The Royal Parks team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (December 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
December in the Park
Christmas trees Trees are on sale at Roehampton car park. Purchasing one through our concession ‘Pines and Needles’ will help to look after the parks as a percentage of sales is paid to the Royal Parks. They are open every day during park opening hours up until Christmas Eve and trees can be delivered.
The tradition of decorating the home with evergreen foliage symbolises eternal life through the darkest months, often dating back to pre-Christian times. The tradition of bringing an entire tree into the home may be linked with the 8th century German Saint Boniface who in 723 is said to have cut down ‘Donar’s (Thors) Oak.
The tree was sacred to the pagans and by replacing it with a pine tree, Boniface was said to have converted the pagans to Christianity. In this context the triangular shape of the pine tree is seen as a representation of the Trinity and the tall pointed shape of a tree is said to be pointing to Heaven.
Special constable recruitment The Royal Parks are policed by a dedicated team of Metropolitan Police officers who only cover The Royal Parks. They enlist support from Special Constables who are uniformed volunteer police officers. Whilst they currently have ‘Specials’ working in the central royal parks, the Met police are currently looking to recruit specials who would like to work across Richmond and Bushy Parks.
If you are interested, please take a look at the Met Police web site and if interested contact Alexander Davies for a friendly chat.
Fungi As the mild autumn continues fungi are still showing. The issue of picking fungi was recently featured on ITV local news as taking fungi causes 3 concerns: It can deplete the population from the park, causing detriment to important deadwood habits. The deer and other animals rely of fungi for food and nutrition. Misidentifying fungi is a problem as some are poisonous.
The police have, in recent years, issued over 80 cautions to fungi pickers and prosecuted several people under the Park Regulations.
Feeding the deer Problems with the deer’s health in the 1980’s, lead to advice that the Park could sensibly sustain a breeding population of around 650 deer. Whilst the deer browse on trees and grass during the summer they really do rely on seeds such as acorns, chestnuts and conkers to build up fat reserves for the winter.
The available food varies from year to year, so to ensure the deer are always in optimum health they are given supplementary feed in the winter – which also ensures they receive all their essential vitamins and minerals. If it has been a good year for browse and seeds, they come to the feed less readily than a poor year. They also lose interest in the feed earlier in the spring if it’s mild and grass starts growing earlier. Likewise if we experience heavy snows and food is less available, the feed is increased to ensure their health and welfare.
December in the Isabella Plantation
Winter flowers Hamamelis mollis, the “Witch Hazel”, has very fragrant yellow tassel flowers. Two large shrubs stand by the gate to Broomfield Hill.
Mahonia bealii, whose racemes of yellow flowers smell like “Lily-of the Valley”, can be found set back in woodland to the south of the Acer Glade.
Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ can be found by the Bluebell Walk on the east of the Acer Glade, at this time of year it bears fragrant cream-coloured flowers.
Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’, the “Autumn Cherry” can be found growing set back from the path leading to Wilson’s Glade from the top gate. Following autumn tints to the leaves, this small tree produces semi-double, white flowers from November to March.
Garrya eliptica grows alongside the Main Stream path, this evergreen shrub bears long greyish green catkins at this time of year.
Sarcococca confusa, a small evergreen shrub grows alongside the Main Stream and produces very fragrant white flowers this month.
A single stand of Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ grows in a glade just off the Main Stream this upright shrub bears densely packed clusters of sweetly scented, rose-tinted flowers throughout the cold winter months.
Trees and shrubs with coloured and textured bark Salix alba 'Chermesina' ('Britzensis'), the pollarded willows by Peg's Pond, have amber and red stems.
Cornus sericea var.'Flaviramea' nearby under the weeping willow, and also adjacent to the Bog Garden, has smooth greenish yellow stems.
Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ has bright red stems. Two groups are set back behind the Heather Garden, others in the Bog Garden along with Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ with its brilliant flame red, orange and yellow stems.
Betula nigra, the “River Birch”, has papery shredding buff coloured bark. One may be found by the path above the Heather Garden, and the other towards the top of the Main Stream.
Betula jacquemontii, three young birches with striking white bark stand on the lawn above Thomson's Pond. Several multi-stemmed forms of this tree can be found in the woodland area near the wild stream in the northern part of the Garden.
Prunus serrula, set back on the lawn east of Thomson's Pond, has gleaming mahogany-red bark peeling into curly shreds.
Several 'snake-bark' acers may be found throughout the Garden as well as other species of birch, all with interesting bark.
Acer griseum, the “Paperbark Maple” grows in the wet lawn area by the top gate and also in Wilson’s Glade, as well as other areas of the garden. This beautiful tree not only has good autumn colour but also a great colour to its trunk, which is particularly obvious in the winter months, as the old bark peels off to expose the cinnamon coloured underbark.
Heather garden Erica X darleyensis comes into flower this month in its pink and white forms.
Erica vagans, the Cornish Heath, has tawny seed heads which remain decorative all winter.
Erica lusitanica, the tall Portugal Heath, bears slightly fragrant tubular white flowers opening from pink buds throughout the winter.
Nandina domestica, the “Sacred Bamboo” provides a stunning backdrop to the heathers in this area, its leaves tinge red in autumn and winter and it also bears a profusion of spherical red fruits.
Removal of Rhododendron ponticum Gardeners and volunteers will be busy removing Rhododendron ponticum from isolated spots around the Plantation this winter. 70 per cent of the R.ponticum within the Isabella Plantation has now been removed by machine.
Contractors will also revisit this winter to remove larger isolated clumps of R.ponticum by machine that were missed. This is all in an effort to slow the spread of existing pests and diseases and also to safeguard the plant collection against future infection by fungal pathogens such as Phytophthoras, which have the potential to devastate the Plantation’s important collections of Rhododendron, Azalea and Camellia.
The removal of this invasive evergreen shrub will improve airflow and reduce humidity creating healthier conditions within the Plantation.
The space created by clearance also presents an exciting opportunity to plant more native and exotic trees and shrubs, as well as create new glades, rides and open areas within the Plantation. Visitors to the Plantation should notice a whole range of new planting being carried out over the winter months.
Walks in the Isabella Plantation
You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year. Walks will take place on:
December: Sunday 15th
January: Friday 8th & 29th Sunday 10th
Walks last about one and a half hours and are free. Meet inside the garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.