Escape to the Country – in the City
Living within striking distance of one of London’s most stunning parks makes the need to ‘escape to the country’ a thing of the past. Whenever the urge for open space, contemplation, exercise, splashing in a puddle or having a picnic takes you, Richmond Park is the place to go.
As London’s largest Royal Park, Richmond is a space where you can be as solitary or as sociable as you like. Whatever the weather or season, there are glorious vistas to enjoy and activities aplenty for all comers. Cyclists, from the serious Lycra-clad types to those who’ve hired a bike for a gentle jaunt, take advantage of the roads and cycle tracks. Walkers and runners – with and without canine accomplices – abound. And what a delight it is to see the horses on the bridleways and even the park’s resident Shire horses, Billy and Massey, at work pulling carts. Then of course there are the power kiters, roller skiers, rugby players, golfers…
As for flora and fauna, the park’s hills, woodland gardens and grasslands, peppered with woods, copses and ancient trees, abound in wildlife. The Red and Fallow deer delight us all and if you look closely you just might come across a nationally endangered fungi or a scarce invertebrate such as the Cardinal Click beetle or the ferocious looking Stag beetle. Look out, too, for the exotic bright green (Ring-necked) parakeets, numerous other bird species and the varied waterfowl that grace the park’s ponds.
Richmond Park has been cherished and admired by locals for centuries and with good reason; it constantly delights and enriches our days.
Facts about the park
- The area was known as The Manor of Sheen during King Edward’s reign (1272-1307)
- The name Richmond came into use during the reign of Henry VII
- In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague. He created and stocked the park with deer so he could pursue his love of hunting close to the city
- In 1637 the land was enclosed by wall – not a popular move but pedestrians were granted right of way
- After George II’s youngest daughter, Princess Amelia, closed all the gates and admitted to the park only those to whom she had issued a ticket, John Lewis, a Richmond brewer, took court action to establish once and for all that the public enjoyed the right to enter the Park on foot. He won his case in 1758
- Richmond is the largest of London’s Royal Parks – 955 hectares/2360 acres – and Britain’s second largest urban walled park after Sutton in Birmingham
- The park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve
- Richmond Park contains the largest area of lowland acid grassland in Greater London (c. 700 hectares). It supports a specialised wildlife community and contributes enormously to biodiversity
- Houses backing onto the park pay an annual feudal fee, the “Richmond Park Freebord”, ranging from £2 to £200.
- The park’s bridleways are unusual in that they are for horses only – no pedestrians!
- The Tamsin Trail – the hard yellow cycle path – can be used by cyclists and pedestrians – no horses!
- The park and ten buildings within it are listed
- The park is usually 2 to 3 degrees colder than the surrounding area
Look out for:
- King Henry VIII’s Mound – you can see St Paul’s Cathedral, over 10 miles/16 km away
- The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge – originally a hunting lodge for George I
- Isabella Plantation – an organically run ornamental woodland garden, rich in flora and fauna and delightful year round
- Pembroke Lodge – once the home of former Prime Minister, John Russell, 1st Earl Russell. Now a café, restaurant and events venue.
Animal & Plant Magic – some facts and figures
- The park is home to a herd of 650 Red and Fallow deer
- There are about 160 species of wasps and bees in the park
- There are more than 546 species of butterfly and moth in the park, at least 21 of which are scarce
- Anthills in the park are created by Yellow Meadow Ants. Some are decades old and an important source of food for woodpeckers
- There are 11 species of Bat in the park out of only 16 species in the whole country
- There are more than 1350 species of beetle in the park (2006) – about 50% of those found nationally. Dead and decaying wood is vital to them.
- The park has over 100,000 trees and is a top UK site for ancient trees, particularly Oaks
- 289 species of fungi were recorded in 2008, many with exotic names such as ‘Beefsteak fungus’, ‘Candle Snuff’ and ‘Yellow Brain’!
- Ring-necked parakeets are said to have escaped from a late-1960s film set somewhere in South West London, and they have thrived ever since.
Dos and Don’ts
- Do pick up and dispose of your rubbish responsibly. Rubbish kills several deer each year.
- Do respect the speed limit – decreasing it from 30 to 20mph in 2004 has halved the number of deer killed by cars
- Don’t climb veteran trees or interfere with plants or fungus
- Don’t remove wood that shelters beetles
- Don’t stand on anthills
- Do keep your pets under control and don’t not allow them to chase, worry or injure birds or animals
- Don’t feed or touch the deer
- Do use the car parks for parking – parking and stopping elsewhere is not permitted
- Do pick up your dog’s poo (it enriches the soil and encourages coarse grasses, thistle and nettles at the expense of rarer acid grassland species)
- Do cycle, roller-skate and rollerski on designated paths, roads and hard surfaces only
- Do stick to designated areas for sport, kite flying and model aircraft flying
- Don’t bathe in the stream or ponds
- The park is open to traffic during daylight hours and to cyclists and pedestrians 24/7, except during culling (Feb & Nov). Commercial vehicles other than taxis are not allowed.