Visiting the Naked Ladies in York House Gardens, Twickenham

Having ventured down to Twickenham for the Open Artist Studio weekend on Eel Pie Island, Danny and I decided on a visit to the neighbouring York House Gardens which is famous for its “naked ladies”, which are positioned on the rocks of a waterfall at the base of the gardens.


Apparently the naked ladies are carved from Italian marble and were the property of a fraudster who committed suicide by swallowing cyanide when he was convicted of his crimes.


There’s even a beer named after them, served in the local pubs!


Having indulged ourselves with a glimpse of the Naked Ladies, we went off to explore the rest of the gardens.


There was plenty of lovely Summer greenery despite the less-than-Summery weather!


Danny and I used to live within walking distance of each other in North West London but coordinating our busy schedules is a bit more difficult these days which means it’s a treat to spend an afternoon together.


He is off on a big carefree 3.5 month adventure soon with Lucy, heading over to Asia to travel through China, Russia, Turkey and most of the ‘Stans. Oh to be a freelancer!


We found a nice dirt trail to walk through (a short one), which is pretty rare in London unless you head to the outskirts like Hampstead Heath or Wimbledon Common.


The scent of the earth is so rare these days in my everyday urban existence.


We even spotted a bit of wildlife (a few squirrels) – and pretty tame at that! It was like this one was posing for my little 20mm camera, which doesn’t have a zoom so you can see how close I got.


I found a snail too. He didn’t move much.


If I lived in Twickenham I would definitely have little thinking spot here, a place to take a pen and paper notebook and just write.


This bench seems pretty perfect.


It’s inscribed with the words “Love never ends.”


Do you have a good “thinking spot” in London?


Finally, it looks like almost “Summer” temperatures might be heading our way this weekend. Anyone have any nice plans?


I have a fun Saturday coming up with few of my favourite girls.


There will be lunch at the new Bumpkin Secret Garden restaurant in Chelsea with Carolina and Leslie and dinner in Covent Garden with Namuun, Ewa and Sharon at the Spanish tapas restaurant the Opera Tavern. There will surely be blog posts with delicious food photos to follow.


If you happen to be near Twickenham this weekend, make sure to stop an say hello to the Naked Ladies! You can take a lovely stroll down the riverfront too. Hopefully the sky will be much more blue…


Danny and I ended our Twickenham adventures on Bell Lane.


As part of the Eel Pie Island open weekend, there were a few street vendors so we indulged on pizza (Danny) and crepes (me)!



An Hour on the Eccentric Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island has to be one of the most eccentric places around.


The intrigue is in the details: A cross dresser with red nail polish and a floral dress, a flower in his long grey hair.


A life sized doll in a cage, chains criss-crossing her back, a small lantern above her head.


A bush heavy with roses.


Small rusted bells hanging above a doorway.


Recycled boat gardens.


The combination of texture and colour that is just asking to be touched.


Abandoned sculptured at the edge of the woods.


The island is joined to the mainland by a footbridge which was built in 1957 – a private island of some 26 artist studios open to the public just two weekends per year for those whose curiosity drags them all the way to Twickenham.


Last weekend, one of the open weekends, my curiosity had its way and my friend Danny and I set out to explore.

DannyPhoto of the two of us courtesy of Daniel Higgott’s camera and handy tripod

My first visit to Eel Pie Island in 2010 was accidental. It was the result of game I used to play: choose a random bus route, get off somewhere semi-interesting looking, wander, take photos, discover. In this way, I found myself in Twickenham, facing a narrow crossing over the Thames.


I wandered over to Eel Pie Island, not having a clue what was on the other side. No one stopped me.


There was a stack of hand drawn paper maps somewhere along the way held down by a rock. I picked one up and kept going, winding through the lush greenery that lines the pathway through private cottages before you reach the studios.


The Love Shack showed up on my left with its giant alligator head attached to the front and a green building with very old advertisements for HMV and Wills’s Star Cigarettes.


It turned out on that first visit I had coincidently stumbled on one of the two open weekends held on the island each year.


I stepped gingerly over tools and shipping rope lying on the ground. The artist studios are at the edge of a working ship yard so there was plenty of stuff lying about. There were few other people then.


I poked my nose into studios, watching cartoonists, potters, ceramicists and painters.


But the best part about it was the colour.


London often features those typical grey skies, brown water of the Thames, brick or white identikit houses.


I purposely seek out art on the walls, street style and bursts of colour in market stalls filled with fresh strawberries and vibrant yellow flowers.


And then Eel Pie Island presented itself as a secret explosion of peeling rainbow paint, bright ribbons tied to old boats, tiles in shades of green and deep blue.


When I returned home after that first visit, I looked up the history of the island and that made it even more fascinating. Think Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, David Bowie.


The Eel Pie Hotel was, back in the 60s especially, an oasis of drinking, dancing, sex. Ballroom Dancing proceeded the jazz era which led up to the Mods followed by Rock and Roll. Blues had its time as well.


The island, peaceful and quite now, hides a wild history of music and vices.


As I quoted in my post from 2010 – In his memoir “Eel Pie Dharma” about his time on the island, Chris Faiers explained that after it closed down, the Eel Pie Hotel was briefly re-opened as Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden where Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd took to the stage. Then the squatters took over.


He wrote: “200 dossers, hippies, runaway school kids, drug dealers, petty thieves, heroin addicts, artists, poets, bikers, American hippy tourists, au pair girls and Zen philosophers from all over the world’, who consumed vast quantities of LSD and opened a sex room for orgies.”


It is nothing like that now.


Nevertheless, with fond memories I was excited to return after three years. I found that, in 2013, the island is very much the same as I remember, but the atmosphere was much different this time.


Much of the decor was unchanged or barely altered. This time, though, I wasn’t practically the only one around.


There were children’s rides set up across the river, carts selling crepes, burgers, pizza, sweets, jewellery. The pub was packed. People lined the river to watch impromptu boat races.


The maps were photocopied and in a plastic container asking that they please be returned.


There was a trampoline so kids could play. We weren’t alone walking that foliage lined pathway to the boatyard.


There were kids on scooters, parents pushing buggies. We didn’t go inside of many studios because they were too crowded.


They were even selling Pimms.


So the atmosphere of mystery it had the first time was lost.


But it was still interesting.


Still colourful. Still quirky and creative and inspiring.


We headed into Twickenham afterwards to have tea and a chat.


The shops, I noticed, have clever names, though the bookshop I had enjoyed the last time had since closed.

But there was Toe-Knees Shoe Repairs.


Sweetie Pies.


And Wake & Paine Funeral Directors.


After tea, we wandered into York Gardens, but that’s another post for another day!

Have you been to Eel Pie Island? What did you think? 

Post from my 2010 visit to Eel Pie Island here.

Sinking Ice Cream Van

I was playing around with my Diana F+ camera and a splitzer and came up with this odd result of an ice cream truck that looks like it’s sinking into the river while a little girl feeds the ducks in Twickenham.

Sinking Ice Cream Truck

If you’ve got and odd and unusual London lomography to share, add it to the Flickr pool. The best results will be posted on the blog.