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 Roy Berriman at

The Park in December

Woodpeckers and horizontal indentations on tree trunks This linear pattern of bark damage can be seen on many trees in Richmond Park. What is the activity that causes this?

The woodpecker makes a series of small holes aligned horizontally on a tree trunk in order to feed on the sap, but also on the insects that are attracted to the sap. The birds may make many rows of such holes in a trunk. In young trees such as chestnut or lime the bark is often somewhat smooth and the holes are then very easy to see.

Fresh damage appears when the trees have a girth of 10-15cm and this linear damage pattern can still be seen on mature trees where the trees have responded by covering the indentations with callous material. In the UK this activity is minor and has no long term consequence for the tree.

Olympic legacy cycling event As part of the Olympic legacy, RIDELONDON is planned for the 3rd and 4th August 2013 and will pass through Richmond and St James’s Park. More details will be available in the New Year. To register for the event or to keep up to date, look at

Christmas decorations Evergreen foliage has always been brought into the home for mid-winter decoration. Perhaps the most widely used is Holly as it is abundant and the deep green leaves and contrasting red berries make an impressive display. It is said that the prickles and berries represent the crown of thorns and blood of Christ, but in the folklore they were also the reason that Holly was thought to offer a cure from dog bites and measles.

Mistletoe is present in most homes as just one small sprig – for kissing under. It is a semi- parasitic plant that somehow appears to magically grow on poplars, limes and fruit trees. In folk lore this was interpreted as having special powers associated with fertility. This has, over the years, developed into the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe during the festive season.

Strangely, given the abundance of mistletoe in Bushy Park, there is only one tree in Richmond Park with Mistletoe – in a lime near the Petersham playground.

Goldcrests are Britain’s smallest birds at just 9 cm long and have a brilliant yellow crest on their heads. They live here all year round but in the winter numbers can increase with Scandinavian birds joining the resident population. They are woodland birds and specialise in eating tiny insects, spiders and even moth eggs.

If you are patient (and use binoculars) they can be spotted in small flocks during the winter months, passing slowly through the canopies of trees, feeding as they go. If you are lucky you may spot the almost identical but much rarer FIRECREST amongst the flock – distinguished by a more striped head with yellow and red markings.

The Isabella Plantation in December

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.

The gardeners are will be busy preparing beds and planting out trees and shrubs within the Garden over the coming months. The contractor responsible for desilting and enhancement of ponds and streams as part of the Isabella Plantation Access Project has been appointed. Site set will happen before Christmas with desilting and enhancements beginning in the new year.

Isabella Garden Walks 

You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year. Walks will take place on:

December Friday 7th Sunday 16th
January Friday 4th & 25th, Sunday 20th

Walks last about one and a half hours and are free of charge. Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.

©The Royal Parks