Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Richmond Park, 2,500 acres of it, lies on the edge of London, but once you are there you might be 100 miles away. There are several car parks, which always seem to be fairly full, but after two minutes' walking you can find yourself alone with the trees, and can walk for an hour without seeing a single soul - just deer, squirrels, rabbits, jays, and of course, the famous green parakeets, who flash noisily through the ancient trees. The park is full of ancient trees, great woods of oak and sweet chestnut. To walk through these woods with the sunlight dappling through the leaves and the deer moving quietly around you, is utterly refreshing and calming . There are wide open spaces, where skylarks nest, or which are covered with seas of bracken. Sometimes you see antlers rising magnificently above the bracken, or turning a corner come face to face with a hind and her fawn. The deer are red, or fallow, and graze in large herds across the park. They have been there since 1515, and the park is known to have been a royal park in the 13th century. At the highest point is the famous view of St. Paul's, which you can see through a ride cut arrow-straight through a wood. At the very end, filling the gap completely, is the familiar dome, 12 miles away. Just now the bracken is beginning to turn and the green seas are patched with brown and gold. The deer will soon start their rut and primeval bellowings will sound from the depths of the woods. I like to think of the park at night, when everyone has gone home and the gates are shut, the foxes and the owls come out and the night is filled with strange rustlings.