Our Festive Day Trip to Richmond Park


This weekend was super exciting because I finally got to visit Richmond Park. I've been nagging Harry to take me pretty much since December hit because I wanted to see the deer before Christmas to get in the festive spirit. No they aren't reindeer in case you were wondering, but it seemed to me that a lot of the places where you can see real reindeer are temporary events which I didn't like the sound of (I have visions of them in small pens amongst tons of garish Christmas theming), whereas at Richmond the resident deer live there 24/7 and are allowed to roam freely. 

After some very drizzly grey weekends we finally had some crisp sunny Winter weather to take advantage of so on Sunday morning Harry suggested we drive up to the park. It should've taken us about an hour and a half, but it seemed to take quite a bit longer because there was a lot of slow-moving traffic through London. I was beginning to wonder if it would be worth such a long drive, but as we pulled into the gates of the park and began driving through I realised it was! The park itself is huge. There are a number of different entrances and you are actually able to drive in a loop around the whole thing, this was particularly handy for us to get a bearing on where we were, find the different cafés and scout out the deer! 

We were very hungry after such a long drive so we first stopped off at the main visitor centre and Pembroke Lodge. This is a manor house that contains the main restaurant/café but it is also available for wedding and event hire. It was quite busy so I grabbed us a table by the window and soon Harry returned with an array of sandwiches, a slice of chocolate cake to share and drinks. As well as these they were also serving a selection of hot meals that looked delicious and fairly festive. We were impressed with the selection of food prepared on site and with the prices as they seemed fair when we were expecting them to be extortionate (especially as entry and parking in the park are completely free!). I had brie, basil and cranberry sandwiches while Harry ate chicken, pesto and pine nut and they were both tasty and didn't skimp on the filings. The cake was lovely and chocolatey but not too rich. 

Once we'd eaten we took a short stroll from Pembroke Lodge towards King Henry's Mound. Located up a short set of steps, the paved area offers a view overlooking one side of the park towards the Thames Valley, but it also provides a telescope which you can position to look between the trees behind you to give a close-up view of St. Paul's Cathedral.
"This steep mound, located in Pembroke Lodge Gardens, was traditionally the spot thought to be where King Henry VIII stood on 19 May 1536 to watch a rocket fired from the Tower of London. This was the signal that his wife Anne Boleyn had been executed for treason and he would be able to marry Lady Jane Seymour. The story is unlikely to be true because Henry spent that evening in Wiltshire and its more likely it was a prehistoric burial chamber from the Bronze Age and later used as a viewpoint for hunting and falconry. Now, it offers fabulous panoramic views of the Thames Valley to the west and distant view of St. Paul's Cathedral to the east. The St. Paul's view has been faithfully preserved by generations of landscapers who have created a tree-framed sightline from the mound to the dome. The view is now protected and no new building is allowed to impede it." (Source)

Next we returned to the car to drive around to the other side of the park where we had seen a herd of deer sleeping in the undergrowth when we came in. During our drive we saw two different herds of deer, some cows in their pen, lots of cyclists and dog walkers as well as some people dressed up on a Santa Fun Run! We parked in a small car park and set about walking over to a field where we had seen some stags. The parks advises keeping a distance away from the animals but some other park visitors were getting very close to them. I used my zoom lens to capture these images of the deer so that I could remain a respectful distance away from them. We watched the deer for awhile and followed as the stags moved back toward their herd slightly further away and saw more join them crossing the road. The deer really are beautiful, majestic creatures. As well as the deer there were also horse rides taking place in this area of the park and it was just generally really peaceful.

To me Richmond seemed a great park to visit in Winter partly because of the deer but also because you can easily drive around it and there are lots of places around to get a hot drink! Although our drive home was also quite slow, we took a route that led us through Chelsea and along the Embankment which made it a lot more interesting than just sitting in traffic. We drove past the House of Parliament, the London Eye and the Tower of London as got to see lots of Christmas lights too. Overall we had a lovely visit, and I really want to go back next year!



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