Hidden within the vast green expanse that is Richmond Park in South-West London is a beautiful enclosed woodland garden known as The Isabella Plantation. I have lived within a stone's throw of Richmond Park for well over five years now, and have often heard people talking about the Isabella Plantation, but for some reason I only visited for the first time very recently.
On arrival, I have to say I was totally taken aback by how picture perfect it was. The 40-acre Victorian-era woodland - which first opened to the public in 1953 - is best known for its evergreen azaleas which line the paths and ponds in late April and early May. I visited with my family in late May and, thankfully, the vibrant colourful flowers were still out in abundance. It is worth noting though that there are many other rare trees, plants and shrubs inside the Isabella Plantation to keep visitors interested all year round. In fact, someone said to me that each time you visit throughout the changing seasons, it's like stepping into an entirely different garden (I will definitely be returning in autumn).
There are five pedestrian entrances to the Isabella Plantation. Two of these - Peg's Pond Gate and Broomfield Hill Gate - have carparks located by them. During the summer months there is a free shuttle bus from each of Richmond Park's other main car parks to the Peg's Pond entrance.
Once inside, there are several trails to follow around the garden marked out in the map below. The longest trail - which takes around half an hour to wander - includes all three of the gardens ponds, as well as the central stream and woodland.
There are two toilet blocks within the plantation - the main one being at Peg's Pond gate, which is open all year round. There are baby change facilities and wheelchair access. There isn't a cafe inside the garden (aside from a refreshment point outside at Broomfield Hill), so if you are staying for a while then it is well worth planning ahead and bringing a picnic and plenty of drinks. There are so many hidden areas to lay down a blanket and relax, but it goes without saying that you must take all litter away with you.
Needless to say, as well as a vast array of rare plant-life, there is an abundance of wildlife to be seen at The Isabella Plantation. The tranquil spot is a haven for pond animals. We spotted various ducks, heron, and dragonflies on our walk.
Now that I've discovered the beauty that is The Isabella Plantation, I will definitely be making a bee-line for it time and time again. The garden is open all year round and free to visit. All the information you'll need to plan a visit is on the Richmond Park website.