The Royal Park

I don’t claim to have a lot in common with Sir David Attenborough. He is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the greatest naturalists of our time, while I am just starting out on the back of a Zoology degree. However, one thing which I am proud to share with him is a love for Richmond Park. This royal park is one of my favourite places in the country, possibly on earth – it epitomises the term ‘home’ for me, full of happy childhood memories, and is where I first developed a love for the outdoors. I’ve lived ten minutes away since I was four years old; I know it like the back of my hand.

Richmond Park is a 2,500 acre patch of bliss in the middle of a bustling capital city. It seems out of place, at times, but offers endless opportunities for escapism. It’s easy to forget that you’re in London when you’re strolling along a lake-side path, surrounded by rolling fields and ancient oak forest. But you’ll soon be reminded as you round the brow of a hill and catch a glimpse of the Shard or the London Eye in the distance.

The photos displayed here were taken on the 13th of April 2017. That day, I took my younger brother and our dog up to the park to take photos of the deer. I’ve been trying to get him in to photography for years, so we headed off with my new (albeit second-hand) Nikon D5000 and the Panasonic Lumix that used to be our mother’s. And some tennis balls, to keep Monty occupied and avoid a ‘Fenton’ moment (if you don’t get that reference, click here, you won’t regret it).

While I had now been in possession of a DSLR for some time, I had only just purchased a telescopic lens (also second-hand), and my commitment to my recently-completed degree meant that this was the first chance I had to play with it. The park’s rules are strict in stating you should not go within 50 metres of the deer, particularly with a dog, so their docile nature and the surrounding beauty of Richmond Park made them the perfect animals to start to get to grips with my 55-300mm on. And while we would never approach them if we saw them close by, it’s not uncommon to round a corner and find yourself mere feet away from handful of red deer; the trees can hide them surprisingly well. Fallow deer can be found here, too, living harmoniously beside their considerably larger red cousins.

Richmond isn’t just good for deer though – this park is home to a plethora of species, far, far more than I could capture in a day. The invertebrate life here is incredibly diverse, from butterflies dancing among the flowers and countless ant hills littered across vast fields, to the less welcome invasive oak processionary moth, which can pose a health risk for humans and animals alike if you come into contact with them.

My bird identification skills are lacking, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that the park is a refuge for countless avians too. There’s the predictable crows, magpies, and starlings, of course, and owls, as well as rarer sights: two of Richmond’s fields are dedicated skylark nesting grounds and are protected as such, and I have also seen kestrels hunting elsewhere here (further highlighting the park’s ability to support a large population of small mammals).

Unfortunately, strict time constraints on our day here at Richmond meant that we had far less time than I would have liked to photograph the creatures that inhabit this place. Next time, I’ll be sure to dedicate a full day to the park, and I hope I’ll return with a much larger collection to show for it, particularly regarding the deer. I know they’re the obvious choice of subject here, but they’re so magnificent that it’s easy to spend hours sat watching them and marvelling at their beauty. I’m sure one day I’ll dedicate a whole post to them – I could talk about them for hours.

Whenever I go back to London from Bristol, my first move is always to head up to Richmond. Whether that’s on my bike, on a run, with my family, or just me and my camera, it’s one of my favourite places to be in the world. I don’t doubt that I’ll be back here soon, staring down my viewfinder and enjoying the wave of serenity that washes over me whenever I walk through the cast-iron gates.

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