Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Exploring Richmond Park

One of London's great pleasures are the vast green parks that litter the city. Queen among them is Richmond Park, the largest urban park in all of Europe.

On a windswept autumn day, Richmond Park can make you forget all about the other 7 million Londoners. It's just you, the trees, and the deer (the park is home to colonies of both roe and fallow deer).

Well, hello. What a lovely grass hat!
Getting there
Most tourists enter by the main Richmond Gate, situated a 15 minute walk from Richmond Station. 

To get there turn left out of the station, and follow the main shopping street; after M&S the street will curve left and starts to climb Richmond Hill. When the road splits, take the high road and you'll soon see the long sloped lawn of Terrace Gardens on your right, leading down to the river and views over Petersham Meadows. At the top of the hill, you'll find the park entrance opposite the large red brick building that houses the Star and Garter Home for Retired Servicemen. 

Inside the park
Keep to the right (following a path that runs parallel to the right-hand road) to find King Henry the VIII's Mound, famous for its unbroken views to St Paul's Cathedral in the heart of the city. Climb the small hill to use the free telescope at the top. On a clear day, say you can even see Windsor Castle from here (although this being London, the weather is rarely clear enough to spot it).

After the mound, you'll pass the flowerbeds and manicured gardens of Pembroke Lodge. The lodge houses the park's main cafe - brilliant cakes, cream teas, cold drinks and hot lunches. If it's a sunny day, head straight for the terrace at the back of the lodge.

With a quack quack here and a quack quack there....
Once you've stuffed your face/built up your energy levels, it's time for a walk! Cross the road in front of the lodge and head SW. After about 10 minutes you'll cross a wide paved footpath / bike path. Keep an eye out for a small parking area - next to it you'll find an entrance to Isabella Plantation. Inside you'll discover a collection of camelias and azaleas, heathers, bluebells, daffodils, and lots more.

Flowered out? Turn right out of the plantation and follow the paved path until you see the two Pen Ponds on your left (ducks and geese galore), and White Lodge (home to a ballet school) on your right. If you take the path between the ponds, you'll end up back where you started in 20 minute's walk.

That's only a small loop of the park; you can easily explore for hours if you've got the stamina. Keep your eyes open for flashes of green as you walk - the park is also home to a large colony of budgies.

Want more action? There's a bike rental stall by Roehampton Gate (5-10 minutes NE of White Lodge)

Budgies living a long way from Australia
Richmond is 20 minutes by train from central London - head to Waterloo Station and take a train heading to Reading or Windsor. Richmond is also on the District Line (last stop on the Richmond Branch). It's about 35 minutes to Embankment or Temple in central London. 

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