which lets you onto the main palace forecourt. This is a public area and we got a really good view of the front of the palace and admired the intricate Tudor chimneys on top.
Across the courtyard are gardens where you are welcome to wander. The Rose Garden already had a few roses in bloom and the kitchen garden was very productive with bed after bed of asparagus. Then we went in the Wilderness where the daffodils were finished but it was still very pretty to wander around and lots of families had brought picnic chairs and blankets and were enjoying the sunshine.
We walked all the way down to the Formal Gardens where a big sign tells you that these are open for free between 9-10am. Our enthusiasm undampened we left the main palace precincts and walked down the Barge Walk once more, until we could see the formal gardens and the magnificent William and Mary rear of the palace.
It was so warm we had to take our coats off and it was great fun to watch the boats and the river and look at all the lovely details on the palace gates. The palace grounds extend beyond this and are free to go on so you can really make a day of it if you want. We were hungry by then and turned for home !
All in all, a lovely trip and I'm glad that we didn't spend £40 on entrance tickets !