April Park Diaries

Richmond Park Diary April 2016

OAK PROCESSIONARY MOTH – PESTICIDE SPRAYING. In early April the eggs of the invasive insect pest, Oak Processionary Moth, start hatching. The eggs over winter on the twigs of oak trees and the young caterpillars emerge as the weather gets warmer and the leaves on which they feed unfurl. The caterpillars may cause extensive defoliation of the host tree and also carry toxic hairs which can pose a serious threat to human and animal health. Early season management of this challenging pest includes targeted pesticide spraying in some areas of the park. Much of this takes place at night to minimise inconvenience to park users. However, day-time spraying is sometimes necessary, particularly where ground conditions are unsuitable for night-time working. Please avoid the proximity of the spraying operation and follow any instructions given by the ground crew accompanying the spraying rigs.

TICKS AND LYME DISEASE. Ticks are small, spider like insects that attach themselves to humans, dogs and other animals to feed on blood. Whilst the risk is very low, they can transmit diseases including Lyme disease. Ticks cannot fly or jump but instead they cling onto tall vegetation and wait for their host to brush past. During spring, summer and autumn ticks are more numerous, more active and the park vegetation such as bracken is in ‘full frond’. Park visitors are advised to guard against tick bites by avoiding tall vegetation (especially if wearing shorts) and stay on well worn paths. Insect repellent can also be used. Check yourself after walking in the parks and remove ticks immediately. If concerned, you feel unwell or a rash appears – consult your GP immediately. Please see the Royal Parks website or visit the Information Centre for an information leaflet.

WATER FOUNTAINS. There are water fountains either inside or near to all the Park toilets. During the winter the external fountains are turned off to avoid pipes freezing and leaks occurring, which would otherwise cause local flooding and ice. Turning them on and off rather depends on the weather. The park can often be a few degrees colder than the forecast temperature for London and additional frost pockets occur in still air and in sheltered locations at the bottom of hills. It’s not unknown for frosts to occur in May or September but generally the parks’ fountains are turned on at least from Easter to October half term. This winter they were only turned off from January to mid March.

SUMMER MIGRANT BIRDS. April brings migrant birds such as Willow Warblers, Black Caps and Chiff – Chaffs to the park. The call of the Chiff – Chaff is onomatopoeic – so the name sounds like the sound of the birds call. The other such bird we are all familiar with is the Cuckoo, but we are far more likely to hear Chiff -Chaffs as they are more abundant and call with such enthusiasm that they really are the little migrant that heralds the arrival of spring. Other birds to look and listen out for include Wheatears in the bracken and grassland and Terns over the Pen Ponds. A little later in the year we can expect to see and hear Sand Martins and Swallows return to the Park.


Isabella Plantation Garden Walks April & May

You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year.

Walks will take place on:

April: Friday 29th
May: Friday 6th & 27th Sunday 15th

Walks last about 1.5 hours and are free of charge.
Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11.00a.m.


April in the Isabella Plantation

Above photo by Sarah Cuttler

The Streams

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.


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'.


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.


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.