We left college a little after 9 in two minibuses and a landy and drove to Richmond Park, a Royal Park on the outskirts of London. Its existence owes much to the love our ancient Kings bore for hunting and it is a real oasis- 2400 acres of countryside hidden from the sprawl of the city. Once inside its gates you really have no idea that London is so close; the sights and sounds are all of the land and the creatures and plants that make it their home. The purpose of our visit was to watch the deer that live in the park (Reds and Fallows) because this is Rutting Season, which means the males are aggressive and the females compliant.
We had a drive round the outskirts of the park to start of with and got our first glimpses of deer before being dropped off at the far corner and left to make our way back across the park to the minibus.
It started raining pretty much as soon as we got out (of course) and kept it up to varying degrees for the remainder of the time we were there. We were all thrilled about this as you can imagine, but being a Hardy Bunch Of Ecology Students, we threw such concerns to the wind (or rain) and Soldiered Bravely On.
Incidentally, being out in torrential rain for three hours is, as it turns out, a Good Test For Kit, and one which mine failed. Looks like those expensive wellies from earlier in the year (remember them?) will now earn their keep as my woof boots were soggy and uncomfortable by the end, and I have also now purchased a New Waterproof in colours more suitable for nature things, but more on that later.
We weren't sure initially if we were going to see any deer, let alone witness the deep belly roars and aggressive posturing the males indulge in at this time of year, but it wasn't long before we found our first stag:
Judging from the lack of general getting upness coupled with the overall air of exhaustion we reckoned this one (a Red Stag) had probably finished his rut and was therefore in recovery mode. Apparently it takes a lot out of them (which is a polite way of saying that male deer are a lot like men. Do the Hinds take to their beds as soon as their babies have dropped and claim exhaustion? I don't think so). Nothing was going to make this one move, thank you very much, not even a pack of damp students pointing binoculars and cameras at him.
This was a relief if I'm being totally honest because I have always been on horseback when I've encountered these magnificent creatures at this time of year before, and being up high on a Speedy Beast who can Run Away Fast if needs be does give one a certain sense of safety during Rutting Time. I'll confess to feeling a teeny weeny bit vulnerable on my own feet in the park, a sensation not much aided by the fact that the only half-decent waterproof I could find that morning was in a striking girly pink that felt ominously like a red cape....
As we got further into the park and away from the roads more deer became apparent.
This is a Red Stag with his Hinds (thank you to Sean for trying to drum into me the difference between Stags and Bucks, Does and Hinds, during the three hours we walked across the park. It is basically this: Red deer are Stags (male) or Hinds (female) and Fallow deer are Bucks (male) and Does (female). It took me most of the three hours to grasp this basic difference, a fact that afforded Sean and Andy much hilarity although I plead aging braincells and motherhood).
You can see him roaring in the above pic (not Sean, he was very polite in his instruction, I mean the stag). This was because these were on the other side of the clearing busily eyeing up his women. These young blokes were full of attitude but interestingly kept well away from the stag's "don't mess with me" range. Next year boys....
They were also busy eyeing up Jack, who got a bit close for comfort at one point. Luckily no harm was done. In our turn we eyed up the deer....
So far we had only found Red deer, and as impressive as they are what I really wanted to see was some Fallow. Somehow they feel like Real Deer to me. Not that I've been brought up on a diet of Bambi you understand (that sounds all wrong), it's more that spotty Fallows epitomise what I consider deer to be. Finally, after walking Quite Some Way across the park we found them...
We were so busy watching this huge herd sheltering from the incessant rain beneath some of the majestic trees that the park boasts that we almost missed this beautiful Buck below (I hope you are impressed, Sean?) who was sheltering still and silent in the trees behind us. It was only because some of the second year students pointed him out that we saw him at all.
Further on there were two more Bucks (Fallows). I was particularly struck by the first pic because of the background of tower blocks, a hint that London is on the doorstep and that this haven is a bubble suspended in time.
A little further on were two more Bucks beneath another tree, making rather a Classic English Scene (if you ignore the cyclist who appeared rather annoyingly in the background).
By now I was getting used to seeing deer everywhere we looked, which was perhaps not quite the right way to think about it. The Stags are magnificent though and it is hard to take them entirely for granted, even if you are standing in wet socks and rain is beginning to trickle down your neck towards your pants (not that my pants are huge and extend all the way up to the base of my neck you understand? They're not Granny Apple Catchers (yet). And Hopefully, if I keep up my swimming, they will never need to be (now there's an incentive).
By the way, I have been swimming this morning and The Lurker was there!!! Yikes! I caught his eye in the pool and quickly ducked under the water before he could say anything, which unfortunately meant I got an eye full of his rotund belly and chubby legs wobbling as he swam furiously past. Not Good. But he didn't follow me into the shower this time, which was something of a relief, although I suppose I did have A Lightning Shower just in case, so for all I know he may have been in the process of following, only I was too quick for him. Apologies for the digression away from the Far More Appealing subject of deer, but I do like to keep you all appraised of the Current Status Of My Own Personal Stalker, particularly given that so many of you have Stalkers Of Your Own- incidentally, how are they all?).
Let's get back to the deer....
As well as the deer, Richmond Park also boasts some particularly Fine And Interesting Old Trees which we all enjoyed wandering through and looking at.
|Calum and Caroline examining an old tree|
|Sean and Andy being Stoic In The Rain|
We managed to find our way back to the minibus (just) and of course the sun came out as we left. This is the Car Park Attendant, who greeted us as we all trooped soggily back to the transport home. Bit Gorgeous isn't he? And clearly Takes His Job Seriously.
Hope you enjoyed seeing them all- if you did and it's within reasonably driving distance, you could do a lot worse than get yourself down to Richmond and admire the deer in person- just don't get too close to the stags!
Have a good weekend all,
Ps- my brain is aching from all the learning I've stuffed into it this week so if there are any commas or apostrophes where there shouldn't be, any grammatical or spelling mistakes, be dears and ignore them (Denise in particular as she is Mrs English Teacher). Thanks loves :-)