Thursday, 15 August 2013

London Richmond Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 9.8 km (6.1 miles), terrain: light hills

London Running Routes:
Best London Running Routes: Overview
Docklands-LimehouseRegent's Canal and Camden Town  
Hampstead Heath  
3-Parks Route: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park  
Regent's Park  
Hyde Park   

Chelsea
Heathrow Harmondsworth Moor  
Greenwich 

Richmond Park
Notting Hill
Victoria Park
Wimbledon Common Trail Run
Royal Docks/ExCeL Route 
For more running routes, see Route List.

Richmond is one of my favorite places to stay and run in London. This elegant old town on the banks of the quiet Thames has a lot of flair. And, what's better, it has a huge park criss-crossed by trails, a constant alternation between open grasslands, ancient forests and ponds. Richmond Park is the place to be on a nice summer evening.
Along the Richmond Park trail
I was looking forward to finally staying in Richmond again after a 20-year absence. I booked a room there just to run in the park, even though I was working in the city center.

Richmond Park forms a rough circle, about 2-km in diameter, just east of Richmond. On its eastern edge, it touches another park, Wimbledon Commons, meaning you can easily extend your runs eastwards.

We'll start the run in Richmond, down on the banks of the Thames, at Water Lane, where several riverside pubs form the heart of Richmond nightlife. The river is narrow here, and lined by a trail on this side (another great run!). There's a boat-ramp, and an island across the water.
The start at Water Lane along River Thames
Face the water and turn left to run southeastwards along the Thames riverside path under Richmond Bridge, past some rowing clubs and down through Buccleuch Gardens park. Stay on the paved path.
Boathouse in Richmond
At the south end of the park, the paved path ends at a field. Take the path to the left, and run uphill to Petersham Road. Cross the road at the zebra stripes then run further up across the grass-covered hillside to Richmond Hill street. This is the biggest climb of the run, rising about 40 meters.

Now you turn right and run the two blocks straight into Richmond Park, going by the gatehouse and through the iron gates. The park is surrounded by a brick wall.
Richmond Gate is straight ahead
That brings us to the subject of opening hours: being a Royal Park (like Regent's, Kensington Gardens and Windsor), it closes at night. It opens at 7- or 7:30 each morning, and closes at dusk. In the summer, that's between 8- and 9 p.m. For the exact times all year round, click this link.

Richmond Park, like about all the Royal Parks, began as a royal hunting grounds, stocked with deer. Later, it was made public. There are still more than 600 deer roaming the park.
Deer: you are bound to see some!
After entering the gate, stay on the paved path on the left side Sawyer's Hill Road along the left, heading east. Just continue going straight. Meadows open up in every direction, dotted with woods.

Luckily, most of the car traffic is turning right onto Queen's Road.

You will soon be able to see the skyline of central London off to the left horizon.
City skyline in the distance
A half-kilometer after the gate, the road goes downhill and curves to the left. At the bottom of the hill, you'll see a paved turnoff to the left to Holly Lodge. Turn right here, crossing the road and running south along the dirt road. First, it goes a bit uphill, then it curves to the left, going downhill, towards Georgian-style White Lodge crowning the next hilltop. This path is called Queen's Ride.

There will be woods off to the right side. This is one of my favorite spots in the park. There are lots of amazing ancient oaks in Richmond Park, and you'll find some of the most breathtaking old trees along the left side. Definitely take a closer look, and run by some of these forest ancients: gnarled, hollow, huge, silent witnesses of the ages. Some of them look like they might pull their roots out of the ground and walk away, like in Lord of the Rings. You will not soon see anything like them again. 
A Richmond Park oak
I got hit by a rain shower at this spot and waited it out under one of these gigantic trees.
The author waiting out a shower
When you get to the meadow at the bottom of the hill, just before it starts going uphill to White Lodge, turn right onto one of the paths.

You are now heading south towards two ponds, the Pen Ponds. You will come to the smaller pond first. Stay to the left of the water, running along the east side of the pond.
Pen Ponds
The ponds are separated by a dirt causeway. Cross the causeway. Now keep running along the east side of the larger pond.

The south end of the big pond is bordered by a woods. As soon as you reach the trees, you'll cross a small stream bed. Now turn left onto the dirt path curving to the southeast.

You are now running through varying grassland and trees, and you'll cross a paved bike trail.

You'll then start going uphill between two fenced-in woods. The woods on the right side is our next destination, Isabella Plantation, a garden in the middle of the park. NOTE: don't run on the trail with the loose orange sand: that is a bridal path (for horses). Take one of the smaller parallel paths for walkers.

Run on the path on the edge of the woods to your right. After cresting the hill, run down to the main entrance of Isabella Plantation, with its signs.

Go through the gates and you'll see a little stream on your left side. Now just follow the path next to the stream all the way through Isabella Plantation, running northwest.
Path along the stream in Isabella Plantation
At the north end of the plantation, there's a little pond. Take the path to the left of the pond and it leads you through the exit gate just past the water.

Now turn right and follow the dirt road for 50 meters as it leads back to the paved bike path.

At the bike path, turn left and follow it southwest to the park's most trafficed car road, Queen's Road. Cross the road and then turn right onto the dirt pedestrian trail next to the road.
Queen's Road foot trail
We'll follow this for the next 1.5-km, heading north, all the way back to Richmond Gate, where we entered the park.

You will run along a ridge, where you can see down grass-covered slopes towards the Thames on the left side. At the end of the slopes, there is a green sign pointing to a trail to Richmond Bridge, which goes down through the grass, curving to the right. You can take it if you want, but this route just follows the roads back.

When you exit the park, continue straight north along Richmond Hill. Stay on the left side of the street, and you can run in the narrow park along that side, overlooking the river down below.
View of Thames from Richmond Hill
More than a kilometer after you leave the park, the street name changes to Hill Street and comes into the town center.

Where the main road turns right at the House of Frazer department store, turn left onto Water Lane. In two blocks, you'll be back at the River Thames.

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