I never cease to be amazed every time I walk in the vast expanses of Richmond Park. I’m in a wilderness, yet I can see the City of London from here, some 12 miles away in the distance. I read somewhere that there is a ban on building high rise between the Park and the City just to preserve the view. How wonderful if that is true!
The park stretches for 2500 acres bounded by Richmond, Sheen. Roehampton, Kingston and Ham. Originally created back in the 12 century, it was known then as the Manor of Sheen. Henry VI changed it’s name to Richmond Park and it has stayed intact since then. In the 1600’s, Charles I introduced the descendants of the deer that the park is famous for when he moved the court out of London to Richmond Palace to escape the plague. It’s been the home to many members of royalty since then. Edward VII was born there and Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the future King George V lived there in the 1920’s. The White Lodge, where they lived, is now famous for being the home of the Royal Ballet School (remember the audition scene in the movie Billy Elliott?).
The royal links to the park live on through the Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra, who lives in Thatched House Lodge in the Park.
The park is a popular place for bike riders and pedestrians. It also has roads running through it to all of the major gates which has become a bit of a rat run for those wishing to escape the traffic jams on the roads outside the parks. This can cause some friction between car and bike users. On sunny days the roads are full of bike riders and pedestrians need to watch out, as there are quite a few lycra speedsters zooming around at above the speed limit! Some of the hills and corners can be dangerous and several bike riders have been seriously injured and, sadly, a couple have died on some notorious spots.
You can park at one of the carparks near the major gates and there is limited free street parking just outside the park in Richmond. There is also parking at the cafes within the park. Pembroke Lodge has tearooms in a beautiful Georgian building with views right out across Surrey. If you are coming by public transport, the nearest train station is Richmond (Tube, National Rail and Overground). The park is at the top of a decent hill, so if you wish to avoid the walk up, you can either catch a cab from outside the station (about 5 pounds) or walk around the corner to the bus stop outside Waitrose on Sheen Road to catch the 371 bus to Kingston. This will take you to the Richmond Gate. Alternatively, you can walk down to the Thames from the station and walk along the bank of the river and then follow the path that takes you to the foot of the park at Petersham. There is a lovely little kid’s playground at the entrance to the park here. The number 65 bus to Kingston will take you to this entrance and you can catch it from right outside the train station.
The best way to walk the park is to avoid the tarmac paths and roads and head down the grassy paths. Here you can be in the middle of a wilderness centuries old while still being so close to one of the word’s most famous cities. Meander through woods, walk around ponds, swish through long grass or squelch through mud (yes, take waterproof shoes if it’s been raining), this is a place to go to recharge your soul if the grime and noise of the city is getting too much for you. If you are lucky, you will go past one of the many deer herds that roam freely.
Be aware that during rutting season (September – October), the stags can be aggressive. Also, the does hide their babies in the long grass during the birthing season (May – July). If you accidentally get too close to a bub, the aunties will start getting a bit upset and head over your way. If you have a dog, fantastic – the place if full of dog walkers. But make sure they are either on a lead or well trained to return when called and not bark. You don’t want to have to sort out a standoff between your dog and a stag! Generally the dogs come off worse. There are criminal penalties for owners of dogs who chase any wildlife in the park.
Enjoy this treasure in the middle of suburbia.
Thank you to royalty past for establishing such a fantastic park!