Over the Bank Holiday weekend I spent a couple of days visiting my daughter in Surrey. After a morning of gardening we decided to skip a visit to Wisley and instead head off to Richmond Park, one of the Royal Parks in London. It’s a place we’ve been to before when the grandchildren were small, but not for many years for me.
Isabella’s Plantation was a favourite spot with a pretty stream leading to a pond and stepping stones and tiny bridges for youngsters to enjoy, but it was rather disappointing to find it very overgrown with reeds, Greater Willow herb and Joe Pye Weed in particular. So much so that we couldn’t even see the stream and most of the ponds were hidden from view. I’m all for rewilding places, but they still require management and maintenance. However, it is still a popular place for families to find some peace and enjoy a picnic (relatively speaking as huge planes pass overhead constantly and the non-native ring-necked green parakeets screech above your head).
The Isabella Plantation is a 40 acre woodland garden set within a Victorian woodland plantation planted in the 1830’s. First opened to the public in 1953, it is best known for its evergreen azaleas, which line the ponds and streams and at their peak of flower in late April and early May. The site is managed very much with nature in mind and the gardens are run on organic principles. Native plants commonly grow alongside exotics throughout the Plantation. [source: Isabella Plantation]
I think spring time is probably the best season to visit this garden as there are many camellias and rhododendrons and azaleas planted and the native stuff would have died down over the winter.
We exited through Peg’s Pond Gate and walked around the perimeter of the garden under the large trees – oaks, beech, horse chestnuts – enjoying the filtered light and listening to the parakeets. It must have been a welcome shady place to be during the heatwave.
On arriving back at the car park we decided to walk up to Pen Ponds in the centre of the park so the dog could have a run off the lead. You still need to be careful with your dog as there are deer roaming freely in the park and during May – August dogs must be kept on leads throughout the park.
By the time we reached the ponds the sky had turned very black to the south, though still blue towards London. Despite the look of those clouds it didn’t rain a single drop.
And we were lucky enough to see a few of the deer.