Bushy Park

In which I foolishly attempt to walk across the open space of London's second largest Royal Park under the baking sun of perhaps the hottest day of 2012.

Heron Pond

The English summer of 2012 will not go down as a good one. The Guardian reported "[m]ore than twice the average rainfall hit the UK in April. June was the wettest since records began, and the start of July has seen a month's rain fall in 24 hours in some parts of the south-west."; "apocalyptic" for wildlife, said the National Trust.

Nevertheless, this mid-August Weekend was a rare scorcher. Anecdotally, I'm pretty sure it was the hottest of the year. So hot, that on the Saturday I unhesitatingly abandoned my plans to stroll the Brent, wanting neither to sit on tubes across town nor to walk, and instead sought out the nearest available outdoor swimming, in my case the outdoor pool on the Old Deer Park in Richmond. A fantastic choice.

Sunday came and it was pretty similar: fiercely blazing sun in a cloudless sky, almost no wind. Determined to do some strolling on the weekend, but also hugely tempted to swim again, I planned to kill two birds by heading to Bushy Park, walking across it and cooling off at Hampton Pool. Somewhat tragically, though, I dithered around and set off so late that I had no real chance of getting to the pool before it closed.

This was a big mistake.

Before I even got to the station I was severely regretting the decision to go walking. I debated turning back to abandon the photo-walk and grab my swimmers, but no... The air-con on the train was a brief respite before reaching Teddington and making the short walk down suburban streets to the park gate.

By this point I seriously didn't want to be here, but turning right round and taking the same train back seemed pointless indeed... So I started walking, and for no particular reason I bore right.

Heron Pond

Bushy House

I walked past a grand looking hall, which later research determined to be Bushy House.

Originally the royal gamekeeper's lodge, in 1900 it became the base of the National Physical Laboratory. One of the NPL's creations was packet-switching, a method of digital networking upon which the Arpanet and Internet were built, thus allowing you to read this very page.

While most of the major science work has moved to adjacent new accomodation the house is still used by the NPL for conferences and meetings.

Continuing on past here, I promptly stumbled upon a scene which made my visit worthwhile.

Bushy House

Deer and cricket

Seemingly much tamer than their counterparts in Richmond Park, some of Bushy Park's deer were hanging out next to a game of cricket.

Deer and cricket in Bushy Park

Grazing,

Deer and cricket in Bushy Park

...hanging out on the pitch,

Deer and cricket in Bushy Park

...while shots were played,

Deer and cricket in Bushy Park

...they even seemed to watch the game, occasionally.

I wouldn't be surprised if they understood the scoring better than I do.

I spent a long time taking lots of photos, but never quite nailed the definitive shot. Still, I was very pleased to have stumbled upon the combination.

Deer and cricket in Bushy Park

The open grassland

I turned south and set off across the open grassland. I couldn't help but think how similar to Richmond Park it was. Had I been blindfolded and dropped here by helicopter, like some kind of latter day Anneka Rice, I probably would have assumed I was in Richmond Park. Clearly the ecosystem is very similar.

I was stopped by a Japanese couple inquiring if I had seen any deer. I had barely made it through the "y" of "yes" before the lady asked excited "Where?" I turned to gesticulate back towards the cricket pitch, and right on cue a deer walked past silhouetted against the white wooden fences. "How many did you see?" I shrugged, and offered a cagey "About twenty?"

"Twenty!" she squealed, her silent husband grinned and nodded, and they rushed off to see the deer. Seeing deer at close range (or any wild animal really) always cheers me up and thrills me, and it cheers me up even further to see or in this case meet other people who get the same excitement.

Bushy Park Bushy Park

Woodland Garden

I hungrily plunged into the Woodland Garden as soon as I found it.

Normally I would not be in much of a rush to enter the more formal parts of parks, and hang around the facilities & families/children-heavy parts of parks, preferring the open expanses. On this occasion though, I was incredibly happy to find a little shade and furthermore, an ice-cream.

However, no time to waste - with Cone of Rapidly-Melting Toffee Deliciousness in hand, I headed up to Cannon Gate and crossed the grand Chestnut Avenue, which I inexplicably failed to photograph. Instead, have a photo of it quite incongruously in the mist.

Woodland Garden

Bracken trails

I then aimed to cut south-east towards the chain of ponds leading toward Hampton Wick. In my way: an enormous expanse of bracken:

Bracken in Bushy Park

I cut through a barely visible trail, perhaps carved by deer, and reflected ruefully that doing this was much more fun when I was no higher than the bracken, and could really unleash my Jurassic Park-fueled imagination. Oh to be eight again.

Bracken in Bushy Park

The ponds

I emerged at Heron Pond, where a steady stream of people strolled or cycled past some sedentary sunbathers.

Followed by the charmingly named Leg of Mutton Pond, where a couple of guys were fishing.

At this point my large bottle of water was all-but empty, and I was quite happy to leave the baking park and head on home.

Heron Pond Leg of Mutton Pond Leg of Mutton Pond

Timothy Bennet

At the gate, I found this sign. Just as Richmond Park had John Lewish, the local brewer who successfully campaigned for guaranteed public access, so Bushy Park has Timothy Bennet. The 18th century shoemaker from Hampton Wick sued the ranger of the park, Lord Halifax, in 1752 after Halifax closed the path through the park, denying his shop passing traffic.

This rather summed up my experience of Bushy Park: a strange clone-but-oddly-slightly-different version of Richmond Park. It would be rude to say this is a poor man's Richmond Park, but as someone who lives closer to the larger of the pair, Bushy Park didn't give me any compelling reason to travel further and favour it for future park trips.

At the same time, I am aware that my experience of the park was rather distorted by weather that demanded submarine immersion of some kind, not strolling over the sun-baked TW savannah. So I shouldn't judge it too harshly.

And it is immediately adjacent to Hampton Court Park (and Palace), which justifies the trip to zone 6 for many tourists - myself yet to be counted amongst them. Another time!

Monument to Timothy Bennet, shoemaker of Hampton Wick
Zones 6
Waterloo/Vauxhall/Clapham Junction to:
Teddington
Hampton Wick
London Borough of Richmond upon Thames