The Royal Parks' team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (December 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

Pines and needles This year The Royal Parks have given permission for Christmas trees to be sold from Roehampton Gate car park (SW15 5JR). The outlet will be open every day from December 1 until Christmas Eve from 8am until 3.45pm, selling a selection of UK grown trees and decorations etc, and can even arrange local delivery.

In the news: Fenton the dog Recently a video clip of a dog chasing deer in the Park, posted on You Tube, attracted an exceptionally high volume of views, which in turn attracted the newspapers and television. The interest spread to entertainment programmes on the radio and television and even T-shirts are available to purchase! The Royal Parks have little control on how this incident was portrayed in the media and the ‘hype’ was largely based on its comedy value.

There is constant risk of deer being involved in road traffic accidents in the Park. Since the speed restriction was reduced to 20mph the number of deer fatalities on the road has reduced ten-fold and is now thankfully just one or two per year. However, this clip reminds motorists to keep to the speed limit and dogs must be kept a short lead if there is any doubt about their behaviour. Earlier in 2011 a dog owner was prosecuted and received a fine and costs exceeding £1000 for a similar incident.

Feeding the deer Problems with the health of the deer in the 1970’s led 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 the 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.

Winter hoar frosts Sub zero temperatures have been a long time coming this autumn but finally the morning frosts started at the end of November. Clear nights bring good morning light – but also the chance of a hoar frost. When heat is lost into the cloudless skies, exposed objects become colder than air and become deposited with ice crystals. The large tussocks of Tufted Hair Grass and Silver Birch trees look particularly picturesque on winter mornings especially when a mist also rises from the Pen Ponds.

December in 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.

A bird feeder has been placed on Bluebell Walk to feed over wintering garden residents and visitors. In addition to this, the waterfowl on the ponds are fed on corn throughout the winter months.
The gardeners are busy preparing beds and planting out trees and shrubs within the Garden.

© Richmond Park