Coming to Twickenham for the Rugby World Cup? You are? Welcome! Bienvenue! Ciao! G’day! The other ones! You’ve probably already got all your plans sorted out for your visit, haven’t you? Beer, rugby, curry, more beer then get the hell out of here. Are we right? Probably, but we hope not totally. Twickenham is more than just rugby and we should know, we bloody live here. All the time.
We thought we’d give you a few pointers to non-rugby things you could do if you’re staying around for a few days. We’re not going to tell you about all the pubs, cafes and restaurants right in the town centre (you can find them yourself) or about the huge RWC Fanzone in the Old Deer Park in Richmond, you can find that too although don’t expect to find many old dears there, it’ll be far too noisy for them. We’re also not going to go banging on about the likes of Richmond, Kew Gardens, Hampton Court or even central London. You can do that yourselves.
First, some background on Twickenham…
The town is London’s premier leafy suburb. It is part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (LBRuT) which is affectionately known as El Brute. Top dawg on El Brute Council is the Blue Baron. Yes, he’s a real person, yes he’s a real baron and yes he really is blue (politically speaking). The Blue Baron’s seat of power lies at York House, the Twickenham HQ of Richmond Council where naked ladies cavort in the grounds. There are naked horses there too. Kinky or what?
As for the locals themselves, Twickenham people love nothing more than talking about the state of the high street shops, what’s going to happen to the recently acquired land by the river, Heathrow expansion and, of course, the twin topics of house prices and schools. The Rugby World Cup has also generated a fair bit of discussion ranging from the “can’t wait for it to start!” brigade through to the “make it go away and what’s in it for the town anyway?” contingent. One thing people are united on is that they’re not big fans of people pissing in the street so it’s best to politely resist any invitations or urges to do that.
Now then, let’s assume you’re sorted for rugby antics but also have a bit of free time on a non-match days and also that you’re in a state of relative sobriety. We hope we’re not stretching credulity too much here.
Why not consider the following:
Get out! By which we mean explore the outdoors. Yes there’s the famous Richmond and Bushy Parks complete with real deer but Twickenham also has Marble Hill Park and a great walk along the Thames towpath to Richmond. There’s even Hammertons Ferry, a dinky little boat that can take you across the Thames from near Orleans Gardens to Ham House. You can hire rowing boats at Hammertons too. If you take the ferry and head along the towpath upstream on the Ham side you reach Teddington Lock, home not only to Teddington Lock (the clue’s in the name) but also, back on our Middlesex bank it’s where Teddington Studios are (or rather, were) which if you are old enough to remember Magpie on telly will bring a pang of nostalgia. As rugby types you were probably always told to watch Blue Peter instead but that’s not the point. There are a couple of nice pubs by the lock in the form of The Tide End Cottage and The Anglers. Teddington Lock is also where several of the ‘Little Ships’ of Dunkirk fame assembled in 1940 hence the WWII reference on the pub sign at the Tide End.
Talking of pubs, we’re assuming you’re already familiar with town centre boozers like The Cabbage Patch, Albany, Eel Pie, Fox and Barmy Arms but if you haven’t ever visited The White Swan on Twickenham Riverside then you should. Alternatively head out of the town centre past Twickenham Green to find The Prince Blucher, The Prince Albert and The Sussex Arms. The Sussex is famous for its extensive selection of real ales and ciders so if you are male, have a beard and wear sandals it’s a must. In fact, it’s well worth a visit even if you don’t meet any of those three criteria. There are also a couple of Indian restaurants out that way as well as Arthurs on the Green and the TW2 Bar & Grill. Oh, btw, the Albert serves good Thai food.
Let’s stick with booze a bit longer. Did you know that Twickenham has its own brewery? Well it does and it’s a good one. Twickenham Fine Ales in Mereway Road has been a real success story and its beers can be found in many local pubs. Monthly brewery tours are available and definitely worth doing. They also open on rugby days and show the matches on a big screen. Good idea, eh?
Want food? Want a coffee? In Twickenham you’re never more than about 50 steps from the next café. If you can, do your bit to support the town’s independent shops. Starbucks, Patisserie Valerie, Caffe Nero, etc will all survive without your custom for a few days. We’re not going to list all the local coffee places but Luluz, York Street Café, Corto Deli and the new Press Room might be worth a go. Or if you’re in St Margarets then Grounded should give you a big caffeine kick. Best bread and / or chocolate brownies in town? Easy! Rubens Bakehouse on Heath Road. They also do pizzas in the evening.
There are just too many restaurants to list them all and you’ll definitely not run short of curry, pub food or pizza. But there’s also Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, and American. We recommend Pincho (tapas) and Masaniello (Italian).
As for shops, there are lots of small, independent places that are worth a look with Church Street in central Twickenham ticking quite a few boxes on that front, including the box marked ‘fairly picturesque street’. It’s ideal for food & gifts. And if you run out of shops in Twickenham proper there’s always St Margarets and East Twickenham. We’re not even mentioning Richmond or Kingston as it’s our local shops that need a boost.
If you’re a lah-di-dah cultural type then there’s Strawberry Hill House, designed and built by Horace Walpole in 1749. It pioneered the ‘gothic revival’ in England. It adjoins St Mary’s University which will see the All Blacks and South Africa doing their RWC training although Walpole could not possibly have known that when he built it. Or could he? Twickenham also has a very small museum near the Barmy Arms pub and its own art gallery, Orleans House Gallery. If you want to combine rugby and culture then you’re in luck because there’s an exhibition running at OHG called ‘Team Spirit: rugby, rowing and beyond”.
The town has a rich music heritage too. Much of this was based on Eel Pie Island which had a lively jazz and blues scene in the 1950s and 60s. The famous Eel Pie Island Hotel is long gone but there is a pop-up museum about the island’s music history running at Twickenham Library. There’s also a Swinging 60s Shuttle Bus to take you on a tour of the musical sights of the area and point out connections to the likes to The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. It’s that red double decker bus you might see driving around. The rhythm and blues scene continues today with regular live music at The Eel Pie Club at The Patch.
Umm. That’s about it for now. If you want to know more about the official Rugby World Cup stuff going on then most of it can be found on the proper Visit Richmond or Try It websites. These list regular attractions as well as the extra World Cup related events. There’s even a newly launched ‘Richmond music and drama festival’ going on too – Ambassador, with these events you are really spoiling us!
Anyway, check out the comments below for extra top tips from locals. We might add the best ones into the main article above if we’re feeling really, really motivated. (i.e. It won’t happen)
So there you have it, welcome everyone, enjoy the matches, enjoy the festival of rugby, enjoy Twickenham and above all, use a proper toilet, after all, it’s what William Webb Ellis would have wanted.
* Try It Festival – sport, art, music, etc
* Visit Richmond – official what’s on
* Old Deer Park Fanzone – big screens & entertainment
* Try Twickenham – guide to local businesses & more
* Rugby Fan App
* Richmond Music & Drama Festival
As for the rest of the things mentioned above, well, you’ve heard of Google haven’t you? Use that to check dates, locations and opening times. Off you trot!
* Previous twickerati article on the RWC – Use this item for all your comments about traffic, stations, helicopters, parking and the like.