Grand Days Out: Richmond Park

‘The Way’ Gates (Photo: Catherine Lawson)

Growing up right by Richmond Park meant that I spent a lot of time there as a child.

Year-round we rode our bikes and walked various dogs now long-dead. We ate Marmite sandwiches on the grass in the summer, and watched dad play rugby in the autumn and winter.

One of my happiest memories is of sneaking in at night with dad to stand atop King Henry’s Mound in Pembroke Lodge and stare at Halley’s Comet through binoculars.

However, never having owned a pair of wellies until quite recently (my mother got chillblains after wearing a pair precisely once in the winter of 1961 and so forswore them as the work of the devil), I must confess that my fond memories of Richmond Park are tempered with memories of squelching home miserably with wet, cold feet and soaked trousers.

So, having made sure the sprogs were kitted out with wellies and raincoats, Mr Lawson and I took them for a long walk in the woods on Saturday. It was one of those glorious, sunny autumnal days, and the leaves were a thousand different shades of red, gold and amber.

Now, I’d love to report that our walk was an Elysian idyll, free from noise or crowds, but as Richmond Park is home to legions of sweating MAMILs at the weekend parts of our route felt a bit like Piccadilly Circus just after chucking-out time. Dozens of grey-faced panting men lurched past us at speed while others sat quivering on the grass, heads on knees.

We parked in Pembroke Lodge car park and crossed the road (dodging the hordes of Wiggins-wannabes) to make a circuit of what I’ve always known as “the circular woody bit oppposite Pembroke Lodge.” Thanks to the Royal Parks website I discovered an hour or so ago that it’s actually called Sidmouth Woods. Who knew?

‘The Way’ Gates and Sidmouth Woods (Photo: Catherine Lawson)

Having rambled around the circular woody bit Sidmouth Woods, we were admiring the panoramic views of London and beyond when we stumbled upon these magnificent gates.

Called The Way, they are the work of young artist blacksmith Joshua De Lisle and were unveiled in June 2012 to mark the tercentenary of St Paul’s Cathedral.

St Paul’s and Richmond Park are connected via a protected 10-mile view of the cathedral from King Henry’s Mound.

The gates depict oak branches, which gradually morph into a concave top suggesting the curves of Christopher Wren’s dome. He is further acknowledged in the gates with the inclusion of a small wren sitting in the foliage.

They really are beautiful. Stand next to them and take in the vista through the trees beyond with, or without, binoculars. Then head to Pembroke Lodge and look again, this time with the aid of the telescope on King Henry’s Mound. You won’t be disappointed.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

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