Richmond - or, to give it its full title, Richmond-upon-Thames - is unique in being the only London borough to straddle the river. Here, on the southwestern periphery of London, the Thames describes a massive, lazy, S-shaped meander and the borough nestles within both loops of the 'S'. Covering an area of around 18 square miles, or 57 square km, That part of Richmond south of the Thames was formerly part of Surrey, while the northern part was formerly part of Middlesex. Its incorporation into London has added a great deal of greenery to the capital, for around a third of the borough is parkland.
This parkland has Royal roots. In the eastern half of the borough is the massive spread of Richmond park - a former Royal hunting ground, now a public open space bigger than the whole of central London and virtually undeveloped. The park's nationally famous herd of deer roam an area of mixed woodland and grassland, dotted with a couple of lakes, crossed by a couple of roads and featuring London's premier ballet school as one of its few buildings. Further north, nestling against the riverbank itself, are the twin green spaces of Kew Gardens and the Old Deer Park, also once in the private hands of royalty. Kew is now the home of Britain's foremost botanical garden, while the adjoining Old Deer Park is private ground, home to sports clubs and the home of a former royal observatory. On the western side of the river, tucked within the bottom loop of the 'S', is Hampton Court Palace, one of the principal homes of the Tudor monarchs; the palace, its famous maze and its extensive parkland surrounds, are open to the public.
Richmond town itself is a most agreeable little place, one of London's most individual town centres with a charming and slightly chaotic street layout full of interesting hidden corners. It also benefits from its superb riverside setting. Ham and Petersham, sandwiched between the riverside and Richmond Park, are still effectively country villages. Across the river within the western half of the borough are a number of equally charming and interesting localities, from the old world charm of Hampton Wick, the grand riverside vistas of Teddington and Marble Hill, to the bustle of Twickenham, effectively the borough's second "town" and the site of England's national rugby football stadium.
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This page last updated 8th December 2006