A while back during lockdown, London might’ve seem dull, so what was a person who likes wandering around to do? Well, there is always something to find!
These days, it’s getting warmer and sunnier – even in London. I try to go out as much as I can during the weekend, preferably to a place with a natural setting, bigger parks, so that I can feel more connected to nature, less restricted, and be in a better mood. This walk took a place on a cloudy, humid day in March.
Previously, I wrote about a trip we took in a cable car. While it might not seem like such a big tourist attraction, for me it was something, especially considering how most places were closed. You might notice that some of the places I visit are… unique? Meaning that not all of them are big, touristy places. On the one hand, many typical ‘touristy’ places are closed right now (although soon, in May, they are supposed to reopen) so I cannot go there anyway. On the other hand, I am often curious about places that may usually go unnoticed and they can provide a pleasant surprise.
One of the things I struggle with is getting my boyfriend out of the apartment – I don’t know if anyone can relate – once he steps outside of the door, then it’s fine, but man! Getting him past that point is no easy feat.
Anyway, tracing the finger on the map on one of the weekends, we found a nearby park in Stanmore. The big, green area was called ‘Bentley Nature Reserve’ – I noticed that inside, there was a part called ‘Deer Park’. Immediately got super excited and decided we needed to go there! Also, the park supposedly boasted ‘The Oldest Tree in Middlesex’ – now that’s an attraction!
The day was super grey though, so pardon the dull colours of photos. Let’s go!
The name “Bentley” basically means open space, grassland. According to this page, “A monastic settlement occupied the site in the 13th century but was demolished. Bentley Priory house was the home of the Dowager Queen Adelaide in the 1850s.”
We took the tube and after getting off at Stanmore, we had to walk a bit to reach the park. On the way, we saw an interesting church and a small garden with daffodils. Turns out, it was Saint John the Evangelist Church.
We reached the park and were pleased to find out that it resembled an actual forest, with paths not being covered by concrete. We were struggling a little to find the right direction towards Deer Park but soon enough we were on a wider road (concrete this time). We took it (although the map was showing that it was in the opposite direction) and after a while, we saw… cows!
Or maybe they were bulls? No, they actually were English Longhorn cows.
As I mentioned, we knew the direction was wrong but were fascinated by the sight of cattle – what was it doing there?!
There were two cows blocking the ‘traffic’ on the lane. As I mentioned, we weren’t sure if these were cows or bulls – maybe they would be aggressive, thinking we were invading their territory?! We waited for a few minutes, scared to go past them. They kept staring into each other’s eyes and looked kinda angry, while a group of more courageous people approached and we joined them to go past the cows.
It seems like the fields of Bentley Priory Reserve have been used as grazing fields for cows for a long time. Look, I even found a painting of a cow at Stanmore Park from the 19th century – click here for the source – so it’s definitely not a new phenomenon!
We walked around for a while, admiring the other cows. Then, we set off towards Deer Park!
It wasn’t far – just needed to follow the concrete road – and soon enough, we saw the deer! Some were fed through the fence – people brought carrots and other food just to feed them, provided they had been able to save it from glutinous cows running around in the fields.
There were plenty of deer behind the privately owned fence – they weren’t spooked by people, I’m guessing they had already grown accustomed to people feeding them throught the fence, looking at them and being loud (especially with the kids).
It was nice and unusual to see so many animals in one place – right now, zoos are open to public again, but back then they weren’t.
After deer, we had one last stop in our journey – the Oldest Tree in Middlesex, a.k.a. The Master Oak! It was located in the part belonging to ‘Bentley Priory’.
There was no direct path shown on the maps it showed that to reach it, we would have to go back to where we started, around the park and enter from somewhere else. Fortunately, the grass on the meadow between the trees wasn’t that high and we could walk on it.
However, it had rained before so there was mud everywhere – seems mandatory in Egland that if you like walking and hiking you need a pair of waterproof rubber boots – Wellies, as they are called here – to protect you from mud.
After a while, when the sun was already setting low, we saw the tree. It did look impressive, with all of its branches spreading high and wide. And it was still very much alive, growing new parts! Overall, it was a very nice afternoon, worth going out despite the weather.