I have to admit that until the other week I had never heard of the Isabella Plantation, despite having lived pretty close to Richmond Park for a few years now. But it started appearing on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago with the most stunning azaleas in bloom and I was surprised when I looked it up how close it was to us – just 30 minutes drive! So once it got to the weekend, we jumped in the car and headed down the A3 towards Richmond.
Car parking in Richmond Park is free, and the best car park for the Isabella Plantation is the Broomfield Hill Car Park, a little way inside the park itself. It’s still about a 5-10 minute walk to the plantation itself, so worth taking a pushchair if you have little legs with you. The walk there is how I typically think of Richmond Park – all open grassland, yellowed in the sun, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot the deer (we did!). But as you step through the gates into the Isabella Plantation it’s like a whole new world opening up. It’s darker, shadier, but with bursts of colour everywhere you look from the azaleas and rhododendrons – hot pinks, pastel pinks, deep purples, all set amid a backdrop of deep green.
If I’m completely honest, I think we’d missed the azaleas looking their absolute best by about a week, so late April and very early May is probably the best time to visit, but the display was still pretty spectacular.
There is a stream running through the plantation, with dense planting around it, and numerous little bridges that you can cross – Max loved trip trapping over every one he came across! It’s all very pushchair friendly, with well laid paths and no steps that we came across.
We found a lovely pond at the far end, with lots of very friendly ducks, as well as a gorgeous spot to take our monthly family photos.
For me (and very definitely for Max), the only downside of the Isabella Plantation is the lack of a cafe. Max got very hungry and despite the snacks I’d bought, kept demanding to be taken to the cafe. I fear I’ve created a monster! There is a small hut at the Broomfield Gate car park, but it’s a coffee and ice cream type place, rather than the cafe Max had in mind. I think in the summer, we might return with a picnic, to give us a bit more of a day out.
The Isabella Plantation, Broomfield Hill Car Park