I often put in a few miles in Bushy Park. Anything more than 12 and it gets repetitive, and I was bored witless the one time I did 20 in there, but a lap followed by a pair of figure eights will build up the miles in beautiful surroundings.
One immensely enjoyable thing about riding in Bushy Park is the deer. There are two varieties in the park, Red and Fallow. Neither are the sort of stunted, scrawny animal you expect to find eking out a living in a suburban area. They are proper wild animals, tall and imposing, and they thrive in the park. They’re also pretty tame, or so I thought. Working on the assumption that they wouldn’t wander so close to humans if they were feeling temperamental, I’ve often pottered over to them with my camera for a few shots, or ridden past them like they were hairy, spikey headed spectators.
Last time I was riding round Bushy, however, one of them started yelling at me from a distance. I ignored him and pushed on. He bellowed longer and louder. Odd, I thought, and kept pedalling. Then he started moving, rather cleverly I thought, to cut me off. He was off to my left and began trotting diagonally forward, still bellowing, on a path that intersected mine some twenty yards ahead.
For some reason, I was truly unnerved. I know how placid the deer can be, but this looked a bit unusual. Worse still, I didn’t know what to do: if I turned around I’d be forced to slow right down, but to speed up and sprint past him might aggravate an already unusual situation.
He bellowed again and my nerve broke. I got out of the saddle, bent low over the bars and pushed with all my strength, initially struggling against the high gear but swiftly benefiting from it. Now with frighteningly loud (and close) bellowing in my ears, I sprinted like Cavendish for the perimeter of the park, not stopping or looking back until I skidded sideways onto a cinder path. Looking back, the deer was reassuringly distant, and I was suddenly completely ashamed of myself. What a plonker! What a coward! What if anyone had been watching me fleeing in terror from Bambi?
As it turns out, recent weeks have seen Bushy Park deer attack two women, one man and a swan, putting one of the women in hospital. Mating season for deer runs throughout Autumn, and the stags ignore food and play in favour of gathering a harem of females. Humans in the park are essentially the equivalent of that awkward flatmate you had in college who’d always stay in and watch blues documentaries, no matter how many hints you dropped, and the deer of Bushy Park don’t take kindly to having their sexy time stymied by gawping dog walkers or panicky cyclists.
I’ll have to find somewhere else to ride for a while, but in the mean time I’m wondering if we can arrange to have a horny deer chase Mark Cavendish down the Avenue de Grammont today, propelling him to a Paris-Tours win?
No sooner do I post this piece, than this video starts doing the rounds: Antelope Hits Cyclist.