It's the weekend and it's warm, some would argue hot. It feels too soon to call it a Summer's day, but a little late to call it Spring. One thing beyond doubt is that this weekend is the hottest of the year so far.
Just like flying ant day, the sun has stirred the sleepy inhabitants of South West London's suburbs into a frenzy of activity. They come in their hundreds and thousands as they descend upon the carefully managed and tightly bordered Royal Parks of Richmond and Kingston. They come to feast on the sun's rays and breathe in the ancient green air.
It's a sight I know well. I grew up in the safe haven of both Richmond and Bushy parks. They've been my playground, my classroom, gym, studio, cinema, dining hall and and on occasion my bed. I've cycled their paths as an unstable (in both senses of the word!) child, as a bored teenager and as a reluctant commuter. I've built dens, flown kites, climbed and engraved their trees. I know the heart-thumping rush of stumbling upon a gargantuan Red Deer Stag, hidden in the thick bracken. I've felt the heart-wrenching joy of seeing fox cubs pouncing in the tall, yellow grass at dusk. I know the quiet spots and hideaways and have experienced the tidal wave of adolescence within the protection of their walled parameters.
On this hot day, though I am older and more cynical, the sight I know all too well is a sight I don't need to see. The 5mph road rage, the guerilla parking, the drivers that curse at the cyclists, the cyclists that hate the cars while disregarding walkers and the walkers with a passionate distain for anything with wheels. The dog owners unable to control their dogs, the parents unable to control their kids and the teenagers unable to control themselves.
So I wait until early evening before heading over to Bushy Park. Being the smaller and less famous sibling of Richmond Park, I hope it will be quieter. I walk through the gates and the buzz of activity lingers, though no doubt less frenetic than it would have been a few hours ago. Friends are playing football, families playing cricket and picnic blankets are scattered out towards the horizon like giant handkerchiefs scattered by the wind.
As the air and hue rapidly cools, the gaps between those large handkerchiefs become more sparse. Despite a rapidly emptying car park, just a stones throw away, three silver people-carriers stop on the single tracked tarmac road to the side of me. A group of maybe a dozen, both young and old immediately stop and bundle their things and themselves into the three stationary but rumbling vehicles. Their haste is not enough to deter an onslaught of wrath from the cars caught on the other side of this impromptu road block.
As the people move out the deer move in. There have been Red and Fallow deer at Bushy since our favourite, “it's complicated” villain and monarch Henry VIII stalked these grounds. I gravitate towards the pond as sometimes if you're lucky you can see the deer wading through the water. No such luck but I do spot a young heron in a small brook that runs out of the pond. I've only got my standard kit lens (Canon 24-105mm, for anyone wanting to know), so I see how close I can get to it. After I push my luck too far with the heron, I look up to see several groups of Fallow deer raiding the now desolate car park.
The influx of visitors has meant the park's bins have failed to accommodate such levels of consumption enjoyed on this fine day. Piles of waste have been stacked around the bins as if to support a structure struggling under the weight of such demands. What ensues is fascinating, troubling and sadly, unsurprising. The deer inevitably start making their way through stacks of rubbish, grazing on plastic bags, polystyrene cups and various other mass produced, unidentifiable crap.
I continue to watch and photograph for another ten, twenty minutes, until I can't take any more and need to distract myself from this all too familiar scene. A localised scene played out across the rest of the city and the countryside and the world.