The Royal Parks team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (April issue below) which is displayed on the Park's public notice boards. If you are a member of the Friends and would like to receive these monthly diaries by email, please send your name and email address to Chris Mason at [email protected]

Richmond Park in April

The Tamsin Trail bridge over the Beverley Brook located near Roehampton Gate is due to be replaced. The current bridge is showing signs of age and is a little too narrow for the volume of pedestrians and cyclists that use it during peak times. The new bridge will have a similar appearance including the chicane type fences to ensure cyclists slow down at this key point. There will be some disruption whilst the work is in progress when walkers and cyclist will have to cross via the road bridge a short distance away.

Birds April brings migrant Willow Warblers and Black Caps to join the Chiff-Chaffs already calling in the plantations, and of course (we hope) the first Cuckoo. Sand Martins and Swallows feed on the wing over Pen Ponds. Nesting activity becomes far more evident in April. Look out for birds flying to a fro with dry grass, moss, feathers or any suitable nesting material.

Free minibus service to the Isabella Plantation From Wednesday April 23rd, a round-Richmond-Park free minibus service will run every Wednesday from 10.30am to 3.30pm clockwise from Roehampton Gate via the Isabella Plantation. There will be bus stops and a timetable soon.

Once a month, on the last Saturday of the month, starting on Saturday April 26th, we will be running an electric buggy service between Broomfield Hill Car Park and Broomfield Gate. These services are aimed at people who would otherwise not be able to get to Isabella – those with reduced mobility, or those with small children. But beyond those priorities, all are very welcome to use the service. We are also looking for more volunteers to help us with transport. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Badgers The Park is well populated with badgers but being shy nocturnal animals they are rarely seen. However they are creatures of habit and signs of badger activity can be spotted. They will dig the soil looking for worms, roots and other delicious snacks. If they find a good hunting ground the soil will often look as though it has been lightly dug over with a fork.

They tend to use the same routes to return to their setts and often paths can be followed through the bracken and grassland to gaps under fences. At this time of year they are busy spring cleaning, and trails of dried grass can be seen where fresh bedding has been dragged backwards to the young badgers deep underground.

Mistletoe is a curious evergreen plant that grows on host trees, such as Apple, Lime and Hawthorn. There is only one known mistletoe in the Park, high on a Lime tree near Petersham Gate. Whilst nearby in Bushy Park it grows in abundance. A simple trial to propagate some mistletoe three years ago resulted in two new sprigs in a private top-secret corner of the Park. Following this success several more sticky seeds have been smeared onto trees. By doing this in March, the seeds start to germinate immediately with reduced chances of being washed off by rain, and a simple mesh screen protects them from birds.

Isabella Plantation in April

The streams are bright with Marsh Marigolds, (Caltha palustris). The yellow hooded spathes of the American Skunk Cabbage, (Lysichiton americanus), which precede large rank leathery leaves, are conspicuous along the stream from the Still Pond.

Camellias are still flowering throughout the Garden. They are mainly older Camellia japonica cultivars and a number of Williamsii hybrids.

Rhododendrons Along the Bluebell Walk, opposite the Acer Glade, look out for the bright purple flowers of the deciduous R. reticulatum. This month the Japanese azaleas start into flower. They are usually at their best during the last week of April and the first week of May. R. racemosum grows down the path from the Still Pond, and is a medium sized shrub that bears pale to bright pink flowers.

Rhododendron ‘Quaker Girl’ grows in the glade set back from the path at the top of Thomson’s Stream and bears trusses of stunning white flowers with a deep crimson throat. Look out for Rhododendron ‘Bibiani’ growing in a number of areas in the garden, this shrub produces compact trusses of rich crimson funnel shaped flowers with maroon spots. Early evergreen azaleas are beginning to flower throughout the garden look out for ‘Kirin’ a pale pink “hose in hose” (flower within a flower) and ‘Sylvester’ which has small deep pink flowers.

In a glade set back from the Main Stream and other locations around the Garden are the blue flowering Rhododendrons from the Triflorum series. These are Rhododendron augustinii and the R. chasmanthum hybrid Rhododendron ‘Electra’.

Magnolias Throughout the gardens pink and white forms of Magnolia soulangiana come into flower. Along the Bluebell Walk are two small pink hybrids of M. stellata, called M. X loebneri 'Leonard Messel'. A larger one is set back by the Scots Pine to the far side of the Acer Glade. Magnolia ‘Heaven Scent’ one of the Gresham Hybrids grows in a ride off the Main Stream and has goblet shaped flowers, pink on the outside and white inside. Its flowers have a strong lavender scent.

Daffodils In the Wet Lawn area near the top gate, the golden yellow flowers of Narcissus bulbocodium subsp. bulbocodium with conical cups and pointed petals have now appeared and succeed the delicate flowers of Narcissus cyclamineus, which are also naturalised in this area.

The bog garden Look out for the clusters of white or pale pink flowers borne on white–haired stems which are those of the “Umbrella Plant”, Darmera peltata which flowers before it produces foliage.

Blakedown (SE) have been busy installing paths, benches and a new non mains reliant irrigation system within the Plantation as well as resurfacing the Peg’s Pond Car Park and its approach road. This work will be completed ahead of the Easter Weekend. Blakedown (SE) will then continue to build the new toilet block and shelter near the Peg’s Pond gate, which is due to open this summer.

Isabella Plantation Garden Walks 2014

You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year. Walks will take place on:

April Friday 4th and 25th, Sunday 20th
May Friday 2ndand 30th, Sunday 11th

Walks last about one and a half hours and are free of charge. Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.