8 Great Dog Walks In and Around South West London
By Vanessa Cervantes
1 Richmond Park
Nestled in the midst of South West London, Richmond Park is the city’s largest National Nature Reserve. In addition to two children’s playgrounds, free parking, public toilets (20p charge, card/contactless only), two cafes and a number of kiosks, it boasts an ecological wonderland of ancient woods, rolling hills, grasslands and meadows teeming with flora and fauna as well as lakes, rivers and ponds. While dogs are able to wander freely around much of the park, be wary of cyclists and cars on the roads and cycle paths. You’ll also need to keep a very wide distance and use a lead around the free-roaming deer and flocks of wildfowl that populate the park.
Dogs are also required to use leads in Isabella Plantation, the beautiful enclosed Victorian garden filled with creeks, ponds and stunning foliage, as well as around the other waterways, during deer birthing season (1 May – 31 July) and rutting season (September to November).
The nearest stations to Richmond Park are Richmond (for trains or the District line) or Kingston. Then either walk for 25 minutes or take the 371 or 65 bus to Petersham Gate (The Dysart) or Wyndham Road if you’re coming from Kingston. If you’re driving, the postcode is TW10 5HS.
(c) The Royal Parks
2 HAM WOODS, HAM COMMON and HAM LANDS
Located outside of the Ham Gate entrance to Richmond Park, Ham Common Woods is a local nature reserve offering acres of woodland, ponds and a meadow where your dog can explore the many paths off-lead. From the western border of this hidden gem, you can cross over Richmond Road onto Ham Common, the award-winning village green, with its stunning pond and beautiful tree-lined lawn and either pop into one of the two pubs at either end of it, pick up a picnic in the small parade of shops and cafes nearby or head directly towards Ham House, a National Trust house and formal gardens on the banks of the river Thames (dogs welcome on leads in the gardens). From here, there are a number of river, scrub and woodland trails in the area known as Ham Lands, another local nature reserve hosting a wealth of rare plants and wildlife.
The nearest stations are Richmond (for trains or the District line) or Kingston. Then walk for 25 minutes or take the 65 to Ham Gate Avenue. You can park on Ham Gate Avenue, Ham House and around Ham Common. Type TW10 5HB into your sat nav.
3 BUSHY PARK
Once Henry VIII’s playground at Hampton Court Palace, Bushy Park is the second largest Royal Park and like Richmond, is home to hundreds of wild deer, birds and small creatures as
well as ancient trees, rivers, ponds and grasslands. There is a large playground, a café and a kiosk as well as free parking and public toilets (20p charge, card/contactless only). Dogs must be walked on leads near the water, during deer birthing season (1 May – 31 July) and rutting season (September to November) but are welcome to explore most of the park off-lead the rest of the year as long as they stay away from the deer and wildfowl. They are not allowed into the Woodland Gardens, but with over a thousand acres of park to investigate, they’ll have more than enough exercise.
Bushy Park is a five-minute walk from both Teddington and Hampton Wick stations. Bus numbers 33, 481 and SL7 all stop nearby or if you’re driving, the postcode is TW11 0EB.
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4 WIMBLEDON AND PUTNEY COMMONS
With nine freshwater lakes and acres of grasslands, heath, woodland and bogs, it’s no wonder that Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath and Putney Lower Common are home to a variety of biodiverse ecosystems. Dogs must be kept on leads near the ponds and on the plain between March and August when the birds are nesting, but unless stated otherwise, they are allowed to swim there from September to February. While dog-walkers are permitted to cross the golf course, try not to hold up the play.
The nearest station to Wimbledon Common is Wimbledon and the nearest underground to Putney Common is East Putney, both a 25-minute walk away. Alternatively, many buses pass by or near so check from your location. If you’re driving, you can pay a voluntary parking fee at the car parks. Type SW19 5NQ into your sat nav for The Windmill Car Park (which has toilet facilities), SW19 4UW for the Springwell Car Park or SW15 3TU for the Telegraph Car Park.
5 WIMBLEDON PARK
To the east of Wimbledon Common is Wimbledon Park, an urban park comprised of two children’s playgrounds, a paddling pool, a café, tennis and volleyball courts, a bowls pavilion, adventure golf, an athletic track and a water sports centre offering kayaking, canoeing and sailing lessons on the glittering lake. While dogs need to be kept on leads near the water and wildfowl, there is a huge field within the park and an area of woodland known as Horse Close Wood, where they can run around freely making it perfect for a few hours of family fun.
Accessible from Wimbledon train station and Wimbledon Park or Southfields underground station (District Line) or you can park for free in the car park. The post code is SW19 8AU.
6 WANDSWORTH COMMON
For the best of both natural and metropolitan worlds, Wandsworth Common combines woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, meadows, lakes and ponds with the amenities you’d expect from a city park – playgrounds, tennis courts, a bowling green, toilets, an ice cream van and a café. A railway line runs through the two sides of the common which are joined by
a pedestrian walkover and dogs are required to be walked on leads around the water to protect the birds but there are acres of pathways to explore both on and off the beaten track. Wildflowers and a wide range of ecosystems flourish in this recreational treasure trove so be mindful of the signs advising where dogs must be walked on leads.
The nearest station is Wandsworth Common and there are a number of buses you can take depending on your location. Parking isn’t great as there’s no car park on the common and the usual restrictions apply to the surrounding streets. There is a car park at the station which is less than a 10-minute walk away.
7 BATTERSEA PARK
While relatively small compared to our abundant Royal Parks and commons, Battersea Park is one of the loveliest recreational areas in London. With its children’s zoo, fountains, bandstand, café, peace pagoda, boating lake and sports facilities, there is plenty for the family to do, while dogs will enjoy exploring the large open spaces, small hills, gardens, wooded zone and adjacent river paths.
The nearest underground is Sloane Square (District line) which is a twenty-minute walk away. Alternatively, Battersea train station is only 2 minutes away and various bus routes also service the area. For parking, head to SW11 4NJ where you have to pay and display.
8 SURREY HILLS
For those looking for rural adventures a stone’s throw from the city, head for the Surrey Hills, famous for their outstanding beauty, stunning views and natural wilderness. There are any number of dog-friendly walks to enjoy in the area ranging from hard-going to more manageable hikes. One of the most popular destinations is Box Hill, which is maintained by the National Trust and is made up of grasslands, woodlands and chalky slopes with paths leading down to the River Mole and Stepping Stones as well as numerous other easy to moderate walks through the meadows. With a couple of pubs within walking distance as well as a tea room and the visitor centre, Box Hill makes for a perfect day out with your dog.
The closest train station is Box Hill and Westhumble. If you decide to drive, parking is free for National Trust Members or you’ll need to pay and display. Head to KT20 7LB.