January Park diaries

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 cottonbarbara@yahoo.co.uk

January in the Park

The Big Freeze: December saw a drop in temperature to below zero for several days.  The Park staff work exceptionally hard to keep the Park running as normal.  Ordinarily a team start work at 4.30 am to grit the roads before the Park gates are opened for 7.30 am. But when overnight sleet or snow is predicted the roads are checked every few hours throughout the night to monitor conditions.  If necessary a team of people are then woken from their slumber to help the gritting crew clear snow.  Although unusual, it is sometime not possible to open all the Park roads by 7.30.a.m.  When this happens all efforts concentrate on making each stretch of road safe in turn.  This only happens in exceptional circumstances and on most cold days the roads are open as usual for the commuting cars and Park visitors who are unaware of the nocturnal activity that has taken place in bitter conditions.

An Obituary to Barry Day.  It was very unusual when the Park's principle machinery operator 'Big Barry' did not turn up for work on Thursday 17th December.  He started working in the Park at 17 and for the next 42 years 'wild horses' couldn't keep him away.  He once said that he developed his love of outdoor work at school in rural Sussex where he learnt land-based skills.  He had a natural aptitude for anything mechanical and offered his skills and experience to anyone with car problems or re-build projects.  His knowledge of 1950's 'Little Grey Fergie' tractors was exemplary having driven and repaired them as a boy.  He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Park and would always know where drains would be blocked, when a pond was last de-silted and how every path was constructed.  He witnessed many changes to the Park staff and managing organisations.  Right up to his final days he often worked past his official clocking-off time and came in at weekends if he could find a job or two that needed his attention.  Barry was a defiantly cheerful, charismatic man and always had time to chat to colleagues and the public.  His care free approach to life and anecdotal stories about 'Park-life' made him popular with all – a large man and an even larger personality.  Children were guaranteed a reciprocal wave from underneath his thick mop of hair, inside his passing tractor or Big Yellow Digger.  He understood how the little things in life brought the most joy to people. The Park is left impoverished without Barry and his absence leaves a quiet numbness that compares to the earliest morning of deep snow. He is deeply missed.

Top Woodland Award: Richmond Park fought off stiff competition to gain the London Tree and Woodland Award this year.  There are seven different categories and Richmond park won the award for 'The most innovative woodland project demonstrating community and biodiversity benefits'  The judges noted the positive work the park does for biodiversity when managing the veteran trees and enclosures such as Prince Charles Spinney and Sidmouth woods.  They also commended the community involvement through groups such as the Friends of Richmond Park and Richmond Park Wildlife Group.

Deer Feeding: The Park's acreage can sustain a breeding population of about 630 deer, of which about 330 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.

The Isabella Plantation in January

Trees and Flowers with 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.
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.

Isabella Garden Walks 2010

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

  • January: Sunday 10th and Friday 29th
  • February: Sunday 7th, Friday and Friday 26th

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 11.00 a.m.

The Royal Parks' News and Isabella News are copyright The Royal Parks