Richmond Park in London
Richmond Park is a 2,360 acre (9.55 km2; 3.69 sq mi) park within London. It is the largest of the Royal Parks in London and Britain's second largest urban walled park after Sutton Park, Birmingham. It is close to Richmond, Ham, Kingston upon Thames, Wimbledon, Roehampton and East Sheen. The park is famous for its red and fallow deer, which number over six hundred.
The Isabella Plantation is an important and attractive woodland garden.
There is a protected view of St Paul's Cathedral from King Henry VIII's Mound, and a view of central London's London Eye, Natwest Tower and 'The Gherkin', appearing to be close to each other.
The Park contains notable buildings, ten of which, plus the whole wall of the park, are listed buildings.
- Pembroke Lodge and some associated houses stand in their own garden within the park. Pembroke Lodge was originally a home of 1st Earl Russell, and is now a restaurant.
- The Royal Ballet School has been based for many years at White Lodge where younger ballet students continue to be trained. It was originally a hunting lodge for George I.
- There are four other houses, apart from the gate-houses: Thatched House Lodge, Holly Lodge (formerly Bog Lodge), White Ash Lodge and Oak Lodge. Holly Lodge contains a visitors’ centre (bookings only), the Park's administrative headquarters and a base for the Metropolitan Police's Royal Parks Operational Command Unit.
King Henry VIII's Mound
King Henry VIII's Mound is the highest point within the park and is located within the public gardens of Pembroke Lodge. It is named after Henry VIII of England.
There is speculation that the mound has an older history, and may have originally been a barrow.
From the Mound there is a protected view of St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London over 10 miles (16 km) to the east which was established in 1710. (A telescope is installed on the mound, for a better viewing experience.) This vista is protected by a 'dome and a half' width of sky on either side. The Mayor of London (Ken Livingstone) sought to overturn this protection in 2005, and reduce it to 'half a dome'. No final decision has yet been made public. To the west is a panorama of the Thames Valley.
The park's open slopes and woods are based on lowland acid soils. The grassland is mostly managed by grazing. The park contains numerous woods and copses, some created with donations from members of the public.
One such area is the Isabella Plantation, a stunning woodland garden which was created after World War II from an existing woodland, and is organically run, resulting in a rich flora and fauna. It is a major visitor attraction in its own right.
Another is Queen Mother's Copse, a small triangular enclosure on the woodland hill halfway between Robin Hood Gate and Ham Gate, established in memory of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Another is Two Storms Wood, a short distance into the park from Sheen Gate. (Some extremely old trees can be seen inside this enclosure).
Another is Bone Copse which was named in 2005. It was started by the Bone family in 1988 by purchasing and planting a tree from the Park authorities in memory of Bessie Bone who died in that year. Trees have been added annually, and in 1994 her husband Frederick Bone also died. The annual planting has been continued by their children.
Richmond Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve and a Special Area of Conservation for the Stag beetle.
Herds of red and fallow deer roam freely within much of the park. A cull takes place each November and February to ensure numbers can be sustained.
Many of the deer in Richmond Park are infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi which can be transmitted to humans through a tick bite causing Lyme disease. Borrelia belong to a group of bacteria known as spirochetes which cause a number of diseases worldwide, including syphilis, leptospirosis, relapsing fever and Lyme disease.
It is an important refuge for other wildlife, including woodpeckers, squirrels, rabbits, stag beetles and many other insects plus numerous ancient trees and varieties of fungi.
Richmond Park supports a large population of what are believed to be Ring-necked (or Rose-ringed) Parakeets. These bred from birds that escaped or were freed from captivity.
During King Edward's (1272–1307) reign the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during Henry VII's reign. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned it into a park for red and fallow deer. His decision, in 1637, to enclose the land was not popular with the local residents, but he did allow pedestrians the right of way. To this day the walls remain, although they have been partially rebuilt and reinforced.
In 1847 Pembroke Lodge became the home of the then Prime Minister, Lord John Russell and was later the childhood home of his grandson, Bertrand Russell. It is now a popular restaurant with glorious views across the Thames Valley.
All houses backing on to the park pay a feudal fee known euphemistically as “Richmond Park Freebord” ranging from about £2 to £200 per annum.
Legal action in 1758 by John Lewis, a public spirited brewer of Richmond, confirmed the right of access for pedestrians at all times and frustrated attempts by the Royal Ranger to prevent such access.
The park is enclosed by a high wall with several gates. The gates either allow pedestrian and bicycle access only, or allow both motor vehicle and pedestrian access. The gates for motor vehicle access are open only during daylight hours, and the speed limit is 20 mph. No commercial vehicles apart from taxis are allowed.
The gates open to motor traffic are: Sheen Gate, Richmond Gate, Ham Gate, Kingston Gate, and Roehampton Gate. Robin Hood Gate (close to the Robin Hood non-roundabout on the A3) was closed in 2003 as part of a traffic reduction trial and will stay permanently closed.
There is pedestrian and bicycle access to the park 24 hours a day except when there is a deer cull. During the deer cull the majority of the gates are locked and warning signs are displayed forbidding access to the park under the orders of The Secretary of State. Warning signs are normally displayed a month before the deer cull occurs.
The park has designated bridleways and cycle paths. These are shown on maps and noticeboards displayed near the main entrances, along with other regulations that govern use of the park. The bridleways are special in that they are for horses (and their riders) only and not open to other users like normal bridleways. The 1997 law limits cycling to: (a) main roads; (b) the hard yellow cycle path that runs around the park (Tamsin Trail); and (c) other hard (i.e. concrete or cement) surfaces. Cycling along the park's mud paths is forbidden as contrary to the park's bye-laws.<ref name="opsi.gov.uk"/>
Until 2005 the park was policed by the separate Royal Parks Constabulary but that has now been subsumed into the Royal Parks Operational Command Unit of the Metropolitan Police. In recent years the mounted policemen have been replaced by a patrol team in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
As with other Royal Parks, the use of barbecues and the lighting of other fires is illegal. The playing of radios or other musical equipment is also not allowed. Commercial photography requires permission.
The park has disabled access and many of the gates have toilet facilities next to them. There is also a children's playground next to Petersham Pedestrian gate.
As the park is an area of special scientific interest and a Nature Reserve, all dog owners are required to keep their dogs under control while in the park. This includes not allowing their dog to disturb other park users or disrupt wildlife In 2009, after some incidents leading to the death of wildfowl, park's dogs on leads policy was extended.
Richmond Park is also the name of a Parliamentary constituency comprising some of the districts that surround the park:
- The Electoral Wards of Barnes, East Sheen, Ham & Petersham, Kew, Mortlake, North Richmond and South Richmond in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames;
- the Wards of Canbury, Coombe Hill, Coombe Vale and Tudor in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
The current MP is Zac Goldsmith (Conservative).
- Richmond Park: The Walker's Historical Guide, David McDowall, (1996),
- Richmond Park website, park information
- Royal Parks website
- Richmond Park map (PDF)
- Totally Richmond website
- Friends of Richmond Park