London. A vast metropolis with skyscrapers, a spaghetti-tangled underground system and arguably more than four international airports, not to mention a parking system so complex that even residents need a helpline.
Yet the hangover of history has left this global city with wide open spaces and grassy knolls. Over the years, old royal hunting grounds have become free spaces where deer roam, children fly kites and families throw bread for the birds.
Bushy Park is one such place, in the depths of Zone 6. As the second largest royal park (Richmond Park takes the crown) its sprawling size complements both the expanse of neighbouring Hampton Court Palace and the matrimonial list of former resident, Henry VIII.
Today, Bushy Park gives frazzled commuters (plus wanderers like me) a chance to get their breath back. Instead of glass and concrete, chestnut trees and mistletoe make up the skyline. Instead of traffic wardens, stocky Red Deer hide in the grass and instead of crowded underground platforms, open water teems with swans, kingfishers, woodpeckers and a whole host of birds that I’ll never learn how to identify.
Before its regal period, Bushy Park was a Bronze Age burial ground. During the First World War, it became a vegetable garden for soldiers and by the time the second war arrived, the Allied Expeditionary Forces stationed their Supreme Headquarters here. Apparently, General Eisenhower didn’t fancy the commute to central London, either.