London Walks: A royal retreat to the deer and swans: Michael Leapman escapes the Hampton Court bustle for a peaceful wander in Bushy Park

Hampton Court is popular with walkers, but this weekend they will be impeded by the annual flower show. A good alternative is Bushy Park, just across Hampton Court Road from the palace. This short walk will also provide relief for flower show visitors feeling oppressed by the green-fingered crowds.

Bushy is the least known of the royal parks. A favourite with the Stuart kings and with Oliver Cromwell, one of its attractions is the long avenues of horse-chestnuts and limes, mostly created for William III. It also has two large ponds where fishing is allowed, dozens of swans and the most accessible herd of deer in the London area.

This route starts from the Diana Fountain, featuring a fine 17th-century sculpture by Francesco Fanelli. Walk north, away from the Hampton Court gate, on the grass verge to the left of the broad metalled Chestnut Avenue.

After about 200 yards, just before a small 30mph limit sign on the drive, take a clear grass track on the left towards a wooden fence, and go through the gate into the delightful woodland garden.

Cross the wooden bridge over the meandering stream and follow the path as it veers away from the stream, through trees, then turns sharply back as it meets the fence at the edge of the garden. Cross another bridge and turn right along the southern bank of the stream, soon passing a brick lodge on your right.

Leave the first section of the garden by a wooden gate and enter the second, more wooded section by a gate immediately opposite. Go ahead over another stream and bear right where the paths fork. At a grass triangle, go right to pass behind the tile-hung River Lodge, then keep straight ahead, with the wooden fence on your right.

Go through two more gates to leave the woodland garden for the last time, then turn left up a grass path with a fence on your left and newly planted horse chestnuts on your right.

After crossing a drainage channel, turn right across the grass, following the course of the channel until you come to a wide metalled path edged with white posts. Turn right on it, crossing the channel again.

Keep straight ahead at the broken signpost. Soon, through a clearing in the trees on your left, you get a good view of the red-brick Bushy Park House, where William IV lived before he was king.

The path joins Chestnut Avenue again, and you can see the Diana Fountain in the distance on your right. But if you cheat and cut back now you will miss the highlight of the walk, the red deer.

Turn right on Chestnut Avenue, and after a few yards take a surfaced path on your left. This is Cobblers Walk, and leads you towards the spot where the deer usually congregate.

We first saw three does and a fawn, then a group of about 50 does and fawns who, while not too anxious to socialise, were obviously unafraid of humans.

A little further on, beneath trees on the left, we saw their menfolk, sporting magnificent antlers.

After crossing the stream that feeds Leg o' Mutton Pond, turn sharp right and walk along the southern bank of the pond, then follow the next stream to Heron Pond - with dozens of magnificent royal swans.

The car park is just beyond the pond, and Hampton Court Station is back through the gates to the south.

Fact File

Length: 3 miles.

Time: 90 minutes.

Car park: Near Diana Fountain in Bushy Park

(but may be difficult

during flower show).

Public Transport: BR to Hampton Court from Waterloo.

(Photograph and map omitted)

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