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

December in Richmond Park

Public meeting – cycling in Richmond  

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, is arranging a public meeting on Wednesday December 17th, at the Duke St Church in Richmond at 7.30pm. The topic will be cycling, and in particular the rising tensions between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians in Richmond Park. It will be an open forum, and the purpose is simply to explore solutions to a problem that is raised by his constituents on a near daily basis. Full details are on Zac Goldsmith’s website.

Rhododendron clearance

In the northern part of Sidmouth Woods and the Driftway, rhododendron clearance has been completed. It has taken contractors four successive years to achieve the clearance of nearly 70 acres of this invasive, non-native plant. Following heavy rain in November the ground conditions in the Driftway are very muddy but it should re-open to the public in early December. Later this winter it is intended to replant the Driftway with native trees and shrubs and in particular species known for their autumn colour and fruit will be selected.

Holly is one of our few native evergreens and as such was used to decorate the home in winter. The berries of the female tree offer a striking contrast to the glossy deep green leaves and have always been a favourite for Christmas decoration.

The Christian interpretation of the Holly tree has the prickly leaves and bright red berries representing the crown of thorns and blood of Christ. For a more traditional interpretation – the prickles and berries were associated with a medical use for dog bites and measles! The market town of Tenbury Wells on the Herefordshire borders has a long-standing association with Holly (and Mistletoe). Both plants grow very well in the local areas and the annual auction of Christmas decorations attracts buyers from all over the country. The plants are so important to local people that they hold a Mistletoe and Holly festival at the same time.

Starlings are easily overlooked as noisy, gregarious and drab coloured when viewing an individual from a distance. Up close this small dark coloured bird is seen to have feathers that have an iridescent sheen of purple and green.

When seen in large flocks they create one of our best wildlife spectacles.
During the autumn and winter, just before dusk, starlings form a communal flock known as a 'murmuration'.

In Richmond Park a relatively small flock of starlings communally roost in the Lime trees near Pen Ponds but elsewhere in the UK numbers can reach several thousand. When they are this large the sky will turn black with large clouds swooping and gliding together – a jaw dropping experience, especially when silhouetted against a winter sunset.

The Isabella Plantation in December

Early winter flowers and bark

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 under bark.

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 Isabella Plantation Access Project
Premier Tree and Ground Care will be working within the Plantation carrying out the final phase of machine removal of Rhododendron ponticu., 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. The Royal Parks apologises for any inconvenience this work may cause.