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

March in the Park

Nesting Birds: The courtship behaviour of breeding birds is starting to become evident and Skylarks are performing their fantastic displays in various locations.  As ground nesting birds they are particularly vulnerable to disturbance.  Dogs have a habit of running randomly away from paths and so the dogs-on-leads zone will again be marked out from March.  Since this policy was introduced the numbers of breeding Skylarks has increased from about 3 singing males to more than 20.
Last year was the first time that the dogs-on-leads request was introduced at Pen Ponds.  Although a minority of dog walkers did not adhere to the signs, sufficient numbers did.  It was also the first time for at least 3 years that cygnets survived. Hopefully this success will continue in the forthcoming breeding season.

Pegasus Crossing: Last month saw the official opening of a new road crossing linking Richmond Park with Wimbledon Common.  Situated  just outside Robin Hood Gate, the 'Pegasus' crossing is designed to be used by horse riders as well as pedestrians. It now means that riders can safely enjoy very long rides between to 2 open spaces and add interest and variation to routine walks.  Previous to the crossing being installed, the pedestrian footbridge was unsuitable for riders who had to risk crossing the busy A3 road.

Tern Raft: This spring will see the installation of a new bird breeding raft in pen ponds.  We have had a small raft in the pond for a couple of years and in 2009 a pair of Common Terns stayed for most of summer and attempted to breed.  Their interest in the ponds was also due to re-stocking the ponds with a number of smaller fish a few years ago. The Friends of  Richmond Park have therefore generously sponsored the new raft through money raised from sales in the visitor centre at Pembroke Lodge.  The new raft is 8' x 4' and fitted with Perspex sides.  These protect the chicks from falling in the water and help prevent other birds such as geese and gulls from monopolising the available space.

Mad March Hares: Hares behave excitedly in March which is their mating season. Their lively behaviour involves jumping and boxing and will actually continue for several months.  Lewis Carroll referenced this behaviour in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – “The March Hare …as this is May, it won't be raving mad – at least not as mad as it was in March.”  The expression 'hare-brained' meaning mad, is also derived from Hares behaviour at this time of year.  Unfortunately Hares have not been seen in the Park for some time.  They were still around on the golf course until 1972, at least. They are longer-limbed and can run faster than Rabbits (up to 30 or even 40 mph) but unlike Rabbits they do not breed underground and are therefore vulnerable to dogs and changes in farming practices.   

Deer: The cull of male deer takes place in February and is usually completed by early March.  By keeping the ratio of male to female deer at no more than 1:3, the aggression levels between males is kept low, yet there are still plenty of deer with antlers to be seen and the number of young born each year is not too excessive.

The Isabella Plantation in March

Heather Garden
Here Erica x darleyensis ranges throughout in its pink and white varieties. Erica erigena forms taller dense mounds and is represented by "W.T. Rackliff" which is white, and "Brightness" which has rose purple flowers and bronze leaves. Set back towards the top of the Heather Garden is Erica lusitanica, tallest of all, with white flowers opening from pink buds. Erica carnea 'Myretoun Ruby' has recently been planted near the Swamp Cyprus its deep reddish pink flowers brighten this spot from January to May.

Following the path which runs through woodland up the western side of the Garden you will find two of the many famous williamsii hybrid camellias: Camellia 'Donation', and C. 'Inspiration' near the ancient pollard oak. Nearby, the formal double white flowers, striped with red and pink, belong to Camellia japonica 'Lavinnia Maggi'. Camellias frequently produce 'sports', and you may find white, red and striped flowers all on the same plant. Camellia japonica 'Preston Rose' also grows in this area and bears salmon- pink paeony form flowers. Camellia 'Parkside' another williamsii hybrid bearing an abundance of large clear pink semi double flowers grows in Magnolia grandiflora Glade set back from Thomson's Lawn. Another garden favourite, Camellia japonica 'Alba Simplex' shows large white flowers with conspicuous yellow stamens and grows in many spots around the garden, including set back at the top of the main stream path. 

Three Wilson Plants
Rhododendron lutescens, is an early-flowering rhododendron species from China, small leaves and primrose yellow blooms. Many of these plants grow set back to the east of the Main Stream. More, younger plants grow near the fence in Wilson's Glade. Wilson's Glade is situated to the north of the entrance gate from Broomfield Hill car park. It houses a collection of plants introduced to this country by the famous plant collector, Ernest Wilson. Also near the fence of the glade is a group of Stachyurus chinensis, a shrub with long drooping racemes of soft yellow flowers. Close to the main path through the glade is Corylopsis veitchiana, a large erect growing shrub that also bears its flowers in large racemes of primrose yellow with conspicuous brick red anthers.

During March several magnolias come into flower. A fine Magnolia stellata stands near the path above Thomson's Pond. Many others are planted throughout the Garden, particularly in woodland areas on the western side.Two young Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' can be found growing in Bluebell Walk opposite Acer Glade. This large shrub or small tree bears lilac-pink flowers that are deeper in bud. A more mature form can be found growing on the other side of Acer Glade by the Scots Pine.

Growing on the wet lawn near the gate from Broomfield Hill car park, the dwarf Narcissus cyclamineus, native of Spain and Portugal, has pendent golden flowers with narrow trumpets and upward sweeping petals, reminiscent of a cyclamen bloom. Soon to follow on this lawn will be N. bulbocodium, commonly known as the 'hooped petticoat', due to its widely flared trumpet.

Other Plants of Interest
The “Fuji Cherry”, Prunus incisa, grows set back behind the Witch Hazel's on the path leading from the Broomfield Hill gate leading to the lawn above Thomson's Pond. This lovely Japanese species bears small white flowers, which are pink-tinged in bud and appear pink from a distance. Clematis armandii, an evergreen Clematis with creamy white flowers grows up a dead tree in Beech Bay, the area between Thomson's Pond and the Main Stream. Rhododendron sutchuense stands above the Still Pond, this outstanding Chinese shrub bears a profusion of large bell-shaped flowers which are a rosy-lilac in colour with purple spots. This Rhododendron is another Ernest Wilson introduction. In the 'V ' between the streams area look out for two stunning Rhododendrons grown for both their stunning flowers and bark; Rhododendron shilsonii which has loose trusses of bell shaped blood-red flowers and Rhododendron hylaeum with its pale pink flowers. R.calophytum 'Robin Hood' grows above these two rhododendrons, set back off the main stream path and bears large trusses of pale pink bell-shaped flowers with a maroon basal blotch.

Isabella Plantation Garden Walks 2010

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

  • March: Friday 5th, Sunday 14th, & 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 11.00a.m.

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