Viewpoint/Beauty Spot, free entry
020 8948 3209
The plantation was enclosed in 1831, (as shown by a small iron sign) when most of the oaks, beeches and sweet chestnuts were planted. However, some of the oaks are much older, one venerable pollard certainly predating the enclosure of the Park in 1637. From a simple streamside walk, begun in the late 1940's the woodland garden has grown to encompass around 40 acres of lawns and glades, streams and ponds, and heather and bog gardens. Opened in 1953, much of the present-day Garden was laid out by George Thomson, MVO, (Park Superintendent) and his Head Gardner, Wally Miller, BEM. Their successors have all contributed to its further development, which also embodies the ideas and enthusiasms of the many gardeners who have worked there over the years.
The Garden is colourful throughout the year. In the spring, camellias and magnolias blood above drifts of daffodils and bluebells and most of the rhododendrons and azaleas come into flower. In summer, Japanese irises, day lilies and candelabra primulas brighten the streams. Late rhododendrons accompany the flowering styrax trees and the richly fragrant Magnolia sinesis. In autumn, the brilliant tinted leaves of Fothergill, Japanese acers and tupelo trees range from scarlet to butter-yellow. The Guelder Rose, rowans and hawthorns carry bright autumn fruits. In winter the fragrance of Witch Hazel and Mahonia hangs on the air. Rhododendrons 'Christmas Cheer' and 'Mid-Winter' come into flower along with early camellias. The decorative barks of the Tibetan Cherry, Himalayan Birch and Snake Bark Acer become conspicuous.
In the Conservation Area, which is not open to the public, plants are propagated and grown on until they are large enough to plant out into the Garden. Leaves from the paths and lawns are stacked for leafmould; cut bracken and shredded prunings are rotted down for compost.
Isabella is part of the Richmond Park Site of Special Scientific Interest and maintained organically, without the use of pesticides.
The Garden provides rich and varied habitats for animal. Deer are excluded because of the harm they would cause, but grey squirrels and rabbits are plentiful. It is difficult to prevent squirrels stripping the bark from young branches but barriers around vulnerable plants can reduce rabbit damage. Early visitors may glimpse the nocturnal fox, but usually the only sign that the badger has passed by is a swathe of turf upturned in the search for worms and leatherjackets. Hidden in the vegetation are mice, voles and tiny shrews, together with weasels which prey on them.
Herons come to fish in the ponds, with mallards, coots and moorhens breeding successfully. Peg's pond has a collection on pinioned native wildfowl, including Tufted Duck, Pochard and Shelduck; exotic mandarins are free to come and go. In winter tits move around din small groups, often feeding from visitors' hands. Woodcock and Snipe looking for food and shelter, may be glimpsed alongside the streams. Spring and summer bird songs may reveal that resident blackbirds and thrushes have been joined by summer migrant willow warbler, chiffchaffs and blackcaps. The Great Spotted Woodpeckers drum on high dead boughs; Green Woodpeckers, which frequently feed from ant hills, emit a coarse 'yaffle'. Whatever the season, small birds especially may fall prey to the spectacular aerial kills of the Sparrow Hawk.
TQ 197718 51.43256 -0.27944
From Richmond Station, take the 65 bus to Ham Common, walk down Ham Gate Avenue (3/4 mile to Ham Gate), climb up hill to Ham Cross, cross the road and walk down the closed road. Veer right and enter the Isabella Plantation from the Disabled Gate.
There is disabled parking at the plantation.
If you are driving, travel towards Kingston or Robin Hood Gate. There is a car park and refreshments there. It's a short walk to the plantation.
- Disabled toilets
- Disabled access
- Dogs not accepted (except guidedogs)