I'm lucky enough to have grown up a stones throw from Richmond Park and, as such, spent my weekends as a youngster exploring the open spaces, feeding the ducks and, in later years, racing my brother round on our bikes. Having moved slightly further away, it was only when I returned a few weeks ago that I realised how much we took it for granted in our youth.
Richmond Park is truly beautiful. No matter what time of year you visit, the landscapes, scenery and views offer something different but equally impressive. If you're stuck for ideas for a day out and you don't want to negotiate the bustling streets of Central London, come out here with friends or family and explore. With entrance points in Kingston, Ham, Richmond, Sheen and Roehampton, you can easily access the park from wherever you are.
There are plenty of car parks but to truly make the most of arguably London's best Royal Park, get on your bike and follow the 10km cycle path around the perimeter. It is up and down so equally as popular with more serious cyclists as it is with families and couples out for a leisurely weekend ride. You can even hire bikes from a mobile van, usually based near Sheen gate.
There is a 20mph speed limit in place around the whole park, introduced to prevent people using it as a shortcut and, of course, for the safety of the hundreds of deer often to be found crossing the roads and exploring their habitat further.
In the middle of the park is a popular area known as Pen Ponds where you will often find people picnic-ing in the sun or walking their dogs. The famous Isabella Plantation is also nearby so this is a good place to set up base for the day. The plantation is full of exotic plants and wildlife all year round, making for the perfect place for kids to explore, couples to relax and families to spend their weekends as the summer draws out. Wherever you are, there are ice cream and refreshment vans so you can refuel and replenish the energy levels allowing you to explore further.
Pembroke Lodge, situated between Ham and Richmond gates, is a popular venue for weddings with the beautiful surroundings providing an ideal background. This is also a good spot to stop for a tea or coffee and a spot of lunch when the stomach starts to rumble.
As mentioned above, the park is ideal for cyclists. Indeed, it was used in the recent Olympic road race as Wiggins, Cavendish and co. breezed their way out of London and into Surrey. There are a number of cycling clubs that go out on regular weekend rides and welcome newcomers of all levels. It is also popular with runners; the terrain making for ideal marathon training, and there are so many open spaces that it would be foolish to not pack a ball, frisbee or cricket set.
More information on the park and the Isabella Plantation can be found here.