Jamie – 6 August 2011
I lived in London for three years about 20 years ago. I was 12 kilos lighter and a committed long distance runner. These last two facts are obviously related. While I moved around a bit in that time I spent about a year living next to Richmond Park in south west London, and this was a 2,500 acre runner’s paradise.
In summer, when the sun sets well after 9pm, I would run a lap of the park (15kms) three nights a week after work. The last 3 kms would often involve a race against one of the double-decker buses going along Upper Richmond Rd. It was always a close race. They would beat me easily on the straights but each time they came to another stop (about every 500m) I would catch up and pass them. Inevitably it would come down to how many stops the bus had to make and how good my legs were feeling that day. There was a bit of pride on the line too as some of the passengers realized what I was trying to do and would stop reading their Evening Standard to watch the contest.
Sometimes I did a half lap and cut through the centre of the park. This felt like you were in the middle of the English countryside, hundreds of miles from any city, and also came with the delight (and sometimes danger) of running amongst 650 free-roaming deer. The deer mostly just watched you go by but occasionally, at certain times of the year, they get a bit territorial and would give you a little charge. That certainly put an extra spring in my step. Not that it ever came to anything. I recall another runner’s advice that if one of the deer charged proper I should zig-zag as they drop their head to bring those magnificent antlers into play, and quickly give up once they realize they keep going in the wrong direction.
So it was with fond memories and the promise of reindeer that I took the children off to Richmond Park yesterday. The deer did not disappoint.
After being told we might see deer if we walked 2 mile down one of the many park roads (not an attractive option with three young children and no guarantee of a sighting) we were spoilt with about 20 males, complete with fully grown antlers, cresting one of the nearby hills and walking straight towards us. We all froze; ready to duck behind a nearby tree. To our amazement they just wandered past us, probably about 25 metres away, and proceeded to walk straight into a nearby pond, shaded by large weeping willows. It was a hot day and they just wanted to cool off. They didn’t mind the four Adamsons and a lovely old-timer sitting by the pond watching them having a dip. Our new friend said he had been coming to the park every week for over twenty years and had never seen them descend into that particular pond en-masse like that. It felt like we had been given a special private viewing. After about a quarter of an hour they exited the pond and marched back up the hill.
The children, who had been somewhat difficult that morning, were mesmorized by the sight of these magnificent animals and talked (calmly) about little else all the way home on the bus. Something about animals always brings out the best in children. Their only disappointment was that none of the reindeer appeared to have a red nose.