A great place to visit outside London
Visiting London can be overwhelming, especially if you are visiting for the first time. With a city that is brimming with some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, it’s easy to get so caught up in them that you miss other great locations. That being said, I know my first visit was exactly that. Visits to Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Number 10, Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, London Bridge….the list seems to be never-ending.
Knowing there is so much on offer means it is easy to keep justifying return visits to London. There’s certainly plenty to see, some of which lies hidden even to those who have lived here their whole life. Exploring is part of the fun in London and I look forward to being able to share some of those less touristic places with you. There are also so many free things to see and do in London, which eases the burden in a sometimes expensive city.
For a great day out, step away from the built environment of London and head to Richmond Park. With 2,500 acres of parkland, the largest Royal Park in London, it is anything but hidden. It is also an enclosed natural reserve, with perimeter walls and large, ornate gates.
Getting to Richmond Park is easy. What to do when you get there is answered by my list of things to do below. Whilst a little way out of London, it’s definitely worth the effort. I’d suggest making a day of it to enable time to explore the nearby village of Richmond, one of my favourites.
History of Richmond Park
Richmond Park is called a Royal Park for good reason. Dating back to the early 1200’s, the area belonged to royalty, with names such as Edward and Henry VII involved. In 1625, King Charles I ruled from here, following London’s Great Plague. He brought red and fallow deer here and fully enclosed the park, much to the chagrin of the locals. Today, Richmond Park, now under the ownership of the Crown and HRH Queen Elizabeth II, is a public park where the red and fallow deer still roam free.
Things to do in Richmond Park
Such a huge expanse of rolling hills and woodlands provides the perfect canvas for many outdoor activities. On a day when the sun is out, Londoners flock here to soak up the warmth and family days out are evident everywhere. With so much space, the opportunity to get involved in public games of sporting activities, or to hide away for some much needed solitude are equally accessible.
Walk or cycle
There are endless paths and cycle ways throughout the park, making a casual stroll or bike ride easy to do. Hiring bicycles in Richmond Park is also made easy with the Parkcycle Centre located near the Roehampton Gate car park during summer.
Other sporting activities such as horseriding, fishing, golf and power kiting are also possible.
Have tea at Pembroke Lodge
The stunning Pembroke Lodge was once a little more modest. The former home of a resident mole catcher, it was a simple cottage in which to live. The passing of time and the arrival of more famous people including a Prime Minister saw the small house evolve into something grander. In the late 1700’s royalty in the name of the Countess of Pembroke took ownership and had the cottage extended.
The Countess of Dunmore lived here during the mid 1800’s until Queen Victoria handed it over to the Prime Minister of the day from where he conducted government business.
A variety of regal owners lived here up until World War II when it received some damage from bombing.
After the war, perhaps when commercial realities overcame sympathetic ones, the government converted the lodge into flats for park workers and a cafeteria.
It’s a beautiful location and lodge, hosting many weddings every year in this glorious location. Taking tea, with a view to the west of London is the perfect tonic for a mid morning break. Spending time out in the gardens is also another relaxing way of enjoying your time here.
Take in the special views from King Henry’s Mound
Not far from Pembroke Lodge is King Henry’s mound and the opportunity to get a sneaky glimpse of London City, which is located approximately 14.5km away. The mound provides panoramic views of the Thames Valley in the west and London City in the East.
Through a concerted effort by the park gardeners over many generations, a keyhole has been kept carefully manicured in a hedge, separating the mound from the eastern view. Through the aid of a telescope, you can see through the keyhole and St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance.
On the day we were here, the sky was overly bright and made it difficult to get a great shot of St Paul’s. I did manage to capture it though as proof it can be seen from here.
Look for deer
I came to Richmond Park especially to see the deer and I wasn’t leaving without achieving this. “Where are all the deer in Richmond Park” I kept asking my husband. It took us quite a while, and it was a significant walk, but it was worth it in the end.
Besides, this park was made for walking, so what better incentive to get your walking shoes on than to have a goal at the end of it. Our walk took us through beautiful forests of trees, providing the perfect sanctuary for many of the animals that call this park their home. Walking trails wind their way past lakes and ponds, all of which are a magnet for animals, particularly birds.
Finally, we found them, and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. They were here in great herds, casually going about their day grazing on the lawn. Deer are not a common occurrence back home in Australia so it was such a delight to see them here.
Take time to smell the flowers
Admire private houses
There are a lucky few who live in quite grand houses within the grounds of various Royal Parks. There are several within Richmond Park also. This one was surrounded by amazing flower gardens. From what we could see, it looked amazing, almost like a gingerbread house.
Relax around the lakes and watch the wildlife
Do some plane spotting
Located about 20km west of London’s busiest airport, there is a constant stream of air traffic into Heathrow. It makes for some amazing plane spotting.
What not to do in Richmond
I’m sure there are many things that you shouldn’t do here, like don’t litter, don’t ride your bikes so fast that you nearly hit others and be respectful of the environment in general. One aspect of my visit to Richmond Park annoyed me enough to call it out specifically. Don’t go close to the deer! The deer are wild animals and you’re in their patch. Despite many signs advising not to get closer than 50 metres, common sense seems to evade a lot of people.
Time after time, we watched visitors with their cameras either rushing the animals from behind or just walking in amongst their herd. Notwithstanding the fact that there are possible safety issues for humans, it is totally unfair and unnecessary to impact the deer in this way. Most of the time, the people we saw had zoom lenses and had absolutely no need to be doing this. My photos were taken with a zoom and we were well back past the 50 metre zone. People can be so ridiculous.
Where is Richmond Park?
Richmond Park is located in the London borough, Richmond on Thames, approximately 14.5km from London City. It is close to the village of Richmond. It is London’s second largest park and the second largest enclosed park in Great Britain.
How to get to Richmond Park
The first and most important thing I learned about directions for Richmond Park is that they are generally all approximate. This is because the park is huge so putting Richmond Park into your GPS or mapping app is likely to get you to somewhere near the park, but not necessarily to an entrance gate.
If driving to the park, putting in the postcode (TW10 5HS) for Richmond Park is useful for getting you to the general area. There are some designated car parks within the park grounds.
Buses can be caught to Richmond from any location in London. For the best bus route use the Transport for London journey planner.
If catching the tube (District line) or train (National Rail) your destination is Richmond Station. From the station, go directly out the front and catch the number 371 or 65 bus to the pedestrian gate at Petersham.
Tip: We used this process and it wasn’t evident on the bus or using our mapping app where the Petersham Gate is. The bus driver also wasn’t overly helpful. If you aren’t sure, talk to the bus driver and make sure they understand you so that they can let you off the bus at the correct location. Otherwise, you might end up having more of a walk that you bargained for.
Richmond Park opening hours
Richard Park has different opening times, depending if you are planning to access via vehicle or are a pedestrian.
During the summer, Richmond Park opens to vehicles from 7am and in winter from 7.30am. The main vehicle gates close at dusk.
The pedestrian gates are open 24/7 except for between November and February. During this time, the pedestrian gates are opened at 7.30am and closed at 8pm.
Various other events occur during the year, especially relating to animals or plant life in the park. For correct opening times, it is always useful to first check the Richmond Park website.
Where to stay
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