I’m lucky enough to live just a stone’s throw from Bushy Park, a royal park southwest of London sandwiched between Hampton, Kingston, and Teddington.
I probably don’t spend nearly enough time in the park, but whenever I do, it’s an absolute joy.
The Royal Parks Foundation says this –
Before a Royal Park…
The flat site of Bushy Park has been settled for at least 4,000 years. A Bronze Age barrow & burial mound was excavated near Sandy Lane and the contents are now housed in the British Museum. There are clear remains of medieval settlements, with the finest example found South of Waterhouse Woodland Gardens, where there are traces of the largest and most complex field system in Middlesex.
The Longford River
King Charles I had the idea of creating an artificial waterway in the park because Hampton Court Palace was always short of water. There was nowhere locally with a sufficient fall of water and so the Longford River was built exceeding 19 kilometres in length. It was designed by Nicholas Lane in 1638-39. It was built by hand, took 9 months to complete and cost £4000!
This mile long avenue was conceived by Sir Christopher Wren as a formal approach to Hampton Court Palace in the reign of William III & Mary II. Flanked on both sides by a single row of horse chestnuts and four rows of limes, it marks the park’s zenith in terms of royal ambitions and sophistication. The view from Teddington Gate provides the most striking view of the Avenue, with the Arethusa ‘Diana’ Fountain and the Banqueting Hall as the backdrop.
The House of Windsor
During the First World War (WWI), areas of land in the park were turned over to the plough to ‘Dig for Victory’. King George V gave his permission to use Upper Lodge as a home for Canadian Convalescents. Queen Mary visited the troops and made sure entertainment was provided with the help of local people. This Canadian tie with the park is commemorated by the Totem Pole and the Canadian Glade in the Waterhouse Woodland Gardens.
During the Second World War (WWII) large areas of the parks were again turned over for the production of food.
From 1942, Bushy Park became the site of a large U.S. base called Camp Griffiss, headquarters to a number of the Allied departments. General Dwight Eisenhower was averse to working in the centre of London during the Second World War. He decided instead to make Bushy Park the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) centre for planning Operation Overlord, the 1944 D-Day.