Thursday 13 May 2021
This walk was the fiftieth outing of the Longer Walks Group, a half century delayed somewhat by recent events. However, it was perhaps fitting that this meant we returned to the location of one of our earliest walks, Richmond.A grey, showery morning heralded the beginning of our walk, as the group assembled outside Richmond station for our customary start of walk photo. Suitably recorded for posterity, we set off (hoods up), crossing Richmond Green before reaching the south bank of the Thames. We now turned to face upstream, following the Thames Path under Richmond Bridge and across the meadows at Petersham. The riverside path was unusually quiet as we continued past the Ham House ferry, then Eel Pie Island, turning through 180 degrees as we walked around the huge meander that ends at Teddington Lock. At this point, we left the river bank, following a route through the streets of Ham, making towards our lunch stop on Ham Common. Continuing across the common, our next port of call was the Ham Gate entrance to Richmond Park, from where a short climb brought us to the highlight of today’s walk, the Isabella Plantation.
First planted in the 1830’s, this area is best known for its large collection of evergreen azaleas, which in early May were in full bloom, a sight greatly enjoyed by the group as we completed a circuit of the plantation’s streams and ponds. Returning to our route, we crossed the deer park ( complete with deer) to Pen Ponds, and then on past the Grade 2 listed White Lodge (better known as the home of the Royal Ballet School), heading north towards the East Sheen gate. As we approached East Sheen, we turned to faced west, following the path that ran close to the perimeter of Richmond Park until we arrived at the Richmond Gate, exiting the park close to the Royal Star and Garter Home. By now we were on the terraces of Richmond Hill, which at 40 metres above the Thames, provided some final fleeting glimpses of the river, resplendent in the late afternoon sunshine. A fitting way to bring up the group’s half century!