Wednesday, 13 October 2010 12:00 AM
London is the most visited city in the world, but there are still many parts of the capital that have yet to be discovered by tourists and Londoners alike. Cat Hughes' blog takes us down London's less travelled paths to reveal its secrets and some of the more unusual things to do in Ye Olde London Town:
Richmond, Surrey may not be right in the heart of London yet it's so close and easy to get to. It's 15 minutes from Waterloo on the train and it's on the District Line.
This pretty and tranquil part of the city is somewhat off the beaten tourist track. Once the playground for royalty, the rich and famous, Richmond is bypassed as tourists flock to its more famous sister, Kew, and her botanical gardens.
The Thames meanders past the town centre and its banks are lined with bars and restaurants; Stein's, the Bavarian beer garden is the perfect place to enjoy a beer and watch the rowers streak past on the calm water. Also along the river bank you can hire bikes and cycle along the river to Kew or to Richmond Park.
Before you get to Richmond's most popular attraction, take some time to walk through Terrace Gardens (It's on the way). These gardens were once part of three 18th-Century estates but were opened to the public in 1887. With views of the Thames this is one of London's most beautiful spots for a picnic.
But it's the old royal hunting grounds, Richmond Park that is the main attraction and so it should be with its 2,500 acres of woodland, grasslands, ponds and roaming deer.
The best way to explore this vast landscape is just to wander around and you will come across majestic Red deer stags and elegant Fallow deer (better known as Bambi deer as I've heard a number of children and their parents call them). You will also see herons in the ponds and horseback riders cantering up some of the many hills.
The park is also home to the Royal Ballet School and Pembroke Lodge, whose gardens have rose beds and evergreen magnolias.
There is something for everyone in the park, with two 18-hole 'pay and play' golf courses and a 16-bay driving range. And for the kiddies there are two play areas; one at Petersham Gate and the other at Kingston Gate. Or even better just let them run wild in the woods and ferns pretending they are Robin Hood or exploring the jungle.
If you don't want to pretend you're in somewhere more exotic then the Isabella Plantation is where you want to go. The plantation is an ornamental organic woodland garden full of exotic plants.
Plant enthusiasts will be in heaven; who needs Kew Gardens when this is free! There are 50 different species of rhododendron, 50 Kurume Azaelas and 15 varieties of deciduous azalea.
For people who know nothing about plants, me included, it a very pretty place no matter what time of year you go, as is Richmond itself. The only downside to the park is that it's on the fight path to Heathrow and, other than spotting Wembley Stadium in the distance, you can easily forget you are in London.
By Cat Hughes
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