Shad remembers his trips to Bushy Park

With all the beautiful sunshine we’ve had recently, I thought I would remind you of the wintry season we have just left behind, lest you forget to enjoy the nice weather while you can.  Do you remember the crunchy cold snow under your boots, the dark damp evenings and that morning feeling when the alarm clock screeches at you and your paw peeks bravely out from under your thick duvet as you resolve to get up?  I remember putting on my Christmas scarf and heading out into the bracing winter air with John to Bushy Park, the second largest of London’s eight Royal Parks and one of John’s favourite places to go.  It’s a picturesque mix of woods, gardens and grassland that provides a haven for some of Britain’s wonderful wildlife.

The big attractions are the herds of roaming Red and Fallow Deer that live and breed in the grounds.  Red deer are Britain’s largest land mammal although their size varies according to their habitat and the resources they have available to them.  The big fellas at Bushy Park are obviously well provided for and their buff coloured rumps stood proud some 50 or 60 inches off the ground.  I remember one particular trip on an autumn’s day when John and I crept stealthily towards a stag with our cameras poised ready, getting closer to a magnificent male and capturing some great shots.  He had the biggest antlers I’d ever seen, may be 28 inches high with several branches coming off the main stem like a glorious crown.  We were careful not to get too close but those gosh darn incredible ears of theirs are so efficient that he picked up the sound of a twig falling to the ground near us and lifted his head, making direct eye contact with me.  I froze in wonder at this beautiful beast and he simply huffed warm air out of his moist snout and walked casually away.  Respect!

There are lots more temptations to lure you to Bushy Park like the herons, ducks and swans that inhabit the ponds.  My favourite duck is the mandarin pictured here with its red beak, handsome black and white stripes and rusty brown mane.  It’s like an aquatic version of a tiger, only smaller with fewer teeth and feet.  Alright it’s not much like a tiger, except perhaps the golden colours and debonair demeanour.   But I did see a lion at the Park which some clever person fashioned with snow and a few sticks and leaves!

If you’re a water baby and enjoy the sploshing and swishing noises made by rivers and fountains, you would have liked the flowing stream and stony waterfalls that roll through Bush Park’s grounds.  I only like water when its warm and I can splash through it because I don’t mind getting my paws wet.  But ever since I fell in the fish pond at home I’m not keen on too much of the wet stuff so I kept well away from the edge.  I recall positioning myself perfectly for a shot of the chilly water cascading under the bridge and across the rocks when a grey squirrel darted past me and put me off my stride.  My camera tilted sideways so the shot was at the wrong angle and my paw slipped on a patch of damp moss resulting in a rather undignified sidelong lurch. As I made my recovery I caught a puffed-up green parakeet sniggering at me from the branch over my head.  With a cold belly from hitting the ground during my embarrassing incident in front of the parakeet, John picked me up gently and took me back to the car so I could curl up on the backseat with my special heated cushion and dream of chasing that cheeky squirrel!

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