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Beautiful Hall Place and Gardens

The perfect moment doesn’t exist

Remember, there is no perfect time for anything. There is only now.

– Jack Canfield

I woke to bruised dark clouds, wild winds, and stormy skies full of the promise of rain.

Coffee eased me from my sleep. I drank the dark bitter brew wondering if I shouldn’t stay home today. Maybe I should shelve my plans? I’ve chosen today to bike ride to Hall Place, a stately home just over 5 miles from me.

Should I possibly place my plans back on the bookshelf of maybes for another day? I’ve never ridden in the rain… Well, not for so many years that it may as well be an absolute truth. I’m nervous. Still nervous to ride on the road in any weather, truth to tell. My mind reaches for excuses for why I might stay.

The perfect moment doesn’t exist. The truth is things will never be perfect and really would you want it to be? There’s beauty in imperfection and more the memorable for it. Rarely is life is this perfect. It can’t be. It isn’t. It is a lie.

In just going we open to possibilities. Let life serve you up what wonderful delicious chaos will come your way. We will remember fondly the missed trains and the rains. The chance encounters and the almosts. Isn’t always the misfortunes and mishaps we remember the most? Those are the stories we tell when we are back again? Life is a wonderful mess and to want it another way is to buy into the lie that it shouldn’t be.

In waiting, we risk never going at all or missing our chance. In waiting for perfection we set ourselves up for disappointment. Life will let us down. Life is not a set nor stage. It won’t wait for you.

Just go.

This is what I tell myself this cold and rainy morning. This was my kick up the arse. Time to go!

Flying on Wheels

“Cycling is the closest you can get to flying.”

– Robin Williams

I pushed my E-bike into the wild whistling wind. Grey clouds raced. Storm weather promised the dark brooding skies. Rain is coming.

I set off for hall house. 5.7 miles… A little adventure.

I love riding a bike. It feels like flying. The wind laughs along with me, gives a little push. I fly. There’s a real sense of freedom. I revel in it. I don’t drive nor can I ride a motorcycle so this is a new sensation for me – freedom. I live on the edge of London in a place named after a wood. The day I got the bike, I searched google maps for places in both London and Kent that I might be able to ride too! Central London is around 10 miles. I’ll work my way up to that…

The rain holds off and I make good time. There are a few nervous moments as I make my way around roundabouts and along some of the more traffic-heavy roads. I’m still not totally confident but getting better and I reach Hall place, without incident, in 37 minutes. Only 7 more minutes than Google Maps predicts. Not bad! No rain too!

Wheel good ride.

Hall Place and Gardens

fais ce que tu voudras (do whatever you want)

– Motto inscribed above the entrance to Dashwood’s Notorious Hellfire Club

Hall Place and Gardens is a 16th Century grade 1 listed stately home. It’s famous for its beautiful grounds and gardens, especially the topiary shaped into fabulous beasts! It’s a bit of a hidden gem – located right on the edge of London in the borough of Bexley. It’s mostly visited by locals who love it for the wonderful free gardens. It’s a bit out of the way but worth going to if you are a fan of stately homes or done many of the more popular well worn London attractions.

Sir John Champneys, a Lord Mayor of London, began construction of Hall House in 1537. The outside has distinctive black and white checkerboard walls and inside features a magnificent grand hall.

In 1649, the stately home was sold to a rich merchant, Sir Robert Austen. The Autstens owned the house until the 18th century when it was sold to Sir Francis Dashwood – (who has an awesome name) founder of the notorious Hellfire Club where it was said gentlemen would indulge in drinking, gambling, and wenching!

The house changed hands a few more times over the years and was used during World War Two by the army. The house is now owned by Bexley Council and is also backed by lottery funding.

Entrance to Hall Place, stately home, itself is currently closed (normally £8 entrance fee) due to the ongoing covid19 pandemic, the grounds and gardens are free to wander! There are a couple of other things to see on your visit: Owls and Butterflies.

Hall Place and gardens
Looks like a secret fairy door leading somewhere magic…

Jambs owls

Owl is the grand and rather clever old man of the forest. He can also spell Tuesday.

– A. A. Milne

Jambs Owls, not to be confused with Owls Jam which would be revolting and unpopular with the owls. Admission is £4.

It’s well worth it to see the owls and have a chance to handle the beautiful creatures. I didn’t visit this time around but I’ve been on a previous trip. I got to hold an owl on my arm. He was very patient. They are so remarkably light as if made of twigs and feathers. His headlight eyes ever searching. They’re magical.

Hall Place - Jambs Owls
Owl be back.

Butterfly house

We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.

-Carl Sagan

The butterfly house is currently closed but hopefully will be open again soon. A walk through a bubble of tropical heat and clouds of fluttering butterflies is worth the small asking price.

Apparently they are restocking to open again soon. I imagine a brightly painted butterfly nursery for caterpillars or maybe they are all sleeping now safe and sound in their cocoons… dreaming of wings.

