35. The Stag on the Hill
Carrots and Blackberries & The Stag on the Hill
I can’t help but wonder if in these strange days, when time seems to have stood still, that we have learnt to place a greater value on the old days. I wonder that we aren’t reminded of the charms of a simple and less complicated time, in enjoying simple pleasures and indulging in nostalgia and the wistful memories of times gone by.
Nestled between Havering-atte-Bower and Harold Hill, Bedfords Park, this lovely open green space of delightful woods and grassland rekindles such memories for me. Overlooking the Thames basin, with incredible views from the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, across London with the north downs of Kent in between, this magical place holds a treasured place in my childhood.
Once a private estate with an impressive manor house, the areas of woodland, scrub, meadows, ponds and lakes are home to a huge range of wildlife, they boast a long history, dating back to King John, and have been a public park since 1934.
I remember in summer days long gone by, when after church, dressed in our Sunday best, my father would take my sisters and I across the borough to the end of the bus route, aptly to a ‘Street name Straight’ to visit the incomparable Bedfords Park. For children, short in stature but filled with excitement, the park seemed immense, a marvel and a revelation, this was the adventure we would look forward to all week. Our father would regal us with the stories of the Great Stag on the Hill that would evade capture during the many hunts of King John, riding a grey horse with his pack of hounds in pursuit, and of the stag’s descendants that now roam Bedfords Park.
We would come armed with carrots and make our way across the hills, the wild grasslands, through the forest trails to the woodlands and finally to the clearing that was the deer park. We revelled in the stories of the hunts and the brave and clever stags as we picnicked and fed carrots to the captive herd of Red Deer, watching out all the time for the Wild Fallow, Row and Muntjac deer living in the park, reminiscent of the days of the Royal Hunting Grounds.
Soon it was time to start making our way homeward but not without collecting armloads of blackberries that were juicy and luscious. Sweet yet tart, we gorged on berries and sticky with sugar took the remaining treasure carefully home so we could present them to mum who would make the most wonderful crumble for tea and save some for jam so we could still have a taste of summer when the winter months set in.
To relive those days now is a pleasure and to know that these ancient woodlands are preserved for future generations so they too can enjoy the simple pleasures that make life so good is wonderful.
Landscape Character Area
Havering Wooded Hills