Richmond Park | 2500 Acres of Natural Splendour, and Deer
At its peak, Richmond Park can look like a million bucks.
And that’s not only because there’s loads of fallow and red deer roaming around…
Whether it’s a misty morning, a blazing hot day, or a brisk autumn afternoon when the paths are cloaked in golden brown leaves – to be frank, any season and situation – Richmond Park might just be the spot for the perfect scenic stroll in the city (and it’s not short of competition; see our guide to London’s best parks for reference).
Located out west, in Richmond of course, the park was created way back in the 17th century (1637 to be exact) by Charles I. The vast landscape – said to cover roughly 2500 acres – caught the king’s eye when he moved to the area in effort to avoid the plague, and he turned it into a deer park, citing its potential as a hunting preserve. Kings of future generations followed suit (Henry VIII, we’re looking at you), but today any hunting is prohibited and the deer roam freely, relatively undisturbed (save for the wildlife watchers).
WHAT TO DO IN RICHMOND PARK
You have to start with the deer really. The animals are synonymous with the park and over time, they’ve captured the imagination of the city’s wildlife photographers, who flock here at all times of the day (morning is when there’s less competition) in hope of landing that National Geographic-level shot. Considering how many deer there are in the park (the modern-day herd is said to be 630-strong), you should be able to spot at least one. In general it’s highly-advised that you don’t get too close and instead, admire their grace from afar. In autumn, this is further accentuated as it’s the period (rutting season) when stags go up against one another, horn to horn, to gain the affection of a female deer. Like humans, they appreciate their own personal space too and you really don’t want to get mixed up in any deer drama. So keep a safe distance…
If you’re feeling flush in winter (or can get five other mates on board), you can book in for a carriage ride through Richmond Park, drawn by a couple of sturdy shire horses. You’ll start off with a private tour of the stables and enjoy a little sloe gin and a mince pie before hopping aboard and enjoying a 75 minute ride through the park.
If you’re exploring on foot, well, Richmond Park is the second largest park in London (Lee Valley has the edge, although Richmond is the biggest Royal Park) and there’s a plethora of other things to see and do. You can admire Pembroke Lodge, a restored grade-II listed Georgian mansion where ex-PM Lord John Russell used to live. Straight afterwards, in the lodge’s gardens, there’s also King Henry’s mound. It’s not any old mound – this lesser-known London viewpoint gives you a clear sightline of St Paul’s; an unobstructed view of the cathedral where there’s actually a law against putting anything up that might impede it. Ham House and Garden is also in the vicinity – a 20 minute walk give or take – if you fancy a casual mosey around an enviable example of 17th century architecture, and wealth.
For nature – and Richmond Park is teeming with it – there’s woodland trails that weave you around ancient oak trees, criss-crossy cycling loops, ponds, wildlife besides the deer (woodpeckers, snakes, toads, rare beetles) and one of London’s hidden gems, Isabella Plantation. It’s a secret garden, first planted in the 1830s, that’s complete with weaving footpaths, exotic shrubbery, trickling streams and in spring, a splendid bloom of pink and purple Japanese azalea flowers.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK AROUND RICHMOND PARK
On the whole, Richmond Park definitely falls into day-out territory and if you forget to pack food and drink, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Think of it as a green light to explore the thriving pub scene in Richmond (the area is pub central and you get it all, from riverside taverns to heated beer gardens); Petersham Nurseries is nearby (the garden centre with a Green Michelin-starred botanical greenhouse on the side) and in Richmond Park itself, you’ve got Hollyhock Cafe; a quaint vegetarian cafe that’s a slice of the countryside and feels like you’ve chanced upon Hansel and Gretel’s cottage.
The consequences of eating here are much less sinister though…
NOTE: Richmond Park is free to visit and open daily from 7am till dusk. The closest station is Richmond on the District Line. You can view the park map, and find out more, HERE.
Richmond Park | Richmond Park, Surrey, TW10 5HS
Other options for lunch and dinner? There’s always the best restaurants in Richmond…