Parks probably don’t feature on the itinerary of the average visitor to London, but venture a little way out of the capital and you can find some wonderful green spaces. Not only do these parks offer visitors a little solace from the bustle of the big city, they’re also rich in history with some being located close to famous London landmarks. This article looks at two parks not too far from London that are worth a visit.
London’s parks are often overlooked by visitors, which is a shame because they not only provide an escape from the city, but are rich in history and interest. Whether it’s rustic and wild or urban and ordered, London’s green spaces have it all. Below are two of London’s best parks that any visitor to the city should make time to visit…
Getting to Battersea Park shouldn’t pose too many problems if you’re staying someplace fairly central in London. It’s located south west of the city, just a couple of miles south of Marble Arch. It’s an immensely interesting park with lots of variety and hosts a range of events throughout the year, from fashion shows to fireworks.
Battersea Park is situated on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Chelsea. It was opened in 1858 and occupies land formerly used for market gardens that served the growing population of London. Battersea Fields, as the site where the park is today was once known, was a popular spot for dueling, and in 1829 the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchelsea met there to settle a matter of honor (Winchelsea had publicly attacked the Duke’s character).
When it was time to fire, the Duke deliberately aimed wide and Winchelsea fired into the air. Winchelsea later wrote the Duke a groveling apology.
Battersea Park is home to a small zoo, a boating lake, a bandstand, and several all-weather sporting facilities including soccer pitches, tennis courts, and a running track. Walking around this 200 acre park is a great way to spend time as there’s always something to stop and look at – whether it’s the ornate Peace Pagoda, a gift to London from the Japanese Buddhist Order, or the peacocks in their enclosure by the boating lake. There’s also a café to stop at for tea and cake.
Closest train stations: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road (both a short walk along Queenstown Road), or Clapham Junction (25 minute walk or short bus ride).
At almost 2500 acres, Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London. It was originally a deer hunting park and today is home to 650 free-roaming deer.
The Royal connections to Richmond Park probably date back to Edward I (1272 – 1307) when the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during
King Henry VII’s reign. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London, and turned the space into a park for red and fallow deer. His decision, in 1637, to enclose the park was not popular with the local residents but he did allow pedestrians the right of way to enter the park. The walls still remain to this day, although they have been partially rebuilt and reinforced.
The park has seen little change over the centuries. Pen Ponds, a lake divided in two by a causeway and dug in 1746, is a good place to see water birds. The park also has several small woods, Sidmouth Wood, and the Isabella Plantation, both of which were added in the 19th century and fenced in order to keep the deer out.
Richmond Park offers a truly peaceful respite for visitors. It’s easy to spend hours walking in this beautiful park (there are guided walks organized throughout the year), or from April through to September you can hire a bicycle and see the park on two wheels. As well as the deer, the park is home to ancient oak trees, beetles, woodpeckers, owls, and waterfowl – not to mention the odd fox, rabbit, and mouse!
Closest train stations: Richmond (train or tube), then take the 371 or 65 bus to the pedestrian gate at Petersham.