What a lovely surprise visiting Isabella Plantation. Who knew? After growing up in London (I live in San Francisco now) and my family still living across the pond, none of us had ever heard of this magical “hidden” garden – until recently, when it was recommended to one of my sisters as a special place to go and be with nature. And special it is!
Isabella Plantation – London
Isabella Plantation is a good place to visit while on vacation in London. Opened in 1953, the woodland garden sits on 40 acres in Richmond Park (a designated Nature Reserve) – just a stone’s throw from where large herds of fallow and red deer roam freely and graze. In 1831, Lord Sidmouth (Richmond Park’s Deputy Ranger), planted beech, oak and sweet chestnut for timber, gave the area its name, and enclosed the Plantation to protect it from the deer.
Today, the hidden garden oasis is filled with exotic flowering plants, shrubs, trees, streams, ponds, butterflies, dragonflies, and birds. To gain access to the garden (admission is free), just walk through the wrought-iron “Isabella Plantation” gates. It’s such a beautiful, relaxing place to stroll and enjoy being outdoors. It’s especially magical during sunset (when the weather is nice) and the sun is filtering through the trees.
Stepping stones and garden paths lead to one of our favorite spots — Thomson’s Pond, surrounded by weeping willows and filled with water lilies. No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always something new to see. Springtime is spectacular – the garden is filled with color and beautiful Camelias, Magnolias, Daffodils and Bluebells. From late April, Azaleas and Rhododendrons are flowering. Summer, Fall and Winter are also great times to visit – each season paints its own unique picture.
Isabella Plantation is also a bird lovers paradise. The habitat’s resident bird species include the Redpoll, Bullfinch, Woodpecker, Sparrow Hawk and Tawny Owl. Expect to see water fowl too — Pintail, Tufted Duck, Pochard (pictured below), and Mandarin Duck. Throughout the year, visiting birds migrate to the garden, including the Wood Warbler, Redstart, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Green Sandpipers, Siskin, Reed Bunting… and more!
While you’re in Richmond Park, be sure to check out the wandering deer grazing in the nearby field – they’re such beautiful creatures. We managed to get quite close to them (they’re my favorite animal), but it is recommended (for your safety) that you keep your distance.
Did you know about London’s hidden garden?
What is your favorite time of year to visit Isabella Plantation… and why?