Back in London and a lovely evening walk into Richmond Park and the gorgeous Isabella Plantation, a couple of hundred metres in from Ham Gate.
The plantation is fenced off, mostly to protect it from the deer, and has over the hundred and fifty years of its existence provided a lush ornamental garden, quite in contrast with the wild openness of the rest of the park.
Large enough to get lost in, it's real beauty lies is its subtle seasonal changes and fades as the Japanese Irises and day lilies close up to be replaced by the Autumn glory of the Acer trees blazing red. Elsewhere the rowan and spindle trees and beginning to swell, their berries riping for harvest.
Most visitors come to the plantation in Spring, glorying in the bluebell carpets and explosive displays of azaleas and rhododendrons, but tonight in the calm and warmth of late Summer it was as beautiful as I've ever seen it.
It has the air of a secret garden and passing through the gate we followed the deep cut stream that leads from Peg's Pond, with its jumping fish, through Fallen Oak Glade to Still Pond and the Southern end, without meeting a soul. Finally we headed back along Camellia Walk, round to the Beech Bay and back to the peace of the pond.
This part of London really is a fantastic place to live. The park itself is the biggest green lung south in the capital and the Thames is also at its proudest as it winds past Hampton Court and Richmond on its way to regal splendour of London. I often wonder whether the students, heads down as they run from lectures to the library, to the clubs and bars in Kingston are aware enough of these magical places that lie just a leap of imagination and short walk away from the routines of undergraduate life. I hope some of them, maybe staggering home on a Sunday morning after a big night out, do stumble across the Isabella Plantation. It's as magical as falling down a rabbit hole or stepping through a wardrobe into a snow covered world.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.