The Royal Parks' team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (April issue below) which is displayed on the Park's public noticeboards. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Badgers The Park is well populated with badgers but being shy nocturnal animals they are rarely seen. They are creatures of habit, however and signs of badger activity can be spotted.
They will dig the soil looking for worms, roots and other delicious snacks and 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 badger’s deep underground.
The Guide to Richmond Park To mark their 50th anniversary, the Friends of Richmond Park have produced a guide to Richmond Park which was launched on 27th March. It has 140 pages, with 300 colour photographs and each chapter has been written by a different writer offering a variety of complementary perspectives and writing styles. It is on sale for £10 in local book shops and at Pembroke Lodge. The contributors have all worked free of charge and any money raised will go to support conservation projects in the Park.
Isabella Plantation Most regular Park users are aware of the Isabella Plantation’s glorious spring colour. It’s worth a visit all year round but the collection of Azaleas come into bloom in April. The peak time to see the best display is usually the last week of April or the 1st week of May. It is always busy at this time of year especially at weekends, but now that vehicle gates are open until 19.30 or later, a peaceful evening can also be enjoyed.
Pen Ponds "Spillway" The Pen Ponds hold sufficient water to be classified as reservoirs, the causeway between the ponds and at the northern edge of the lower pond are dams, holding back the water behind.
The level of these dams needs to be maintained at the same height all along, but should the ponds ever fill faster than the overflow, then the dam could be breached and the flow of water burst through in an uncontrolled release. To reduce the chance of this happening a ‘low spot’ will be created with a concrete face so that water can overflow without ‘tearing’ through the soil dam. This summer expect to see some civil engineers working at the lakes.
Deer No sooner have the deer cast their antlers, than new ones begin to grow. They are clothed in ‘velvet’, which is specialised skin covered in short erect hairs. The velvet contains nerves and a great many blood vessels to ensure nourishment reaches the growing antler. As the largest males cast their antlers first, they may lose rank to younger males still bearing a full head, so at this time they tend to seek seclusion from the herd. All deer are now moulting their winter coats. Magpies and Jackdaws may be seen riding on their backs to pluck out tufts for lining their nests.
The 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, it 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 an 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.
Guide to the Isabella Plantation A colourful leaflet guide, costing 50 pence, is on sale at Holly Lodge and is also available from the Park Warden in the Garden.
Wheelchair available A motorised wheelchair, which makes the job of pushing considerably easier, may be loaned for use within the Garden on weekdays between 9.00 and 15.00. Please ring 020 8948 3209 to book the chair by noon on the day before it is required.
Isabella Plantation Garden Walks 2011
You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year.
Walks will take place on:
Friday 6th May
Friday 27th May
Sunday 15th May
Walks last about 1.5 hours and are free of charge. Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.
© The Royal Parks