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

January in the Park

Deer feeding The Park’s acreage sustains a breeding population of about 630 deer, of which about 330 are Fallow and 300 are Red deer. During the winter, their food source is usually depleted so Park staff feed the deer nightly. Feeding starts in mid December with maize and deer pellets and usually the deer stop wanting the feed by March when the spring grass grows again. However the mild autumn and exceptional high acorn yield this year is still supporting the deer’s daily diet – so much so that they aren’t interested in the supplementary food with only half the herd feeding on the handout. (It is noticeable that berries and nuts are also plentiful with plenty of food for wild birds). It is also noticeable that one or 2 stags (male red deer) are still bellowing in December – 2 month after the height of the rut. One can only speculate that this may be connected on some way with the exceptionally mild autumn and abundance of high energy food.

Shire horses The Royal Parks has been considering the future of its Shire Horse team based in Richmond Park for some time following the Governments Spending Review and reduction in funding. While the Shire Horse team is a unique and valuable asset for The Royal Parks in terms of heritage and environmental benefits, it is difficult to justify the cost of a full-time, in-house team given the financial pressures.

Therefore a decision was taken at the recent executive committee meeting which will result in a continued presence of working Shire Horses in the parks while making considerable cost savings. The Royal Parks will set up a licence agreement with Hampton Court Shires to mirror the agreement that this company already has with the Historic Royal Palaces. The Hampton Court Shires’ provide carriage rides at Hampton Court.

The Royal Parks Shire horses are eight year old Massey and 18 year old Jed. Massey has moved to Hampton Court and, along with the present Hampton Court Shire horses Roy, Jim and Aragon, will be contracted in to carry out estate management work in the parks (such as grass mowing and bracken rolling) when required.

In addition, we will look to develop hired services within all The Royal Parks to generate income such as tourist carriage rides and transport for weddings. During 2012 Jed will retire to The Horse Trust in Buckinghamshire. It is hoped that if this new partnership agreement is successful it could create more job opportunities and more working horses in London in the future.

Woodcock The winter months are a good time to see Woodcock in the Park if you know where (and when) to look! These curious looking birds have the characteristic long, thin bill of the wading birds that are often are seen on flood plains and river estuaries.

However, Woodcock are associated more with dense woodland where they hide in the undergrowth during the day. At night they fly out to water-logged grassland to probe the soil for worms. So during the day, woodcock are hiding in woodlands where public access is restricted such as Sidmouth Woods and Prince Charles Spinney. At dawn they can be seen flying into these woodland areas and at dusk they can be seen flying out – but not in large numbers. Perhaps there are about 5 or 6 in an area like Sidmouth Woods – an elusive treat for any keen ‘birder’ who endures the winter weather.

The Isabella Plantation in January

Trees and shrubs with coloured and textured bark 
The pollarded willows on the banks of Peg's Pond are forms of Salix alba, with amber and red stems.Yellow-stemmed dogwood, Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea', grows nearby under the weeping willow, and in the Bog Garden.
Red-stemmed dogwood, Cornus alba, is set back behind the heathers. Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ has orange and red stems which show throughout the winter months and can also be found in the Bog Garden.
The “River Birch”, Betula nigra, has papery shredding buff coloured bark. Two of these trees grow on the north side of the Main Stream; one above the Heather Garden and the other towards the top.
Three “Himalayan Birches”, B. jacquemontii, with striking white stems, stand on the lawn above Thomson's Pond.
The “Tibetan Cherry”, Prunus serrula, has gleaming mahogany-red bark beginning to peel into curly shreds. One is set back on the lawn to the north east of Thomson's Pond. Three other good specimens may also be found in Wilson’s Glade.
Acer hersii, at the north end of the Acer Glade path, is one of several 'snake bark' Acers in the garden.

Heather garden 
Erica x darleyensis comes into flower in its pink and white forms. Tawny seed heads of Erica vagans remain decorative all winter.
The tall “Portugal Heath”, Erica lusitanica, bears slightly fragrant tubular white flowers opening from pink buds throughout winter.
Clumps may be found towards the top of the Heather Garden, near the junction of Thomson's Stream and the Main Stream.
The “Sacred Bamboo’, Nandina domestica, planted behind the heather in several places, is truly a plant for all seasons. Decorative evergreen leaves are tinged purple in spring and autumn, panicles of white flowers open in the summer to provide orange red berries throughout winter.

Flowering shrubs 
Hamamelis mollis, the “Witch Hazel”, has fragrant yellow tassel flowers. Two large shrubs stand by the gate to Broomfield Hill. Another hybrid variety, called ‘Jelena’, has ginger coloured flowers and grows in the woodland ride to the west of the garden.
Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ grows close to the Top gate and also set back in the glade behind Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’. It produces semi-double, white flowers intermittently throughout the winter months.
Lonicera X purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, is a shrubby honeysuckle which bears tiny white fragrant flowers throughout winter. A group of these shrubs grows by the Acer Glade path.
Rhododendron dauricum 'Midwinter', also beside the Acer Glade path, has small rose-purple flowers.

The Isabella Plantation Team wishes you a Happy New Year.

Isabella Garden Walks 2012

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

January Friday 6th & 27th, Sunday 15th
February Friday 3rd & 24th, Sunday 12th

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