On a beautiful sunny day, late in the summer of 1969, we took a family trip to Richmond Park. By that time we had moved twice since 1968 and lived in a small flat in West Hampstead. It wasn’t too far to travel to Richmond, but I have no memory of the journey, or if we went by bus, train or both.
Richmond Park, so close to the tower blocks, yet full of rural beauty. Photo nathan-harrison.com
My new little sister, Suzy, was about 18 few months old, so it was probably a bit of a hassle for our Mum & Dad, needing to take all the things a young child needs during the day. We also took a large blanket to lay on the grass and a picnic lunch – there weren’t any McDonalds or Burger King take-away outlets until the mid 1970s – so it was sandwiches and a flash of tea, and Ribeana or something similar for me. It turned into a very memorable day out, partly because we have photos of the day that reinforce the memories, but for me I will always remember it as the day I learned to take photographs.
Richmond Park, the largest walled park in the UK, is one of the 8 Royal Parks of London, with its origins dating back to 1625, when the King, Charles I, brought the Royal Court to Richmond palace when plague was spreading through London. The park grew out of an area set aside for hunting deer. Charles I upset locals by enclosing the area with a wall, that is still standing today. Public right of way was allowed and that has continued for most of its history, but was established by Act of Parliament in 1872. It has been a popular recreational area for many years, a place to escape the city and enjoy a picnic, walking and cycling, with cycle ways around the park. During the 2012 Olympics in London the road race cycle courses passed through the park.
It is remains home to over 600 deer, both Red Deer and Fallow Deer. The deer are free to roam large parts of park and due to the high number of daily visitors they are fairly tame, although they still need to be treated with care and caution, and people are discouraged from feeding them or getting too close. Sometime during that summer afternoon, back in 1969, when the sun was high in the sky, my Dad did a quick scout out of the area around where we had settled, leaving Mum, me and little Suzy laying on the blanket in the sun. He came back all excited, saying that he had discovered we were fairly close to the lake at the centre of the park, where the deer came to cool down and drink.
He quickly rummaged in a bag for his trusty camera, an Ilford Sporti he had bought in 1959 and invited me to come with him and see the deer. We walked a short distance through some fairly long grass and small bushes and trees, before we approached the lake. Dad encouraged me to be quiet and we followed the edge of the lake for a few more yards as he found some bushes to help hide us from the deer. Not much happened for a while and I was soon bored of looking at the sun glinting off the water and became restless, wanting to run around and explore. But Dad kept me calm for a little longer and we were suddenly rewarded with the approach of a group of around 20 Red Deer.
As they waded into the water Dad pointed out that we were downwind from them, so if we were quiet and moved slowly they wouldn’t be disturbed by our presence. Then he took the first photograph of the group of deer. Looking at the photos now I can’t be certain of the order in which they were taken but I know that the second two pictures I had a hand in taking. Dad showed me how to use the viewfinder to aim the camera and how to press the shutter release button carefully so as not to shake the camera. With that simple lesson I was introduced to the world of photography and have remained fascinated with it ever since.
The following three pictures are the photos from that encounter with the Red Deer of Richmond Park, on a summers day in 1969. I scanned the originals some years ago and used the free software Photoscape to sharpen and very lightly enhance the tone. Two of them also had small marks on the cloud and sky which I was able to remove with some careful restoration, again using Photoscape. For more information on how to scan and restore old photos see my earlier ‘how to guides‘.
Whilst my encounter with the deer that day went very calmly and without incident, this was largely due to my Dad’s experience with the deer of Richmond Park. Mum and Dad used to visit the park regularly and even photographed the odd deer close up, as can be seen in the black and white photo below, from around 1960.
Not everyone has such a calm relaxing experience, especially if they take a disobedient dog with them. I am of course referring to Fenton and his outraged owner who together became a huge internet sensation in late 2011.
I have shared two videos in the previous post, to keep the videos separate from this post. The first one is a clip of the news reports about the web viral status that the second clip received. The second clip is the full uncensored version by the original uploader.