The Royal Parks team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (August issue below) which is displayed on the Park's public noticeboards.
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The Park in August
Olympic road cycling On July 28 and 29 Richmond Park provided part of the Olympic Cycling Road Race. The Park was heavily protected with crowd barriers along the entire route from Roehampton Gate, via Richmond Gate to Kingston Gate. These perform three main functions: to keep the crowds out of the road, to protect the veteran trees and vulnerable grassland habitats and to reduce the potential for deer crossing the road!
Organising the event was a complex, multi-agency process and Richmond Park was a key spectator destination. Whilst there are no official crowd figures, estimates suggest 75,000 people lined the Park roads for the return journey of the men’s race.
Grey squirrels There is an abundance of rodents in the Park this summer. It’s likely that the exceptionally high acorn yield last autumn and mild weather has boosted the population of grey squirrels.
The grey squirrel is an introduced species and although it does have some natural predators, it is pretty good at defending itself and scurrying out of harm’s way into the tree canopy. In mid-late summer the grey squirrel has the destructive habit of stripping bark off trees, causing young trees to die and older trees to lose branches. This year bark stripping is more evident with Beech, Maples Sweet Chestnut and the occasional Oak being the usual victims.
Giant Olympic rings The media have recently given their attention to the 300 metre wide Olympic rings, mown into the grass on the flying field. They were actually marked and cut on 1 March, before skylarks started to nest in the long grassland.
Publicity was deliberately kept until July, scheduled with the start of the Olympic Games and being difficult to recognise from the ground, they stayed surprisingly unnoticed. Now that the long grass has turned golden brown, the contrast in colour with the short green grass makes the rings more visible when viewed by passengers on their approach to Heathrow Airport.
Bracken rolling Where bracken is invading areas of valuable acid grassland, it is being controlled by the traditional method of ‘bruising’. The Shire horses carry out this work, pulling a specially designed bladed metal roller, which bends and crushes the bracken fronds. This is more effective than cutting, in gradually reducing the plants vigour. The horses are ideal for this work as they can feel their way through the Bracken and avoid any logs, stumps or uneven ground with ease.
The Isabella Plantation in August
Flowering shrubs worth seeking out include:
Magnolia grandiflora which occupies a secluded glade to the south of Thomson's Pond. It has large white flowers with a delicious fragrance set amongst glossy evergreen leaves. Petals fall to reveal striking seed heads.
Clethra alnifolia, the Sweet Pepper Bush, also fragrant. It is opposite the tall pine below the gate to Broomfield Hill and also below Thomson’s Pond. Hydrangea quercifolia can be seen on the Birthday Mound and elsewhere. It has panicles of white flowers, and foliage resembling coarse oak leaves, which takes on rich autumn colours later in the year.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva' also bears panicles of white flowers, and is set in woodland near the gate towards Pen Ponds, and elsewhere in the Garden.
Hydrangea aspera subsp. Sargentiana grows in Wilson’s Glade in the north east corner. This upright gaunt shrub bears broad heads of flowers from late summer to mid-autumn; the inner ones are blue or deep purple, the outer ones are large and white.
Sorbaria kirilowii (also found in Wilson’s Glade) produces white flowers in large conical panicles throughout July and August.
Heptacodium miconioides Is a vigorous shrub that bears lightly scented clusters of white flowers throughout late summer and early autumn. It can be found growing below Thomson’s Pond and also on the Birthday Mound.
Calycanthus occidentalis grows at the top end of the Old Nursery. This Californian species bears large red-brown flowers throughout the summer.
Summer flowering shrubs in the Heather Garden include varieties of Erica vagans, the Cornish Heath, such as 'Mrs. Maxwell' (dark pink); 'Rosea' (light pink); and 'Cornish Cream' (cream). Several varieties of Calluna vulgaris have coloured foliage, such as 'Gold Haze' (white flower and gold leaf); and 'Robert Chapman' (purple flower with bronze foliage). Daboecia cantabrica has white or purple waxy bells.
Along the streams many native marginal plants are in flower, such as Purple and Yellow Loosestrife, Meadowsweet, Greater Willowherb and Hemp Agrimony. These wild flowers, along with the heathers, attract many butterflies. Elsewhere, streamside clumps of Hemerocallis, the Day Lily, produce a succession of tall yellow or orange trumpet-shaped flowers throughout July and August; each flower lasting only a day.
Thomson's Pond and the Bog Garden have fine stands of Pontederia cordata, the Pickerel Weed, with spikes of blue flowers amongst erect spear-shaped leaves. Thomson’s Pond’s waterlilies are in flower and dragonflies patrol their territories. In the Bog Garden look out for the creamy–yellow flowers of Kirengeshoma palmata which show until the autumn.
©The Royal Parks