Sometimes the places you love are the ones you travel halfway around the world to see and you spend weeks and possibly years plotting how you will get back there. Others are right in your backyard, and you get to enjoy them every day of the week if you choose. I know I am lucky in many ways, but at this moment I’m particularly thankful and lucky to have Bushy Park right on my doorstep. Actually that’s not strictly true as we live on the third floor and so don’t have a doorstep as such, but every morning I can walk into our living room, pull back the curtains and look at an amazing view of the park through the balcony windows. On any given day, I can see deer, swans and parakeets as well as dog walkers, joggers and cyclists and if I was any kind of a morning person, I would be joining them within five minutes of waking up. Instead, I make a coffee, sit on the sofa and wish that it was summer so I could sit on the balcony and be just a few feet closer to the place I love…
In the heart of the Thames Valley
Bushy Park is in southwest London and is enclosed by Kingston, Teddington, Hampton as well as the River Thames – Hampton Court is just a short stroll away from Lionsgate at the south end of the park. But it’s what is inside the park that is special to me. Ever since I turned 30 and realised I was fat, out of shape and getting pretty lazy I have been a runner. At times running has been a way to lose weight, a way of banishing the demons in my head and for a time the pursuit of a new Personal Best was what got me lacing up those trainers on a daily basis. While all of those reasons still apply at some point to varying degrees, the main reason I run now is purely for enjoyment and to have some time to myself, to clear my head and to enjoy the world around me. Bushy Park has been my go to place for six years and as it is now literally across the road it’s the place I am returning to more and more often.
Seasonal and bursting with nature
Bushy Park is magical at different times of the year but if there is one season that is particularly special to me it would be late Spring going into summer. Running in the park just before the sun sets creates some magical colours through the trees and the leaves. On one particular run last summer that I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday, as I ran down Chestnut Avenue and turned onto Cobblers Walk I would see hundreds of little bunny rabbits hopping for the cover of the bracken near the path as I approached. Baby deer would be running and jumping all around while the larger stags would graze on the grass and every once in a while, raise their heads and roar at something in the distance. Meanwhile overhead, bright green parakeets would swoop and dive, accompanying me on my run through the middle of the park. It genuinely was the most amazing privilege to run in the midst of these beautiful animals amongst the stunning colours and scenery all around. And the best thing was I could do it all again the next evening.
On cold and wet winter evenings such as we’re having now, it’s the memory of runs like this one that keep me going and remind me of everything that is good about running in a place that makes you feel alive.
Rob Phillips, Teddington, London
Rob writes regularly about his life and adventures in his insightful blog