An hour outside of the centre of London, but still within the London transport system (and included in the day pass that many tourists use as it's in Zone 6) lies the sleepy little towns of East Molesey, Kingston and Hampton. These would be unimportant places for a tourist except for the fact that these towns border and serve Hampton Court Palace, and the surrounding former hunting grounds known as Bushy Park. Almost 500 hectares (1100 acres) of green open spaces, fountains, trees and forest make up this royal park, and that's about 500 sports pitches for those of you (myself included) who can't imagine a hectare!It was created in the 17th Century as a private reserve for the royalty who lived in Hampton Court Palace to hunt and enjoy nature in the early 16th Century. Most famously the palace housed King Henry VIII (the ones with lots of wives) and it was he that enlarged, expanded and modernised much of the palace.
The gardens in the palace are huge and beautiful, with 250 year old trees, massive lakes and all the front gardens are free to enter. The back gardens which can be seen from the nearby river are pay to enter, but well worth it, as they contain massive flower arrangements and a grape vine planted in 1768 that is one of the largest/longest in the world.
I was lucky enough to live right next to this beautiful area a few years ago, and ran through the park every day to work.
Bushy Park is a massive open area, with little paths crossing from one side to the other, and it's one of the best places in the London area to walk, enjoy nature and get a little bit of peace away from the hectic feeling I always get from the city. In late September and October you can see the huge deer stags fighting with their antlers for the right to breed (but be careful, as they are very aggressive in these weeks).
There is also a great open air heated swimming pool right next to the park that is well worth a visit!
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