Information from the Royal Parks team in Richmond Park

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The BIG freeze: Early January brought some very cold weather to the Park, which is usually 2 or 3 degrees lower than the temperatures predicted on the weather forecast.  Park staff monitor the weather and grit the roads in the very early hours before the gates open at 07.30. Heavy snow has the potential to cause the roads to be closed, or partially closed as it takes considerable time to clear it.  It should go without saying that no matter how cold it gets, NEVER walk on frozen ponds or lakes.  If you visit the Park during cold weather take sensible precautions especially in remote areas or after dark.  A sprained ankle, could lead to hypothermia – so carry a mobile phone – just in case.

Grazing:  The 3 cows have now been grazing the 4-hectare paddock near Holly Lodge for 3 months. We have deliberately under stocked the area so we can observe the effect they have on grassland and gradually build up the stocking number.  This will ensure that the cows always have plenty to eat, without the need for supplementary feeds that could increase fertility in the soil. It's just possible to observe the effect the cows are having now.  Animal welfare is of utmost importance and should we experience heavy snow, supplementary feed will be necessary. 

Deer Feeding: The Park's acreage can sustain a breeding population of about 650 deer, of which about 350 are Fallow and 300 are Red deer.  Many years ago the herd was allowed to get much larger and consequently suffered ill health. Now the herd has sufficient food and enjoys good health.  Nonetheless, winter is a lean month and the Park staff feed the deer nightly.  They receive a supplement of hay (cut in the Park last summer), maize and deer pellets – which contain essential vitamins and minerals. Unlike a deer farm, the food does not support the herd or increase meat production; it simply ensures good health and vitality. It also trains the deer to go to the nightly feeding stands so that, if we do receive heavy snow, the feed can be increased accordingly.

Arum: The glossy spotted leaves of this perennial hedgerow and woodland flower often 'burst' in January if sufficiently warm! The flowers are contained in a broad, hood-like structure called a spathe.  Inside a club like sadix gives of an odour of decay to attract insects, which then become trapped. The flower has a phallic appearance and was therefore connected with lovers in the middle ages. It also gave rise to the many of its 60 different local names that have slightly 'rude' connotations.  These include Lords and Ladies, Cuckoo Pint, Priest's Pintle, Adder's Meat, Dead Man's Fingers, Flycatcher, Jack-in-the-box, Jack-in-the-green, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Mandrake, Poison Fingers, Wake Robin and (best of all) Kitty-come-down-the-lane-jump-up-and-kiss-me.  The plant flowers in March or April and develops red, poisonous berries in August.


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. Salix caprea stands at the base of Peg's Ponds and bears attractive swollen silver haired buds at this time of year before flowering. 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. Mahonia bealei has racemes of yellow flowers with a “Lily-of-the-valley” fragrance, and handsome prickly evergreen leaves. One group is set back to the south of Acer Glade. Rhododendron dauricum 'Midwinter', also beside the Acer Glade path, has small rose-purple flowers. Camellia japonica 'Nobilissima', with white peony form flowers grows in the woodland ride to the north of Thomson's Stream. In Wilson's Glade behind the stand of “Tibetan Cherries”, a form of “Winter Sweet”, Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus' grows, it has sweetly scented flowers which are a clear waxy yellow in colour. 

A bird feeder has been placed on Bluebell Walk to feed over wintering residents and visitors. In addition to this water fowl on Peg's Pond are fed on corn over the winter months.

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

  • January: Friday 16th, Sunday 18th & Friday 30th
  • February: Friday 6th, Sunday 8th & Friday 27th

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.