1. Spend a glorious day in Richmond Park, London’s largest royal park and the second-largest urban park in Europe, extending to 2,360 acres. It’s classified as a European Special Area of Conservation, a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest – with a plethora of flora and fauna – and is famous for its deer which number around 650. The park’s royal connections date back to Edward I (1272-1307), who established a royal palace at the Manor of Shene (Sheen), which remained in royal ownership until 1851.
Be sure to visit the magical Isabella Plantation, a 42-acre ornamental woodland garden packed with exotic plants and designed to be interesting all year round. In spring there are camellias, magnolias, daffodils and bluebells, while the azaleas and rhododendrons flower in late April and early May. The Plantation has 15 varieties of deciduous azalea and houses the national collection of 50 Japanese Kurume azaleas, as well as 50 different species of rhododendron and 120 hybrids.
Richmond Park, Richmond, TW10 5HS (020-8948 3209, royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond_park, Richmond tube, free).
2. Take a detour to the White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre in Richmond Park, a fine example of Neoclassical English Palladian architecture. Formerly a royal residence (Prince Albert, the future George VI, lived here), today it houses the Royal Ballet Lower School (for students aged 11-16) and is the first dedicated ballet museum in the UK. Visitors can learn about the daily life of students at The Royal Ballet School, the history and development of classical ballet, and the appealing story of White Lodge itself. Exhibits include Margot Fonteyn’s ballet shoes, the death mask of Anna Pavlova and the school reports of famous alumni.
White Lodge Museum & Ballet Resource Centre, White Lodge, Richmond Park, Richmond TW10 5HR (020-8392 8440, royal-ballet-school.org.uk/wl_museum.php, Mortlake rail).