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ROYAL PARKS DECEMBER NEWS
Return of the Cows. The grazing trial near to Holly Lodge continues for the 3rd year with the arrival of 5 cows at the end of November. We have been loaned three Highland Cattle and a mother and calf Dexter this winter. They are traditional beef breeds well suited to the rough grazing of Richmond Park. The Highlands are especially charismatic and popular with the public wherever they graze. They have important work to do, removing the thick layer of dead grasses that have accumulated over many years which allows the scarcer delicate flowers to blossom. This year we have also placed a few mineral licks in the bracken to see if this will increase their trampling of this dominating fern when they wander about their enclosure.
Goose or Turkey? Up until the mid 1800s, Goose was the meat of choice for Christmas dinner. Wild Geese breed in Northern Europe but migrate to England from October to March. Species such as Brent, Barnacle, Bean, Greylag, Pink-footed and White Fronted are all migratory geese. In the days long before commercial farming they would provide a mid-winter feast for anyone able to catch a wild goose. Farmed geese hold a lot of fat relative to the amount of meat (which is very tasty!). Visitors to Richmond Park are only likely to see Egyptian or Canadian Geese which are not migratory species. They are both introduced and naturalised birds which stay all year round. Nowadays Turkeys are more popular than goose as the Christmas roast. But turkeys are not native to Europe at all. They were first brought to Europe, from the Americas in the 16th century and Henry VIII is thought to be the first person to eat turkey in England, replacing his usual roast swan! It wasn't until the late 1800's that Turkey became popular with the masses. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were great trend-setters, were served with Turkey in 1851 and the Scrooge's gift of a Turkey in Charles Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' (published 1843) was seen as the height of generosity over the still common goose. You won't see any Turkeys roaming in Richmond Park today but in the late 1800's there was a short-lived attempt to introduce a flock of feral turkeys to Richmond Park – it simply proved too much a temptation to the poachers!
Deer. Now that the rut is over the deer disperse into single-sexed groups. They have grown winter coats consisting of a dark coarse outer coat over a fine inner one. The individual hairs are hollow, providing good insulation in cold weather. Frost may occasionally linger on the coarse hair of their backs after a cold night. As winter sets in, the search for food becomes more urgent and deer may cause severe damage to trees, particularly by bark stripping. Timber tree-guards protect vulnerable young trees. Deer can scrape away snow to get at the grass beneath, but find several days' continuous hard frost more difficult to cope with. From November to March the deer are given supplementary feeds of maize, hay and special deer pellets. Feeding takes place nightly on traditional stands, and as the deer gather to eat, the wildlife officers have the opportunity to monitor their condition and adjust their feeding regime accordingly, so bringing them safely through the harshest weather.
ISABELLA PLANTATION IN DECEMBER
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.
Camellia sasanqua "Plantation Pink?, in the woodland glade above the source of Thompson?s Stream bears slightly scented, single, pale pink flowers with yellow stamens.
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, others in the Bog Garden.
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.
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 water fowl 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.
ISABELLA GARDEN WALKS
You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year.
Walks will take place on:
- December: Friday 4th and Sunday 13th
- January: Sunday 10th and Friday 29th
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 11.00a.m.
The Royal Parks' News and Isabella News are copyright The Royal Parks