London Deer Parks: Our Favorites
London is pleasantly dotted with lush green spaces to relax and forget about the hustle and bustle of the city. Some have ponds, some have lakes; some have manicured gardens and others are home to wild animals...
Look no further then for the list of our favorite London deer parks including:
- One with a one-way glass viewing window
- One where it's probably harder not to see deer than to see them.
- And some tips on how to keep you and the deer safe during your visit.
There's something very special about spotting deer in London's parks. They are majestic animals, by the way they run, feed and even the way they fight each other, horns fighting one-on-one battles during the heat season from September to November.
But seeing them in London's parks is a little more special because you know that a few hundred meters away, in any direction, there's a bookmaker, an apartment block or a fast food takeout. And yet, right in front of you, are these wild animals.
No matter how many times you see them, living their peaceful, untamed lives in the relative wilderness of London's deer parks, it's still a pleasant surprise to come face to face with these four-legged Londoners. And they are Londoners. They've lived in London's parks for centuries and aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
But seeing one in London's parks is still special. To be walking and suddenly looking into one's eyes… makes you think about coexistence, about how we all share this land and how maybe it's really more the deer's home than mine, after all, when you think about it. When you lock eyes with a deer and seem to say, 'You are welcome here, dear traveller. You are welcome here at this, one of the best deer parks in London. Go freely. But please... this grass is my grass... and if I see you eating something, it's going to be hell to pay.
Closed in 1433, this is the oldest of the Royal Parks to contain deer. It is thought that Henry VIII greatly increased the numbers kept here around 1515 so he could go hunting. You'll hear a lot more about the virtuoso Henry the stag as this article progresses. We seem to have the notorious monarch's love of hunting down the poor to give thanks for the presence of deer in London.
In the last century, the amount of land accessible to deer has been reduced as the park's popularity soared and it became unsafe for deer and humans. The two small herds of red deer and fallow deer now live in the designated deer park known as The Wilderness. Stroll along designated paths to reach special viewpoints where you'll see the two herds roaming freely.
Created in 2002, the Secret Garden Wildlife Center features an array of educational materials and information, as well as a one-way glass window. This allows you to see the deer up close, and they don't know they are being watched. It's up to you to find out which one is lying.
Right next to Hampton Court Palace, Bushy Park was another of Henry VIII's favorite hunting grounds. Deer were introduced here for the King's entertainment, but the ancestors of those who managed to escape Henry's persecution now roam free. The herds of red deer and fallow deer are around 320 in total currently.
You'll see them on all 1,099 acres of Bushy Park, except in protected areas like Woodland Gardens. With its mix of waterways and grasslands, the park is also a great place for birding. See if you can spot a woodpecker, kingfisher or even a kestrel during your visit.
Richmond Park is big and beautiful. It is a National Nature Reserve and, at 2,500 acres, it is the largest park in London. It also has by far the largest deer population, with around 650 residents in the entire park.
We are not handing out prizes, but this is our favorite deer park in London. And it's a favorite of most Londoners too. It's another former royal hunting ground, but it has nothing to do with Henry VIII. The landscape is varied and wild, with open meadows and densely wooded areas to explore and get lost in.
Consider renting a bike from the Roehampton Gate facility for a quicker perspective of the vast expanse. Stay away from the deer when you're two wheels, obviously. If you want to see the park in a special light, come at dawn. The colors of the deer and the vegetation in the warm glow of the new sun. It's worth getting out of bed.
The young pretender to the Royal Parks, Clissold Park has a small herd of fallow deer to add to London's deer park collection. Deer were originally introduced to the park in 1890, a year after it opened to the public. It's a small herd with just one dollar and six females.
The first deer to be released here were the red deer, but as the population grew these were given over to other London parks. So now Clissold Park has only deer in its enclosure. As a deer park, it's not on the same level as Richmond and the others, but the enclosure here is a lovely addition to what is already a charming London park.
Tips to keep you and the deer safe
Put all your garbage in the trash. Deer try to eat packaging and other litter left in parks and this is potentially fatal for them. Do not feed the deer. They don't need or want your help. Do not touch the deer. They are doing very well. It can be dangerous to get too close to deer, especially between May and July when the females are nursing their young, and in September, October and November when the males are in heat.
Keep at least 50 meters from the deer. You can still get a great photo from this distance. Red deer are the big reds. Deer are smaller and have white spots on their backs. It doesn't even look like Bambi. Bambi (the movie, not the book) is a deer. If you see a young deer unattended, do not approach or catch it. Mothers often leave them alone for a while, but they are not abandoned. Touching them could leave them being neglected by their mothers.
Keep dogs on leashes when you are around deer. You could be prosecuted if your dog chases the deer.
Looks like you're on a quintessentially British edge today. So maybe you want some refreshment... And of course, make sure you grab an London Pass® to make the most of all that Big Smoke has to offer.
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