Richmond Park covers an area of 2,500 acres in the centre of London. It is one of eight Royal Parks and was created in the 17th Century by Charles I when he set up court in Richmond Palace to escape the plague in the city. Today, most of the park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and provides a colourful habitat for a variety of wildlife including red and fallow deer. The park has a number of decaying trees which provide a habitat for the elusive stag beetle and green woodpeckers. It also has fenced off ornamental areas which are full of beautiful flowers such as camellia and bluebells.
The park website sets out the many ways to get there by public transport, although there are also car parks for those travelling by car. The park is accessible via several train stations including Mortlake and Richmond. Many buses serve the park and it has good bicycle access. There is a free, wheelchair accessible bus service that runs through the park on Wednesdays from March until October.
Between September and November every year the deer can be seen rutting. In this natural spectacle, the males compete for females by locking horns, covering themselves in leaves, and bellowing. We observed one chasing a dog that got a bit too close (the dog escaped unharmed). WildSide recommends preparing a hot thermos flask of tea and getting up at dawn to catch the action, from a safe distance of course. Nothing compares to seeing the stags’ breath as they roar in the misty autumnal morning! It really is an amazing break from the city. There are places where you can look at huge deer against a backdrop of high-rise buildings!
Average rating: 4.4 (very good)
Average spend per person: $5 ($0 – $19)
Number of reports: 8
Best time to visit: All year-round. The deer rut is between September – November and young deer are born between May – July
Typical activities: animal watching, bird watching, walking
WILDLIFE IN Richmond Park
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here include:
FALLOW DEER – 88% OF VISITORS (7/8) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Fallow deer are beautiful, ghostly creatures. They can be distinguished from the red deer of the park as they are smaller and paler, sometimes with mottled, patterned sides. The bucks have broad, flatter antlers. The fallow deer rut is slightly different from the red deer and usually involves a gentler parallel parade with the occasional antler clash.
Fallow deer can be found all over the park. There are around 315 of them so you have a good chance of catching sight of one if you roam around the park for a while. While you can get close as the deer here are accustomed to humans, it is still a good idea to take binoculars. This means you can avoid getting too close to disturb them, especially during the rut or birthing seasons.
GREEN WOODPECKER – 38% OF VISITORS (3/8) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
144 species of bird have been recorded in Richmond Park in the last ten years. Generally, if you are interested in bird spotting the pen ponds in the park are a go-to destination! The noisiest birds by far are the ring-necked parakeets, which career around and squawk loudly. The green woodpecker is more difficult to hear (and see) than those birds! In fact, all three species of native woodpecker can be found in the park. To find the green woodpecker, listen out for its distinctive “yaffle” call. Although it nests in tree holes, it can be seen hopping around on the grass looking for ants and other invertebrates – so watch your step!
RED DEER – 100% OF VISITORS (8/8) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Richmond Park is home to around 300 red deer. These are larger than the fallow deer also found in the park. They are impressive, majestic creatures, which almost feel out of place so close to the city. They can be found all over the park, but they tend to stay away from car parks and other busy areas. Between September and November, the rut occurs and can be quite fierce as the stags lock horns to best rivals and establish themselves a harem of bucks. You are recommended to keep your distance from the testosterone pumped stags at this time – apparently they forget to eat or sleep so no wonder they are grouchy!
Photo credit: Rob Morris, WildSide