Getting to know... Osterley Park and House
Osterley Park, one of the largest open spaces in London, is inviting visitors to explore its vast estate as part of our Art Miles initiative in March. We talk to the country house about sport, scones and visits from Michael Caine.
Age: I think I don't look a day over 254, when Robert Adam first starting creating me. But some people continue to point out my parkland has been part of an estate since 1577, and that really I'm 450.
Describe yourself in three words: outdoorsy, ostentatious, urban.
What's new with you? I'm open more often than ever before – my glorious 18th-century gardens and cafe are open 363 days a year.
What is your most treasured possession? That is a tough one! My portraits of the Child family who used to live here have recently been returned on loan, so it's great to have them adorning the walls of my house. Outdoors, the Great Meadow has never been ploughed, so it provides an excellent habitat for wildflowers and rare butterflies, moths and insects. But most treasured are our 200+ volunteers, who enable me to keep opening to visitors and who complete such valuable work.
Who was your most famous visitor? They've all wanted to see me over the years, from Queen Elizabeth I and Horace Walpole to Paul McCartney and Cary Grant. Not to mention Diana Dors, Keira Knightley, Emily Blunt, Renée Zellweger, Michael Caine… I'm pretty popular as a filming location, so the list goes on!
Is there a museum pet? No, unless you count all the wildlife!
I shouldn't leave without experiencing... the scones, of course, in our cafe. Delicious!
You have a museum crush on... We have an on/off thing with nearby Syon Park, which was also designed by Robert Adam at the same time, and our National Trust neighbour Ham House. But we have a crush on pretty much every London museum and gallery – we want to be part of their gang!
You're most happy when… visitors have a great time when they discover us, and when someone brings in biscuits.
What do you most dislike about your appearance? As with all mature structures, there are bits of me that don't behave like they should – my roof, my damp proofing – so it'd be nice to get those sorted. But I think I look grand and imposing.
This year you're excited about... A packed programme of sport and activities, indoors and out, to entertain everyone who drops by to say 'hi'.
Why should people come and walk all over you for Art Miles? Because even though they probably live nearby, they've probably never discovered me before, and now's as good a time as any. They can see my wonderful parklands and gardens, discover my play trail (suitable for children of all ages!), and take part in activities on the day. They can view my spectacular interiors and look at my collections, and take in a little bit of the country without leaving the city.
Learn more about Art Miles and register to take part in a fundraising walk around Osterley Park and House.