The Royal Parks team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (July 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 [email protected]
July in Richmond Park
Stinging nettles They are not usually cut back in the Park unless they grow adjacent to very busy paths or on the roadside verge where all vegetation is periodically mown.
We loathe brushing past them wearing shorts on a hot day, but nettles are important to the Park's ecology. They contain 25% protein, are eaten by caterpillars of several moths and is the only food for the Peacock butterflies. The Park's deer also eat the tips of nettles and indeed, when cooked, young nettles are much like spinach and can be eaten by humans. They have medicinal properties and stinging oneself was once used to relieve the pains of rheumatism. They have influenced our culture with phrases like ‘grasp the nettle’ and in Hungary the expression ‘lighting never strikes the nettle’ means bad things never happen to bad people!
Big bats and stag beetles The Park is designated as a Special Area of Conservation under European legislation for its Stag Beetles. These large insects spend most of their lifecycle burrowing into decaying wood on, or below the ground. They can spend up to seven years underground and then emerge as adults to mate and lay eggs before dying.
Serotine, Noctule and Leisler’s bats all feed on large beetles. They have long slender wings to enable fast flight in straight lines and their echolocation allows them to send out loud fast pulses to locate beetles in the far distance. A stag beetle in flight is easy prey for these big bats and in midsummer it is possible to find, in the park, stag beetle body parts bearing bat teeth marks.
Tree fires Barbeques and open fires are not allowed in Richmond Park as they cause genuine issues that are detrimental to the parks ecology, as well as being a safety risk.
Disposable BBQs are a particular concern as picnickers can readily buy these and bring them to the park on summer days out. Even a slight wind renders a BBQ ineffective, so they end up getting placed at the base of trees. The Park's veteran trees are around 700 years old and a very important to wildlife and the countries heritage. Being hollow and having dead wood through the heart of the tree, they act like a tinder dry chimney that readily ignites and draws any flames through the tree.
It is difficult for the fire brigade to extinguish flames inside a hollow tree and the park is scattered with veteran trees that have fire damage or have even been killed by an ill-considered BBQ. The Royal Parks will prosecute any offenders and the potential penalty, on conviction, could be up to £20,000 such is the seriousness of the issue.
Paths and bridges Those near Sheen Gate car park are due to be renovated during July. The paths between the Tamsin Trail and Sheen car park will be upgraded and the small bridges over the ditches will be replaced.
DONT FORGET – PARK ROADS CLOSED ON 2nd AUGUST.
Isabella Plantation in July
Flowering trees and shrubs Large, late flowering rhododendrons can be found in the south section of the garden, between the stream from the Still Pond and the main central stream. They have pink and white fragrant flowers and include many hybrids of Rhododendron auriculatum. Many rhododendrons are now producing handsome new leaves. These are often covered with a soft felt layer, which is white or ginger, and known as ‘indumentum’.
In the secluded lawn to the south of Thomson’s Pond the first giant flowers of the Magnolia grandiflora are set amongst glossy evergreen leaves. They have thick fleshy cream petals and a delicious citrus scent.
Clethra barbinervis with its long racemes of white fragrant flowers can be found on the path leading from the Top Gate down towards Bluebell Walk, near the entrance to Wilson’s Glade.
Heather garden Look out for the “Button Bush”, Cephalanthus occidentalis, set back from the path leading to the Bog Garden. This shrub bears creamy-white flowers in small globular heads, which are very attractive to butterflies.
Bog garden In the Bog Garden the tall yellow spires of Ligularia przewalskii are set against a backdrop of bamboo and the Gunnera manicata spreads its giant prickly leaves.
Here, and by the streams, many varieties of Hemerocallis, the ‘Day Lily’ flower amongst iris. Bell-shaped, fragrant yellow of the “Giant Cowslip”, Primula florindae, show in the marginal bed alongside the decked walkway. The wild flowers of ‘Purple Loosestrife’ and the frothy white blossoms of ‘Meadowsweet’ grow alongside more exotic plantings.
Look out for butterflies visiting the Joe Pye weeds (Eupatorium purpureum) with its stately pinkish purple flowers. Water lilies open on Thomson’s Pond, where dragonflies and damselflies hover and dart over the water on warm still days. Just off the central path look out for the soft pink flowers of the ground cover plant Persicaria affinis ‘Superba’.
The birthday mound Hydrangea quercifolia with its large oak shaped leaves and abundance of frothy white flowers heads can be found putting on an impressive show on the banking surrounding the Red Oak stump.
Foxglove tree glade Hydrangea aspera, flowers in the glade set back from the Still Pond. This magnificent large leafed shrub produces large heads of porcelain blue flowers, with a ring of lilac-pink or white ray florets.
Azalea feeding Streamside Azaleas are fed with an organically approved seaweed based feed, after flowering, to encourage vigour, disease resistance and flower production in the following spring.
Lawn creation The gardeners and volunteers will be busy towards the end of this month clearing debris in areas where Rhododendron ponticum has been removed. The ground will then be prepared and sown with grass seed in late august. The team will begin to replant these areas with new plantings throughout the autumn and winter months.
Wheelchair available A motorised wheelchair, which makes the job of pushing considerably easier, may be loaned for use within the Garden on weekdays between 9am and 3pm Please ring 0300 061 2200 to book the chair by noon on the day before it is required.
New Isabella Plantation guide A new colour guide is now available to purchase for £1. You can pick up a copy from the Pembroke Lodge Information Centre; on an Isabella walk; or from one of the garden team.
Walks in the Isabella Plantation
You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year. Walks will take place on:
July: Sunday 12th and Friday 31st
August: Sunday 9th and Friday 28th
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.