Richmond is well endowed with green and open spaces accessible to the public.
To the east and south lies Richmond Park, a large area of wild heath and woodland originally enclosed by Charles I for hunting, and now forming London's largest royal park.
This park is both a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
It is about three times the size of Central Park in New York and it contains on a permanent basis around 650 red and fallow deer.
There are several substantial buildings within the park; notably Pembroke Lodge and White Lodge. To the north lies Old Deer Park, a 360-acre Crown Estate landscape extending from the town along the riverside as far as the boundary with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
This contains wide green lawns, municipal sports pitches and playing fields, rugby and athletic grounds, swimming pools, two Royal Mid-Surrey golf courses, and the Grade I listed former King's Observatory erected for George III in 1769.
Rising southwards from Richmond Bridge is Richmond Hill, together with the Terrace Gardens that slope up from the River Thames. These gardens were laid out in the 1880s and were extended to the river some forty years later. The broad gravel walk along the top of the hill is of earlier vintage and the view from there west towards Windsor has long been famous. A grand description of the view can be found in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Heart of Midlothian (1818). Apart from the great rugby stadium at Twickenham and the aircraft landing and taking off from London Heathrow Airport the scene has changed little in two hundred years. The view from Richmond Hill now forms part of the Thames Landscape Strategy which aims to protect and enhance this section of the river corridor into London. It is a common misconception that the folk song "Lass of Richmond Hill" relates to this hill, but the song is actually based upon a lass residing in Hill House at Richmond in the Yorkshire Dales.
The name chosen by the founder of the US city of Richmond, capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, derives from here. The founder had spent time in Richmond during his youth and knew that the views from the hills overlooking the rivers in both places were similar. Naturally these two Richmonds are twinned.
A commanding feature on the hill is the former Royal Star and Garter home. During World War I an old hotel on this site, which had been a popular place of entertainment in the 18th and 19th centuries but had closed in 1906, was taken over and used as a military hospital. After the war it was replaced by this handsome building providing accommodation and nursing facilities for 180 badly injured servicemen. It was run as a charitable trust, and continues to be, but the trustees have concluded that the building does not now meet modern requirements and cannot be easily or economically upgraded. There are now plans to transfer the 180 patients to three separate sites in other locations, at least one of which they hope will be in or near Richmond. The future of this listed building is at present uncertain. Nearby is the factory, staffed mainly by disabled ex-servicemen and women, which produces the poppies sold each November for Rememberance Day.
The river is a major contributor to the interest that Richmond inspires in many people. It has a lively frontage around Richmond Bridge, containing many bars and restaurants. Within the river itself at this point are the leafy Corporation Island and the two small Flowerpot Islands. The Thameside walkway provides access to residences, pubs and terraces, and various greens, lanes and footpaths through Richmond. The stretch of the Thames below Richmond Hill is known as Horse Reach, and includes Glover's Island.
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