After the success of our sunrise trip to Richmond Park (London), I was excited to visit Bushy Park, another of London’s prestigious royal parks. Set over 44 hectares, Bushy is London’s second largest royal park and a fantastic place to go to escape the capital. We went on a family day out to see the famous deer and discover all the wonderful things to do at Bushy Park, London.
Located directly opposite Hampton Court Palace in East Molesey, Surrey, Bushy Park is an ideal London attraction if you are visiting Henry VIII’s magnificent Tudor castle. However, this nature reserve is also one of the most beautiful open spaces in Greater London and definitely worth a day out in its own right.
In fact, I have been going to Bushy Park since I was a child but had never fully explored it. I usually just head for the playground and haven’t seen much of the rest. So, yesterday we decided to set that straight and see it all.
Visit the Diana Fountain
One of our first things to do at Bushy Park was visit the Diana Fountain. This is a magnificent bronze statue of a goddess standing on an ornate marble pedestal in the middle of a pond. It’s the first thing you’ll see if you come in the Hampton Court Gate’s entrance. It’s a very popular spot for flocks of sea gulls, Canada Geese, and swans.
Initially, the Diana Fountain was located at Somerset House in central London after it was commissioned by King Charles I. However, Henry VIII later moved the statue to Hampton Court Palace .
In 1713, they moved the statue again. This time it was across to Bushy Park, as part of Sir Christopher Wren’s design for Chestnut Avenue. This is now the main road which crosses the park between Hampton Court Gates and Teddington Gates. Originally called The Great Avenue, this grand thoroughfare is lined with a row of horse chestnut trees.
Discover the historic ponds
From the Diana Fountain we headed across towards Heron Pond and the Leg of Mutton Pond. If you look at the map, it is clear where this pond got its peculiar name from!
These picturesque ponds are the largest of the ten ponds at Bushy Park. They are another great place for waterfowl, including our favourites, the Egyptian Geese.
Spot the free-roaming deer
One of our favourite things to do at Bushy Park is spot deer. Originally the hunting ground for King Henry VIII, Bushy Park is still one of the best places in south-east England to see deer.
Over 300 Red and Fallow Deer roam freely across the park. In fact, they are essential for the maintenance of the grassland there. They are easy to see and before we’d even reached the ponds, we had spotted a small group of does.
However, on the further side of the pond was a magnificent stag resting under the trees. We stood at a distance and took some time to enjoy this spectacular creature.
Learn about the rutting season
Autumn is a fantastic time to visit deer at Bushy Park, as it is the rutting season. However, it is essential that you keep your distance as deer can be extremely dangerous, especially the stags.
The rutting season is the breeding season for the deer. The stags (male deer) will compete amongst themselves for the right to mate with the females. This involves sizing each other up, roaring and interlocking antlers.
The autumn foliage provides an excellent camouflage for the deer, especially the ferns. The light russets of the dried ferns are an exact match for the fur of the deer, and it would be very easy to miss them, if you aren’t looking.
We were lucky enough to see two deer rutting. Well, I say rutting. It was quite a pathetic attempt. The stags locked antlers and there was some gentle pushing, but nothing very threatening on either side. Plus, there were several other stags who were oblivious to the scuffle. It was not really obvious if it was a genuine challenge or they were just going through the motions.
It was great to watch (at a distance) and even better when one stood up with fern tangled in its antlers, which was very comical.
Meet friends at the Pheasantry Café
From the ponds we followed the Cobbler’s Walk towards the Pheasantry Café & Visitor Centre. This is located in the scenic Woodland Gardens.
The Pheasantry Café is the main refreshment area and does have toilets and its own car park. It serves drinks and food and has indoor and outdoor seating.
Take a walk through The Woodland Gardens
Bushy Park is a fantastic outdoor place and provides lots of options for a scenic walk. Most of the landscape is open grassland, with large, ancient trees. However, the area by the Pheasantry Café is a more formal area, the Woodland Gardens. As these landscaped gardens are enclosed, the vista is vastly different to the semi-wild area where the deer roam.
Waterways, bridges and a variety of shrubs help create a tranquil, picturesque zone which is simply perfect for walking. And playing. The kids found logs to climb on, sticks to collect and streams to play Pooh sticks in.
Find the Canadian Totem Pole
As we visited Bushy Park in October there was a rich mix of autumnal colours mixing with the greens. We followed a woodland trail by a stream through the Pheasantry Plantation, which then led to the Waterhouse Plantation.
Here, in the Canadian Glade, we discovered the Canadian Totem Pole, which had been gifted in commemoration of the Canadian soldiers in the First World War.
Follow the Longford River
At the far end of the Waterhouse Plantation, we joined the Longford River and followed the river path until we reached some gates.
Charles I built this artificial canal to provide more water to Hampton Court Palace. Today Longford River serves to supply all the pretty waterways, ponds, and streams at the park.
Admire the Upper Lodge Water Gardens
Exiting from the Waterhouse Plantation, we set off in search of the Upper Lodge Water Gardens. This is another more formal area of the Bushy Park, added by the Earl of Halifax. The highlight of these gardens is a 18th Century cascade.
Enjoy the nature and wildlife
As you’ll discover, Bushy Park is an ideal location for enjoying nature and spotting wildlife. With a range of different habitats, Bushy Park has become home to a variety of wildlife, including the famous deer.
In addition to all the waterfowl who come for the many lakes, keep an eye out for kingfishers and kestrels. You can also see Green Woodpeckers who come to feast on the ancient ant hills, often mistaken as molehills.
In 2016, Bushy Park was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its rare invertebrate life and habitats.
With such plentiful nature and wildlife, Bushy Park is a fantastic place to go to escape the city, get some fresh air and enjoy time outdoors.
What’s more, it’s a great place to go for a walk or meet with friends. Bushy Park has plenty of open space for kids to run around and let off steam, as well as a fun playground. And even better is that it is one of the many free things to do in London.
How to get to Bushy Park
Bushy Park is in Hampton in the Greater London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. You can get there from the Hampton or Teddington side.
The park has 4 car parks and parking is free.
By public transport
There are 3 train stations near Bushy Park; Teddington, Hampton Court and Hampton. Direct trains run regularly from London Waterloo and take 30-40 minutes.
You can walk from the train station in about 10 minutes.
Other things to do near Bushy Park
The best thing to do near Bushy Park is visit Hampton Court Palace. If you exit from the Hampton Court Palace Gates and cross the road, you’ll enter the gardens of Henry VIII’s magnificent Tudor palace.
Alternatively, you could head to the River Thames for a riverside walk or pop into Kingston for some shopping.
Pin for later: 10 Best things to do at Bushy Park, London
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