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A package of environmental and access improvements to the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park have been unveiled by The Royal Parks.

Improvements to the 40 acre ornamental woodland garden include:

  • an oak gazebo in Wilson's Glade;
  • a new fully accessible toilet block;
  • access improvements for wheelchair users, including resurfaced paths and upgraded bridges; and
  • environmental and ecological improvements including desilted ponds and control of invasive plants.

The changes are part of an ongoing improvement project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery.

Jean Naylor, an accountant who has been a horticulture volunteer for the project over the past three years said:

"Alongside other volunteers I have helped gardeners with cutting down rhododendron ponticum and new planting. The good thing about being a volunteer for this project is you can give as much or as little time as you have. So even those who can only spare a few hours a month can still get involved. I have enjoyed the experience immensely and am really proud of the results."

The project has offered those without cars the opportunity to visit the Plantation via a free minibus service that stops at all gates of Richmond Park on a Wednesday. The minibus service, which has been provided in partnership with Richmond and Kingston Accessible Transport (RAKAT), has been operating from April to August of this year.

Jo Scrivener, Assistant Park Manager for Richmond Park said:

"The minibus service has been a great success providing people, especially those without cars, the opportunity to visit the Isabella Plantation in spring and summer. One gentleman using the service was 90 years old and said he had been unable to visit the Isabella Plantation for the past 25 years. The minibus changed that. On the back of its success we hope to offer the minibus provision again next year."

Colin Buttery, Deputy Chief Executive of the Royal Parks said:

"This project has been a resounding success and significantly it has enabled the whole community to become more involved with Isabella. Fantastic improvements have been made to enhance access to the gardens, raise the horticultural interest and provide accessible toilet facilities with a shelter.  I would really encourage people to come and see what has been achieved.

"However, the project doesn't end there. We have just recruited another apprentice gardener for the Isabella Plantation, and currently have several young people creating a short film on the Plantation as part of an ongoing programme of events and activities."

The Isabella Plantation Access Project is delivered by The Royal Parks with a £1.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund, and a £120,000 grant from the SITA Trust to fund ponds and streams.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities for this project email Isabella@royalparks.gsi.gov.uk or phone Chris Lilly on 0300 061 2218.

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