Morning walk – Richmond Park


I never used to like the autumn months. The darkening nights, the weeping skies and dead leaves. I preferred the extremes of winter or summer and, best of all, the promise of spring. I knew what John Constable, the artist, meant when he wrote one November, ‘I want to get back to my easel in town, and not witness the rotting, melancholy dissolution of the trees which two months ago were so beautiful.’

I’ve changed my mind these last few years. Perhaps I’m aging wisely – autumn’s not a month for the young – or perhaps my camera’s taught me to appreciate the shifts in colours: the yellows, oranges, peaches, corals or crimsons of the turning leaves and the deeper greens of the muddy grass. Outside our flat a tall London plane tree, shaped like an enormous light bulb, has been dumping great quantities of burnt gold leaves onto our steps so that you have to crunch your way to and fro, between the street and the front door.

I got up early yesterday morning to see the changing season in Richmond Park – just half an hour or so away on the tube. The forecast was for a bright blue morning and, perhaps, the first frost of the year.

I got to Ham Gate at seven o’clock in the twilight. Just a minute’s walk inside I saw a couple of young stags locking horns, each impact coming with a sort of brittle crack.

The air was cold but the ground wasn’t stiff, just white with a heavy dew. At half past seven, as the sun finally rose over the park, I had found another stag – a bulky, brooding beast grazing at the edge of a little wood.

Deer are sensitive creatures and it didn’t take much for the stag to notice me – six foot three, tripod, camera bag and duffle coat – and it turned and whipped off into the long grass and into the sun. And I just got this shot before it went.

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