Impressions of Thames Ditton
Nestled between the bustling towns of Esher and Kingston, the historic village of Thames Ditton is a sleepy little diamond tucked away in a wonderful riverside setting. Enjoli Liston spent a few hours there and found it was love at first sight
Originally published by Surrey Life magazine April 2009Nestled between the bustling towns of Esher and Kingston, the historic village of Thames Ditton is a sleepy little diamond tucked away in a wonderful riverside setting. Enjoli Liston spent a few hours there and found it was love at first sight
Whether approaching from the busy Portsmouth Road or the even busier Hampton Court Way, the drive into the pretty parish of Thames Ditton is like an architectural trip down memory lane. Majestic Victorian, Georgian and Edwardian houses line the avenues, where houses are named in grand terms like Hall, Lodge and Manor, rather than your average number 28. I reach the High Street, a narrow thoroughfare edged with charming Tudor cottages, and I feel like I've taken another step back in time. It's a dismal and drizzly day, and I'm loath to get out of my cosy car - until the inviting glow of a shop called Stitchery draws me in. Glittering jewellery and brightly-coloured ribbons catch my eye as the welcoming owner, Jeremy Hamilton, offers me tips on where to visit. Stories by the fire Venturing back out into the chilly street, I'm greeted by the nostalgic aroma of wood fires as I amble to the nearest pub, The George and Dragon. Within seconds of wandering in, landlord Joe McCann and wife Evelyn invite me to pull up a chair and share their favourite stories about the village. "You should have been here for all the snow!" says Evelyn. "It was just fabulous; the pub was packed. There was such a great community atmosphere." Joe tells me that their hostelry is centuries old, boasts celebrity clientele and caters for the village's large number of sports-lovers. And that's no wonder, given that the historic Thames Ditton Cricket Club is just down the road. The club dates back to 1833, when gentlemen from the village played their first match against Twickenham on nearby Giggs Hill Green. Heading back along the High Street, I pass a host of picturesque independent shops. Mums and kids paint ceramics in The Pottery and Craft Studio, locals buy fruit and veg in the old-fashioned grocers, and at The Secret Garden florist, I learn that the beautiful potted displays are custom-made by the shop's owners Helen Ryder and Chris Evans. Wandering on, I pass the old headquarters for AC Cars, makers of the famous 1963 Cobra, one of the fastest two-seater production sports cars in the world. I have to admit, I'm beginning to love Thames Ditton by the time I stumble across the 12th century church, St Nicholas. In the churchyard, the hum of road noise suddenly disappears and I can hear birds chirping as I shelter from the rain under the low evergreens. When the rain stops, I pass the commanding 18th century Boyle Farm mansion, which was once a stately home and now serves as a House of Compassion for the elderly and frail. Finally, I reach the Thames and a Tudor style pub, Ye Olde Swan, where the beer garden looks like the perfect place to spend a summer evening. On the way back to my car, I come across yet another beautiful boutique at the end of the High Street - Assimi Fine Jewellery. Owner and silversmith Bernard Leon shows me the workshop where he makes bespoke jewellery, and shares stories of crafting silverware for Sir Elton John's dining room and making a replica Wimbledon trophy for Boris Becker. Caf� culture I spot the Lime Tree deli, a countrified minimalist caf� serving home-made, Fairtrade, organic fare. Next minute, I find myself at the counter eyeing up the deliciously tempting chocolate Guinness cake. The owner, Sharon Evans, tells me that the long wooden table to my right is her social experiment, as single customers, young and old, have been known to forge unlikely friendships across it. Everyone I have spoken to has told me that one of their favourite aspects of life in Thames Ditton is the community spirit. And I realise I've had more than my fair share of it in the few hours I've spent here. As I leave, I manage to resist the chocolate cake - but I know I'll be back soon.
Images supplied by Micaela Cianci Photography, 46 High Street, Thames Ditton KT7 0SN. Tel: 0208 398 5006. For more of Micaela's work, visit her website: www.micaela-cianci.com