Richmond Park was established in its present form by Charles I, who in 1625 brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned the area on the hill above Richmond into a hunting park for red and fallow deer.
In 1637 Charles I enclosed the Park with high walls, an action that was not popular with the local residents, although he did allow pedestrians the right of way. To this day the walls remain, although they have been partially rebuilt and reinforced.
Legal action in 1758 by John Lewis, a public spirited brewer of Richmond, confirmed the right of access for pedestrians at all times and frustrated attempts by the Royal Ranger to prevent such access.
The Park has changed little over the centuries and, although it is surrounded by human habitation, the varied landscape of hills, woodland gardens and grasslands set among ancient trees abounds in wild life. This incredible environment has been created by centuries of grazing by herds of red and fallow deer.
Some features have been added to the Park. The Isabella Plantation is a stunning woodland garden, which was created after World War II from an existing woodland, and is organically run, resulting in a rich flora and fauna.
Richmond Park is a site of both national and international importance for wildlife conservation. It is London's largest Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve and a European Special Area of Conservation. The Park also incorporates the most important area of lowland acid grassland in the Greater London region. Lowland acid grassland is a priority habitat in the Government's Biodiversity Action Plan.
The Park is a top UK site for ancient trees, particularly oaks, which have great historic and wildlife importance. The trees and associated decaying wood support nationally endangered species of fungi, as well as a remarkable range of nationally scarce invertebrates such as the cardinal click beetle and the stag beetle. Over one thousand species of beetle (more than one quarter of the British list) have been recorded in the Park.