B&B and Beyond: Wellness Home, Chiswick
Simon Calder discovers a green and pleasant base from which to explore a fascinating corner of suburban London
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Sunday 20 January 2013
A Victorian house tucked away in a tidy suburban street might seem a curious destination for a weekend away: Chiswick lies beyond the great museums of South Kensington, at the cusp of Travelcard Zones 2 and 3 of the Tube. Yet the villagey location of this upmarket suburb has its own rewards, and the Wellness Home is an appealing venue – even for people who think they are quite well already, thank you.
You might not associate space and light with the typical 19th-century redbrick home, but perhaps that's because so many of them have been carved up into cramped flats. The Wellness Home provides an excellent "Before" example of the genre.
Two of the three guest rooms boast big windows. The top room (a triple) is a cannily converted attic, with its own south-facing roof terrace – apparently popular with Heathrow planespotters who can watch the endless procession of Airbuses and Boeings approaching Heathrow .
The furnishings are comfortably unfussy, and the fittings are well chosen: an Apple Mac in each room; the makings of tea and coffee; a radio; and a water filter and an air purifier. But no television: life in Chiswick has more dimensions on offer.
Farming has not taken place in London W4 for some decades, but there is a farmhouse feel to the airy breakfast room: a communal table, overflowing with tempting treats: plentiful fruit, eggs and cheese, with home-baked bread and home-made muesli. If you love the smell of sizzling bacon in the morning, though, you're in the wrong place: breakfasts are vegetarian, with vegan options.
On fine days, you could opt for the patio heavy with greenery. Crucially, for guests who are visiting London on business or catching an early flight, the normal 8am start of breakfast can be moved earlier to suit you.
David and Valerie Green go one step beyond the traditionally genial B&B hosts: they actually specify in their publicity that "David is particularly willing to discuss political and social matters and Valerie is happy to talk about anything to do with food and health". He is a linguist and IT professional, while her specialist subject is holistic health. They are also great travellers, with a wealth of stories.
More practically, they share an encyclopaedic knowledge of local attractions, hostelries and events.
The most important member of the household is Rollo, a gregarious Cavalier King Charles spaniel who is available for walkies for guests who are missing their own pets.
Chiswick has always stood astride the radial route west from London towards Bath and Bristol. Thankfully the main A4 has been diverted south of the village, and these days the High Road is much more a high street. A life-size statue of the painter William Hogarth, the local cultural hero (complete with easal and faithful dog) stands outside Barclays Bank. The High Road has all the usual retail suspects plus some independent stores and a scattering of market stalls.
The main attraction stands 10 minutes' walk south of Chiswick High Road. Dive (with the help of a subway) beneath the Great West Road. to reach Chiswick House: a Palladian mansion amid elaborate and expansive gardens, laced with ponds and populated with heroic sculptures.
The third Earl of Burlington built it in 1729 to show off his art collection. The house (020-8995 0508; chgt.org.uk) is well worth touring, but if you are unable to fit in with its opening times (10am-5pm, Sunday to Wednesday, April to October, £5.70), the grounds (7am-dusk daily, free) are reward enough. The café is popular among Chiswick residents who crave a cappuccino in the country .
The pit stop
Were Chiswick the real countryside, a cheery pub with a crackling fire would await after a wintry walk. But it's actually London W4. So, Pizza Express anyone? In fact, the branch at 252 Chiswick High Road squeezed between Phones 4U and T-Mobile stores, is a one-off: it contains a number of original works by the artist Peter Blake (yes, the one who did the Sergeant Pepper album cover for the Beatles).
The Wellness Home, 75 Thornton Avenue, London W4 1QF (020-8995 1053; thewellnesshome.co.uk). Turnham Green station, on the District Line of the Tube, is three minutes' walk away. Street parking is available at night and weekends only. A cab from Heathrow costs about £40.
The twin room costs £85 and the slightly larger double £95, with a £15 discount for single occupancy. The triple room costs £140 (discounts for lower occupancy). Bookings must be for a minimum of two nights.
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