A Richmond Park gamekeeper has recalled living in a 'fantasy world' of unspoiled grassland, hordes of fallow deer and other wildlife he shared his back yard with for nearly four decades before his retirement.

John Bartram, 62, now a resident at Walton-on-Thames, served as the gamekeeper and senior wildlife officer for 30 years in the biggest Royal Park after breeding birds for six years in Kew Gardens.

With badgers and foxes for neighbours and the shortest commute possible, the park keeper had a constant eye watching over the park and its inhabitants - being on call for nearly 24 hours a day 12 months a year.

“Living in the park was like living in a surreal institution because it was very rare I would go outside the walls of the park.

“I really was very lucky and a friend once told me our house looks like it should be on the front of a glossy magazine but it was my way of life.

“I was always cancelling things because I would get called up and you could never plan but you give up a life to get a type of life – deer are still animals and require constant attention like any sort of pet.”

Like most 15-year-old boys Mr Bartram had no idea what he wanted to do growing-up starting out as a blacksmith apprentice before picking up his wildlife role.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and I mean I worked as a paper picker to begin with down by the river but then when the job came up I was like that is what I want to do and got an application from and got the job,” added the park ranger.

The wildlife enthusiast was integral to managing the herds of deer back in the 1980s helping to prevent further deaths caused by secondary diseases and starvation - reducing the population so the fawn and stags could survive naturally.

Mr Bartram said: “It was hard work and intense and sadly you have to push your feelings aside and get the job done but in Richmond we only have six-weeks to do nine months’ worth of work to control the population.

“The proof is in the pudding though for critics because we lost around 100 animals to starvation stress and back then we were getting at least three calls a day because of car accidents involving deer.

“In the last years that I was working it was down to three maybe in three months.

“Also deer’s are such fussy herbivores they aren’t like cows and just craze but they browse you see and just have nibbles of bits and with the seven-mile cycle path now as well their food isn’t in abundance.”

Living on the park and working all hours of the day the wildlife officer got to see some of the most ‘amazing’ sighs that the ordinary passer by wouldn’t get to see and watch the ‘natural habitats changing with the seasons’.

“There are so many memories but without question seeing the red deer rut in October is a sight – eight-foot-tall from the tips of their antlers to the floor and all muscle,” added the park ranger.

“If you can do anything I would pick up some binoculars and sit 100 yards away and watch them in battle because it is awesome – they push and shove but they are such resilient animals.

“There was also once this time when I was walking a dog and I don’t know what I did but I got chased by a stag and the surprise gave me such a fright and I yelled and I think because my yell is so loud it ended up scaring the stag away.

“They are powerful animals and you really don’t want to be messing with these creatures – I have seen them put their hoofs two-feet deep into the solid ground.

“I also got to meet so many famous people including Sir David Attenborough which was amazing – they don’t tell you that in the interview and they don’t tell you a lot of the great things I got to do like serve the Royal family.”

Retiring last year, Mr Bartram has had time to indulge in his favourite hobbies and put together a book - Park life - featuring a memoir of his time in the park relating the realities of loving and working with nature.

“I love fishing and bird watching and a good old pie and a pint which I just didn’t really ever have the time to do and now I can so I look forward to that,” added the park ranger.

“I will pop back every now and then and always happy to volunteer because it is what I love.”

All of John’s royalties from the book are being donated to the Richmond Park Trust.

Park Life by John Bartram out now RRP £16.99 (John Blake Publishing)