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Bushy Park - ideal for autumn walks

Deer in Bushy Park

Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

Bushy Park, which lies to the north of Hampton Court Palace, is the second largest Royal Park, covering an area of 1,099 acres.

Its distinctive landscape has been shaped not only by its history as a royal hunting ground, but also by its many streams and ponds.

It became a royal park in 1529 when Cardinal Wolsey gave it to King Henry VIII, along with Hampton Court Palace. And it was Henry who turned what had been agricultural land into a deer chase. A section of the enclosing brick wall can still be seen along the north side of Hampton Court Road.

But it was Charles I who was responsible for bringing water to both the Park and Hampton Court Palace via the Longford River.

Designed by Nicholas Lane in 1638-39, built by hand over a nine month period and at a cost of just £4,000, the Longford River runs for 12 miles – from the north of Heathrow Airport down through Bedfont, Feltham and Hampton, through the Park where it feeds the streams and ponds, and on to the Palace itself.

And it was during the reign of William III and Mary II that Sir Christopher Wren conceived the now famous mile long avenue as a formal approach to Hampton Court Palace. Flanked on both sides by a single row of horse chestnuts and four rows of limes, and with the Arethusa ‘Diana’ Fountain as centrepiece, it is truly impressive.

Of course, in spring when bluebells, azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom, it has an added beauty, making this an ideal time for leisurely after-dinner walks. It’s also particularly lovely in autumn. But there’s also another reason for donning those walking shoes – the deer.

There are currently about 325 red and fallow deer in the Park, and although their grazing is essential to maintaining the wildlife value of the Park’s grassland, they are kept out of the Woodland Gardens and other protected areas.

It’s these areas that I particularly like and where I’ve enjoyed the company of foxes, rabbits (though not at the same time!) and birds – in particular, a robin that perched only inches away from where I sat and a heron that went on sunbathing just feet from where I stood. And yes, I do have the photographs to prove it.