Terrain: - 5½ miles of easy and mainly level walking on good paths and no stiles. One hill
between the towpath and Richmond Park
Maps: Greater London A-Z; Explorer 161 London South; Leaflets from Friends of Richmond Park shop at Pembroke Lodge
Eating and drinking: Hollyhock Cafe, Terrace Gardens; Pembroke Lodge
Walk surveyed and described by Margaret Spooner, based on Ken’s evening walk through Richmond Park each May to see views over the river and the azaleas and rhododendrons in flower in the Isabella Plantation. Description checked by Bert Neale
Depending whether you reach Richmond by underground, overground, mainline train or bus, make your way to the Richmond end of Richmond Bridge where the walk starts.
Descend down to the towpath by the river and continue west (keep the river on your right) for about ¼ mile to a point just beyond a slight bend to the left on the towpath. On the left below the level of the towpath go through the centre of the triple-arched stone gate marked ‘Subway to Terrace Gardens’. Climb uphill to the left on a path that gradually veers right, past the Hollyhock Cafe. The path comes to a T junction where you go right and continue up to a path that runs just below Richmond Hill. At the semi-circular feature, with a small pond and statue, go up steps to the road. Turn right to go along the shaded terrace with extensive views to the right over the river and information boards about the royal highway, ie the Thames, stretching from Windsor Castle to Greenwich Palace via Hampton Court Palace, Richmond (where there used to be a palace) and various other royal sites.
Continue ahead to reach the road near the pedestrian crossing into Richmond Park. Inside the park to the right there are public toilets. Go along this path near the toilets with railings on the right until you reach a black iron gate into the enclosed gardens of Pembroke Lodge. Pass an area on the left with steps and seats and continue under a pergola. Immediately afterwards take the middle of the three paths ahead and go uphill to King Henry's Mound where there are views as far as Windsor Castle (13½ miles) and St Pauls Cathedral (10 miles) both visible in good weather. There are signs indicating where they and other landmarks are. From King Henry's Mound return to the path with the river on the right until you reach Pembroke Lodge (which has a café, if refreshments are wanted).
From the front of the Lodge (facing into the park) turn right and continue along the path in the same direction until you reach another gate and exit from Pembroke Lodge grounds into the Park. Follow the path which keeps going in the same direction without losing height and eventually it merges with the pedestrian/cycle track. Just before the signpost which points to Ham Gate, cross the road on the left and then after a few yards cross the narrow tarmac path to take a mown grass track which leads at about 45° diagonally across a grassy area to the car park at the entrance to the Isabella Plantation.
Enter the Plantation through the Peg's Pond Gate (bottom gate). Spend time exploring the paths within the enclosure (about ¾ hour allows time to wander through but there are seats and grassy areas for a picnic, if you want to spend longer there). There are good map boards and signs provided. The signs are often on the seats that have been cut out from large tree trunks. The ideal time to visit is when the azaleas are out in late April and well into May.
Return to the park by the same gate. From the car park turn right, taking the third path from the fence of the plantation - it is a dirt path through trees. Follow this path across the park, crossing a tarmac path after a short distance, until you reach a house on your left and, a bit further on, a fenced area on the right. You will see the road ahead with Pembroke Lodge in view to the right. When you reach the end of the tarmac path, cross the road and go over the ditch to reach the grass verge opposite which leads beside the road back to Pembroke Lodge. Stop for refreshment or continue towards Richmond Gate along the path near the road — after a short distance the path divides to separate pedestrians from cyclists. Leave the park through the right hand gate to reach the pedestrian crossing and Richmond Hill which goes down to the town centre. The alternative is to retrace your steps down to the towpath.