The best things to do in Richmond Park and the surrounding area.
A rambling, wild-feeling deer park on the outskirts of south-west London, Richmond Park is the second largest park in London (after the L O N G B O I that is Lee Valley Park) and positively overflowing with Nature Stuff.
Designated a special conservation area, it’s well worth exploring, with open grasslands and woodland trails with year-round appealk. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in one of the salubrious neighbourhoods nearby, it’ll require a bit of a journey, so here’s the Secret London guide into turning it into a bit of a day-trip, whatever you’re into.
1. Explore Isabella Plantation
While Richmond Park is best known for its undulating grasslands, ponds, and of course all those deer, head to the Isabella Plantation in the middle of the park, well you’ll find riotously colourful flower gardens, burbling streams, hidden paths and picnic-friendly lawns. It’s at its most vivid in late May, but worth popping to any time.
2. Spot Richmond Oark’s famous deer
Deer oh deer! Over 600 of these majestic mammals call Richmond Park their home, so cover enough ground and you should eventually spot some. Try and stay at least 50 metres away, though, especially during May-July when mama does are fiercely protecting their babies, and in the autumn when the male deer get especially lairy with one another in the hopes of impressing the ladies. Otherwise, take a long lens and do your best David Attenborough impression.
3. Run yourself absolutely loopy
If you’re up for a bit of exertion, there’s a 7.5 mile, car-free circular path around the edge of the park called the Tamsin Trail, perfect for running or cycling. You can even hire a bike from Parkcycle near the Roehampton Gate; it’s £20-£30 for three hours, depending on the time of year.
4. Behold one of London’s most famous views
This steep mound on the western edge of the park was probably once a prehistoric burial ground. Spooky! But it’s mostly known for its view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, nearly ten miles away. The view is considered so important, developers aren’t actually allowed to build any tall buildings that might get in the way – which seems like a pretty weird way to make urban planning decisions, now we think about it. A telescope is provided to help you get a better view.
Sadly, this opportunity comes all-too-infrequently, with just a handful of sessions in mid-June and then the Christmas season. Still, if you’re lucky enough to book a place, it’s certainly the fanciest way to explore the park we know of. (It’s £375 to book an entire carriage, by the way, though you can share with others.)
6. Visit the ornate Ham House
A house? Made of HAM? No, obviously not. This lovely National Trust property does date back to 1610, however, and is yours to explore, with admission £11 for grown-ups. Ham House also hosts a variety of events, from outdoor Shakespeare productions to talks on historical topics. Spiffing! It’s about a 20-minute walk from the west side of Richmond Park. Find out more.
7. Pick up a plant (or some lunch!) at Petersham Nurseries
This luscious garden centre close to the park is also home to a dreamy restaurant and café, perfect for a bit of tea and cake after your adventures. Find out more about Petersham Nurseries.
8. Head to the river and a fairytale café
The cute-as-a-button Hollyhock Café faces out over the Richmond riverside and is perfect for a slice of pie.
9. Celebrate your wholesomeness – at the nearest pub
Look at you, avoiding a hangover and spending a weekend daytime doing something wholesome and productive. No need to overdo it though; the park has several quality pubs nearby, including The Hand & Flower, The New Inn, and the Lass O’Richmond Hill.
Getting there: Richmond Park has several nearby stations within a 15-minute walk; Norbiton, to the south, is best for Isabella Plantation; while Barnes is best placed for the cycle hire point at Roehampton Gate.
[Header photo: Chang Tai Jyun]