London: the step-by-step guide Michael Leapman takes a brisk riverside walk around Chiswick

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The Independent Culture
The Palladian style of architecture, all cool classicism and elegant symmetry, is celebrated in an exhibition that opened at the Royal Academy this month. One of the finest examples of the style is Chiswick House, built for Lord Burlington in 1729. Today's route reaches its climax there, after some brisk riverside walking.

From Chiswick BR station's westbound platform, head west to the parade of shops and turn left into Grove Park Road, following it as it turns right at St Paul's Church. The front gardens here have blossom trees, forsythia and crocuses in flower. Soon the Thames comes into view.

At the Chiswick Yacht and Boat Club join the riverside path, passing under the ornate iron bridge that carries the District Line across the river. On your right are the elegant houses of Strand on the Green punctuated by no fewer than three riverside pubs - the oldest, the City Barge, by the spot where the Lord Mayor's barge used to be moored. Where you have to leave the river bank make for the steps that take you up on to Kew Bridge then turn left and cross it.

Where the bridge balustrade ends, turn left down steps and head straight back along a footpath to the river, turning right along the towpath to pass Kew Pier. You are now on a section of the Thames Path, a long-distance footpath that follows the river all the way down from its source in Gloucestershire.

You pass some allotments, then go under the railway bridge again. Beyond it, through trees, is the brutal concrete Public Record Office, like an enlarged version of the Hayward Gallery, with an extension being added that owes more to the Tesco school of architecture. Past that are the filter beds of a large sewage treatment centre.

At Chiswick Bridge climb the steps away to the right of the path and cross the river again. Keep ahead on Great Chertsey Road until it crosses the railway and passes the cemetery, then turn left up Staveley Road and right on Burlington Lane.

The wall of Chiswick Park is now on your left but the first two entrances are both closed for repairs and you have to follow the wall right round to the gate opposite Corney Road. After entering turn right then left, following a sign for the caf, then immediately right on the path through the shrubbery, with camellias and spring bulbs in flower.

Turn left in front of the ornate conservatory (1813), into the formal Italian garden, planted with primulas and pansies. Inside the conservatory are more camellias, not in the best of health.

At the far end of the conservatory follow the path round to the back and keep ahead to reach the Doric Column. Soon you get your first view of the back of the house on your left, between clipped yews and ranks of urns. Approach it along the path and go round to the entrance at the front.

The house (open Wed-Sun, 10am-4pm) is worth seeing for its rich decor and elaborate ceilings, well restored by English Heritage. One of Burlington's enemies, Lord Hervey, derided it as being "too little to live in and too big to hang on a watch chain", indicating the degree of comfort to which 18th-century aristocrats were accustomed.

Leaving the house at the front, turn right to the bridge that crosses the former Bollo Brook, which Burlington remodelled as an ornamental canal. Over the bridge, turn right on to the path on the south side of the canal, undergoing major restoration. Swans glide gracefully past the small Ionic temple on the opposite bank.

When you get to the bridge at the west end, also being restored, turn left on to a gravel path, then go ahead past the toilets to the park gate. Facing you across Staveley Road is Fitzroy Crescent, an odd new housing development that seems to be trying for a neoclassical effect to echo the splendour of Chiswick House.

Turn right here, then left down Park Road to reach the eastbound platform of Chiswick Station. Cross the bridge if you left your car on the other side.

`The Revival of the Palladian Style', Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly (071-439 7438), Mon-Sun, 10am-6pm, until 2 April

Distance: Four miles

Time: Two hours, plus time to visit house

Transport: Chiswick BR (half-hourly service from Waterloo, hourly on Sundays). Bus E3.

Parking: In streets around station.

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