Hall House - butterfly house
Ready for my close-up…

An aimless meandering

Not all those who wander are lost.

– Lord of the Rings

This would actually be my first visit to an attraction during covid19. Surprisingly there were quite a few families enjoying the beautiful parkland. Everything was as you would expect apart from the covid19 warning signs and one way systems to ensure social distancings. Occasionally I would see somebody wearing a mask. I wish I could say this was more than occasionally.

Follow the arrows that show the way across a short bridge. A small man-made waterfall tumbles happily into the river. Tables crowd along the river’s edge as people enjoy coffees and cakes from the small cafe.

Beyond the bridge, the green stretches out like a blanket. The trees bend to the stormy winds whipping through the branches. A large gang of ducks seems unconcerned and peck enthusiastically at the grass. I make my way toward them and they are unfazed by me also! I have fun weaving my way around them. They go about their business keeping a watchful mistrusting eye on me.

Meandering my way to the house itself enjoying the greenery is pleasant. The magnificent topiary shaped into mythical beasts. Bushy dragons and leafy unicorns. The house itself is a beautiful contradiction of different eras.

I finish my time here by the gurgling river. Now and again ducks drift along just a little slower than the clouds overhead. This moment is all that matters. Just to exist here with the water and the clouds and the uncaring drifting ducks. The wind sings breathe slowly songs. I drink some coffee. Eat a little cake.

I’m glad I came. There are no sunshine blue skies. The weather is stormy. There’s no such thing as a perfect day but this moment? It’s perfect. I’m glad I came.

Just go. Never wait. The right time is always now.

Hall House - coffee and cake.
Lovely moments by the river water.

Getting to Hall Place

How to travel to Hall place and gardens, If you would like to visit. Here’s how to get there.

  • By car – Hall Place is located just off the A2 at the Black Prince interchange 5 miles from Junction 2 of the M25 towards London and offers free parking. For Sat Navs our postcode is: DA5 1PQ
  • By rail – travel by rail connection for visiting Hall Place is Bexley BR (15 minutes’ walk to Hall Place or a taxi rank is available outside the station).
  • By bus – travel by Bus connections include 229, 492, B12 and 132 to the foot of Gravel Hill.
  • By bike – If you travel by bus there are bike racks in the car park at Hall Place. Please note that bicycles may not be ridden within the gardens or parkland.
  • By coach – There is designated parking for three coaches in the Hall Place car park.

Final thoughts

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.”

– Babs Hoffman

Well, it’s nice to finally get back to my original travelogue concept. I really enjoy bringing back the moments and taking you places with words and images – hoping to inspire your own journey. Sharing the time. Sharing beauty.

I will never limit myself to just one thing. To do well with blogging these days I read you have to be niche. Focus. On. One. Thing. That’s not me. Life is such a treasure box! There are so many things to explore, dream about, and write about. It’s always going to be about travel and food though. That will always tie everything together in a neat conceptual bow.

Hopefully, this style will be a big part of the blog and I look forward to writing more. If you would like to read another (longer) Travelogue style post then please check out my guide to London Chinese New Year celebrations.

I hope you enjoyed our trip to the edge of London for a visit to this beautiful stately home and its magnificent gardens. Maybe you’ll travel there too one day. If so, say hello to the ducks for me. Tell them Travels with my Belly sent you!

As ever, please share this if you enjoyed the post. This really helps get the word out and helps my blog grow. I would love to read any comments, suggestions, or thoughts you have! Write them down below. What do you think about the travelogue style? Have you been to Hall Place? Let me know!

Stay safe and Happy Travels ✈️????????

10 Comments

  1. Ohhh, such a beautiful place!!! Worth for a half-day visit.

    • Yes. It’s lovely. Do you know it? 🙂

  2. Wow, you write so poetically and full of meaning.
    I like how charming the gardens look like.. I would
    love to explore more London and England..

    • Love the name, “under a flowery sky.” Thanks for the comment and kind words. I appreciate it!

      I hope you can get to explore more London and England. Now you have a extra place for the list 🙂

  3. Enjoyed your write up. Love the quotes. Here’s another for this post “one day is today” -Christopher Reeve (superman)

    • Thanks very much. I’m a big fan of quotes. As you can see 😀 They encapsulate great truths in small graceful packages.

      The Christopher Reeves quote is excellent especially considering his tragic story.
      .
      Thnaks for for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

  4. Lisa Lisa

    Really lovely read and look forward to reading more of your adventures.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave s lovely comment and reading too! I’m very glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  5. I’ve visited the Hellfire caves and would love to visit more places like Hall Place and Gardens — if I ever get to visit back home in the UK I’ll do so!

    • I’ve not made it to see the Hellfire caves! While researching Happ Place I found out about them and it’s now on the list of many places I need to visit. Speaking of visits, thank you for yours and leaving a comment 🙂

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