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Posts Tagged ‘deer’

Autumn in the Royal Parks

Richmond Park, south west London

Red deer stag

Red deer stag

My original plans for a walk in Kent on this day were abandoned due to massive disruption to train services after a fatality at Swanley, but rather than head home and waste a day of glorious autumnal sunshine, I decided to head back into London and then south west to Richmond Park. At this time of year, the Park has two very unique spectacles on offer: the vivid autumn colour of the Isabella Plantation, and the astonishing display of deer in rut when the stags and bucks vie for status and mates in an often violent fashion. I last visited Richmond Park back in May, but the Park changes with each season and, as I mentioned before, it is somewhere for which I have great affection, so a return visit could never come too soon.

Start: Petersham Gate TQ182732

Finish: Richmond Gate TQ184737

Length: 4¾ miles – allow plenty of time for deer-watching!

How to get there: I took the train to Richmond (from London Waterloo or Clapham Junction, with South West Trains), but could also have caught the District Line or Overground. Then, from the bus stop just outside the station entrance, I jumped on a 65 bus towards Kingston, alighting at The Dysart Arms; the 371 runs along the same route. The bus stop is adjacent to Petersham Gate, a pedestrian-only entrance into the Park. At the end of the walk, as it was a pleasant evening, I strolled from Richmond Gate down Richmond Hill back into the town centre, but if you’ve walked far enough the 371 stops just outside Richmond Gate. Alternatively, turning left and walking down Star and Garter Hill takes you to the Dysart Arms bus stop to pick up the 65.

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A great walk through the best green space any city has to offer.

Capital Ring, Section 6 (sort of), Wimbledon to Richmond

Red Deer, Richmond Park

Red Deer, Richmond Park

I have written before about the ongoing attempt some friends and I have been making to walk the Capital Ring in its entirety and in order. But enthusiasm seems to have waned, and, to be honest, having looked at the map, some sections  – where the Ring largely follows uninspiring suburban streets – don’t seem to be worth the effort, so the idea of completion may now have gone out of the window. But one stage that simply cannot be ignored is that which begins in Wimbledon, crossing Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park to end by the Thames in Richmond. Parts of the route are as near to wilderness as you can get in a major city, matching the most attractive rural landscape for beauty. And for me, there is the added bonus of nostalgia as the route passes through places I played as a child, and somewhere I once worked in what might be the best job I ever had.

Start: Wimbledon Station TQ248707

Finish: Richmond Station TQ180751

Length: 8½ miles/5 hours

How to get there: Strictly speaking, this section of the Ring begins at Wimbledon Park tube station, on the District Line, but because it was a more convenient place to meet, we began at Wimbledon. Numerous buses, South West Trains services from Waterloo, the Tube, and Tramlink from Croydon make it a very easy place to reach. Returning from Richmond is just as easy: train (to Clapham Junction & Waterloo, or to north London and Stratford), bus or tube once more.

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Amazing engineering, both man-made and biomechanical, in the Weald.

Balcombe and Ardingly, West Sussex

Springtime Sussex countryside

Springtime Sussex countryside; in the distance, a Brighton to London train speeds northwards over Ouse Valley Viaduct

A forecast for a sunny day (well, they got it half right) sees me heading down the Brighton line to West Sussex for another wander in the Weald. The purpose of this walk was largely to take a closer look at a superb structure that I have whizzed over many a time, but at 90mph, which doesn’t really allow for a full appreciation. A carefully planned circular route also took in a number of other local landmarks, together with some stunning (if a little damp) countryside. This wasn’t a massively long walk by any means, but the conditions underfoot and the topography – wave after wave of sodden hills and valleys – left me quite exhausted by the end.

Start/Finish: Balcombe Station TQ306302

Length: 12½ miles/7 hours

How to get there: Balcombe station is on the London-Brighton mainline, about 45 minutes from the capital. Strangely, although the station is managed by Southern, only First Capital Connect services stop there unless you travel on a Sunday (as I did) when only Southern serve the station. Trains on any day of the week run at roughly hourly intervals.

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Green Belt and a National Nature Reserve – decaying asylums, veteran trees, Roman history and deer

Chessington to Ashtead, Surrey

Veteran Oak, Ashtead Common

Stag-headed veteran Oak, Ashtead Common. Despite being dead, such trees still provides valuable wildlife habitat, particularly when allowed to remain standing as here

One of my interests for many years has been veteran trees, not just because they make such an amazing habitat for other wildlife (each tree can be an entire ecosystem, involving birds, bats, other plants, invertebrates and saprophytic decay fungi) but also for their incredible size and the sense of awe that results from seeing, exploring and touching an organism that can be several hundred years old. There are many sites in Britain that can boast substantial populations of ‘vets’, many of which I’ve visited (including Richmond Park in Surrey, and Bradgate Park in Leicestershire), but one location that I have never explored is Ashtead Common National Nature Reserve, near Leatherhead in Surrey. I combined a visit to Ashtead with a walk through Green Belt on the very edge of London.

Start: Chessington South Station TQ179633

Finish: Ashtead Station TQ180590

Length: 5½ miles/3-4 hours

How to get there: Chessington South is at the end of a branch line from London Waterloo and is in Travelcard Zone 6. There is a half-hourly service operated by South West Trains, journey time 35 minutes. The return journey is from Ashtead, served by both Southwest Trains services from London Waterloo to Dorking and Guildford, and Southern services from London Victoria to Dorking and Horsham; both journeys back to the centre of London take roughly 40 minutes.

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Did I mention the rain? Actually, I exaggerate. It didn’t rain all day. Not quite.

Pulborough to Amberley, West Sussex.

A walk along the Arun Valley, taking in centuries of history and spectacular countryside and wildlife. And rain.

Start: Pulborough Station TQ043186

Finish: Amberley Station TQ026118

How to get there: Both stations are on the Arun Valley line, served by Southern services from London Victoria to Bognor Regis/Littlehampton/Portsmouth Harbour/Southampton Central via Horsham, taking about an hour and 20 minutes from Victoria to Pulborough. Many trains divide at Horsham – make sure you’re travelling in the correct part of the train. At the time of writing, Southern are offering a number of internet-only, advance-booking fares for £3 single, so £6 return if you book the outward journey to Pulborough and the return from Amberley. Bargain!

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