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The Wilderness

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens

Nestled within over 60 acres of historic gardens is the Hampton Court Palace Wilderness. This beautiful space was once Charles II's formal pleasure garden and is now a wild meadow filled with wildlife all year round.

Spring flowers and cherry trees

The Wilderness is at its most colourful in early April, when a sea of over a million daffodils and other flowering bulbs springs into life. This spectacle is further enhanced by the beautiful cherry trees, which also blossom in the spring.

The area provides nesting sites for many of Hampton Court's common birds such as blackbirds, blue tits and robins.

When

Open in line with palace opening hours


Ticketing information

A palace admission ticket is required to access our gardens. 


Included in palace admission (members go free)

Buy Hampton Court Palace tickets

The history of the Wilderness

Autumn in the Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace, showing trees that are turning orange in the autumn sunshine. A visitor can be seen walking through the trees.

Henry VIII's great orchard

The word 'Wilderness' first appeared in the Hampton Court records in the late 1600s, although before this time the area was used for Henry VIII's great orchard. The Tudor orchard was filled with pear, apple and cherry trees.

According to legend, it was here that Henry first learnt of the death of Thomas Wolsey, his former chief minister. By this time, Henry had taken over Wolsey's palace and gardens at Hampton Court and started remodelling them to reflect his own power and magnificence.

A formal Stuart pleasure garden

In the 1680s Charles II created a pleasure garden at Hampton Court in the French Bosquet style, where courtiers could take in the country air away from London. In England this formal style became known as a wilderness.

A wilderness typically consisted of several sections, which were often divided up by tall hedges and trees. The area was often set out with crossing geometric paths. An interesting feature, seat or statue could sometimes be found within each section.

In the original Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace, the paths were lined on either side with hedges of Hornbeam Carpinus betulus and large Elm trees.

The garden also contained the famous Hampton Court Maze, which is still one of the most popular parts of the gardens.

Two visitors walking hand in hand through the Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace.
Photograph of a family walking through the Wilderness at Hampton Court Palace

Changing fashions and a more natural appearance

As fashions changed, the pathways were gradually removed and the Wilderness lost its formal appearance. Many of the elm trees succumbed to Dutch elm disease in the 1950s and were removed.

The area was made even more natural with the massed planting of spring flowering bulbs, mostly daffodils, which began in the early years of the 20th century. The area is left un-cut for several weeks after the daffodils bloom in order for the bulbs to regenerate slowly in time for next spring.

EXPLORE WHAT'S ON

  • Things to see

Privy Garden

Explore the Privy Garden, now restored to its former glory and complete with its intricate Tijou Screen.

  • Open in line with palace opening hours
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Things to see

Hampton Court Gardens

Take time to explore and relax in these world-renowned gardens and find our free entry Garden Open Days dates.

  • Open in line with palace opening hours.
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Things to see

Kitchen Garden

Experience the recreated Kitchen Garden, which would have fed the Georgian royals and now supplies Henry VIII's Kitchens.

  • Open in line with palace opening hours.
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more

BROWSE MORE HISTORY AND STORIES

The gardens at Hampton Court Palace

A brief history of the famous royal gardens

Henry VIII, Terrible Tudor?

Who was the real Henry VIII?

Queen Anne

A surprisingly successful monarch, despite ill health and tragedy

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