I try to walk with Lettice, my miniature Dachshund, for at least two hours each Saturday and Sunday. My London apartment is a five minute walk from Regents Park and a short drive from Hampstead Heath so, on a good weekend I visit both, trying to exploring a new part each time. At the moment I am rediscovering the Robert Adams-designed Kenwood House, part of the Iveagh Bequest, at the very top of the Heath. (The house and grounds are is open for free to the public.)
Bequeathed to the nation in 1927 by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, and administered by English Heritage, the original house dates from the early 17th century, when it was known as Caen Wood House.
It contains Guinness’ extraordinary world-class art collection, notable amongst which are a Vermeer and a Rembrandt, as well as works by Turner, Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Reynolds. In addition, the Suffolk Collection (displayed on the first floor) includes a unique series of nine glorious full-lengths by the English portraitist William Larkin (d.1619).
The grounds and park around Kenwood form a designed landscape, which was created by Sir Humphrey Repton, and they are open to the public in daylight hours. Easily accessed from the Heath, you just carry on walking through iron gates into the Kenwood woods, before coming out onto the lower reaches of the house’s lawn.
There are several piece of important sculpture standing in the grounds of Kenwood House, including Henry Moore’s Two Piece Reclining Figure Number 5 (above), which has been here on long-term loan from the Tate since 1982.
It’s a little known fact that Lettice is an art lover.Here she is formulating her critical reaction to the Moore piece.
Although we didn’t visit it this time, Monolyth-Empyrean, 1953 by Barbara Hepworth is also in the grounds, just to the west of the main house.
When I’m with Lettice, I skirt the main house, (and its tearoom, restaurant, and handy loos in the brew house and stable yard) describing a giant loop past the terrace and back down the other side of the lawns, over the sham bridge, and back into the woods, walking south again onto the Heath.
There are lots of crunchy leaves to kick up.
and an awful lot of mud.
It really is extremely muddy at the moment; wellies are vital.
I always get caught out by how quickly the light falls at this time of this year. By 1530 the sun is setting in the sky, and by 1615 it’s pretty much too dark to take photographs.
Kenwood is open every day from 10am – 5pm