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 Chris Mason at

Richmond Park in December

The little egret  is an elegant white heron more usually seen on the continent. The small number of UK egrets used to be overwintering birds but in 1994 the first UK pair bred in a secret location in Dorset. Since then the resident breeding colonies on the south coast have grown, adding to the migratory visitors and they are now becoming increasingly common in wetland habitats. Richmond Park is blessed with occasional sightings on the Beverley Brook where the shallow water allows them to wade and feed in the winter months.

New Year's Eve  Sawyers Hill has become an increasingly popular destination for people to go for New Year’s Eve. It provides wonderful views of the London skyline where the cities celebrations can be seen at midnight.

A family walk into the Park at night is a special occasion and the fresh air and exercise helps to work off the seasonal excesses! The Park’s Police attend the event as fireworks, Chinese lanterns and sparklers aren’t permitted in the Park. The risk of fire and litter are obviously a concern in a National Nature Reserve.

Discarded sparklers are a concern as they cause injury and lameness to the deer that are naturally curious and will nibble and tread on the discarded wires. It is great that so many people enjoy the Park on special occasions and we can all play our part in preserving the Park as a protected landscape and its wild inhabitants.

Sidmouth Woods restoration programme continues this winter. Almost half the woodland has already been cleared of Rhododendron ponticum and an internal fence is now protecting the cleared area from the couple of deer that have found their way into the woodland.

Trees are naturally regenerating now the deer are unable to eat the new growth. To supplement the natural regeneration 1000 small hazel seedlings will be planted this winter over the 6 ha (17 acre) area. Hazel is great for wildlife and forms a multi-stemmed shrub known as a coppice stool. Collectively they will create an understory of woodland that will not compete for light with the higher canopy of oaks, chestnut and birch, enhancing the woodland as a wildlife rich habitat.

A third section (of a five-year programme) will be cleared of Rhododendron ponticum. This invasive non-native is poor for wildlife and can create conditions that harbour pathogens.


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.
al red fruits.

The Isabella Plantation Access Project

Blakedown Landscapes (SE) have been appointed to carry out the main infrastructure improvements to the Plantation as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Isabella Plantation Access Project.

Before Christmas they will be busy carrying out the first phase of resurfacing works to the Peg’s Pond Disabled User’s Car park and also resurfacing the accessible path network within the Plantation. Whilst this work is in progress the car park will be closed and paths within the Plantation will be closed and some routes will be diverted.

Premier Tree and Ground Care are also working within the Plantation carrying out the second phase of machine removal of Rhododendron ponticum, as a result of this work, large areas of the Plantation will be closed off and access to the public will be excluded.

Visitors should be aware that heavy plant will be operating within the Plantation and The Royal Parks apologises for any inconvenience this work may cause.

Isabella Park Walks

Join the gardeners for guided walks through the year. The dates avaiblable currently for the Isabella Plantation walks are:

December Friday 6th, Sunday 15th

Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.