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9 July 2018

london days out | eel pie island, twickenham

did you know that 20 minutes out of waterloo station, and five minutes' walk from twickenham rail station is a small, private island accessible only by a footbridge? eel pie island is a small thames island - very small, barely 500 metres long, and is home to only 50 houses, 120 inhabitants, and three working boatyards. there are also small business, art studios, and nature reserves to explore, and but only two times a year, the general public are invited across to enjoy it all alongside the residents of the island.

i only came by this information by way of an invite to the studios, to celebrate the launch of the latest in a long line of alternative travel guides, in the "carl goes..." series. "carl goes london islands" tells the stories of 65 islanders along the river thames, with interviews and stories from 22 of london's islanders. the interviewees include an obe, a world-renowned music producer, an olympian, a brewer whose island brewery sees him have to deliver by footbridge, and a former british racing driver (who has ironically introduced a speed limit on the island he lives on!) - among others.

i popped along on the sunny open weekend in june, to discover the thames island of eel pie island for myself, and spent hours nipping in and out of leafy doorways, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the perfect junk-yard vibe that the island offered its guests. from wildflowers in welly boots to beheaded mannequins used as trail markers, every corner of the island gives visitors something unique and quirky to explore and enjoy as they wander from studio to studio, discovering all the creativity that lives on the island.

considering the proximity to busy twickenham, it was so surprising at how quiet, calm and peaceful the island was, despite its visitors. the island is leafy and colourful, with trees that loom overhead, so it's easy to see why the island was home to some of the best jazz and swing clubs in the 60s - the noise on the island is keep just there; the natural insulation of the island makes it the perfect place to escape and get away from the hustle and bustle of bust city life - even if just for an hour or two.

i admit that wearing heeled mules along the dusty, rocky footpath was not my finest decision, so if you have accessibility needs, i'd definitely give the island a miss. i dare say there are other thames islands that are more accessible, but eel pie islands isn't one of them. there are also no "conveniences" there - other than one public loo, so again, it's a private island with little in the way for visitors, so should you be invited: be the perfect house guest and bring your own supplies.