Information from the Royal Parks team in Richmond Park

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Dogs on Leads Zones Extended: Richmond Park has some restrictions on dogs. Pembroke Lodge Gardens is a dog free area, Isabella Plantation requires dogs to be kept on leads all year and the area between Pen Ponds and White Lodge requires dogs on leads seasonally to protect groundnesting Skylarks. On 1 May the dogs on leads policy will be extended to include Upper and Lower Pen Ponds, Adam?s Pond and Bishops Pond. The decision has been taken following ongoing disturbance to the water birds. 12 out of the 14 Cygnets born in 2007 and 2008 died, with dog disturbance and attacks thought to be largely responsible. It is appreciated that the restrictions will disappoint some dog walkers. However, the Park is simply very, very popular and with so many visitors unrestricted use for everyone would simply end up in the Parks degradation and increasing conflict between users. After all, with 2500 acres, we have to find room for wildlife in the Park as well. Please read the notices at the ponds for more details.

The Poor Man's Nightingale: Nightingales may be known for their beautiful fluid song, but listen to the Blackcap as it tries to impress a mate and you?ll be pushed to choose which is the better songster. It is one of the "Warblers", a group of birds that can be difficult to identify by sight. But Blackcap?s distinctive toupee (the female has a brown cap) means that this little bird is the exception to the rule. A few pairs nest in the Park and some over winter but most migrate for the winter. To listen to a recording of the Blackcap, or any other British bird, visit the RSPB?s web site –

May Blossoms: The Hawthorn is a small, scrubby native tree that is abundant in Richmond Park. Unlike Blackthorn it comes into leaf before the blossoms burst and when in full flower the white petals almost cover the green leaves underneath. With global warming it often flowers in late April, but it is such a powerful sight in May that the Hawthorn is also known simply as "May". There are many cultural references and sayings relating to May blossoms such as “April showers bring forth May flowers”. Shakespeare's sonnet 18 is the origin of the book and TV series “The Darling Buds of May” – an expression used for that which is fresh and new:-

          Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
          Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
          Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
          And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

Another proverb 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' means don't stop wearing your winter vest until the Hawthorn blossoms appear – which ties in well with gardening advice to not plant frost tender plants until mid May.


Rhodendrons: On the lawn above Thomson's Pond are two beds planted with the Japanese species, Rhododendron yakushimanum, amongst a group of its hybrids named after the Seven Dwarfs: Sneezy, Grumpy etc. These plants are compact and very floriferous (12). Also, seek out the tall "Loderi" hybrid "King George", with its large soft pink flowers which are sweetly fragrant. It grows in a number places in the garden but most notably set back above the Still Pond. Follow the Small Stream down from the Still Pond to discover Rhododendron williamsiananum, a compact species with attractive bronze young shoots, distinctive heart shaped leaves and bell-shaped, shell-pink flowers. Look out for Rhododendron "Bibiani" growing in a number of areas in the garden. This shrub produces compact trusses of rich crimson funnel shaped flowers with maroon spots.

Evergreen Azaleas: Easy to identify are:
"Orange Beauty" the most orange of all                      "Amoena" small bright magenta flowers
"Rosebud" opening buds resemble tiny roses               "Palestrina" white with a faint ray of green
"Vuyk's Scarlet" large flowers of a deep silky red        "Hinode Giri" bright crimson, around the Still Pond
"Kirin" a pale pink “hose in hose” (flower within a flower)

Deciduous Azaleas: These flower slightly later and often have a rich spicy smell, particularly Azalea pontica, (Rhododendron luteum), which is yellow and to be found by the gate to Broomfield Hill (1).

The Bog Garden: Look out for Euphorbia griffithii "Fireglow", growing in the bed by the middle pond. It bares orange-red flowers and has a reddish tinge to the emerging young shoots. The clusters of white or pale pink flowers borne on white-haired stems spreading throughout this bed are those of the “Umbrella Plant,” Peltiphyllum peltata. Also present are the young fronds of the “Shuttlecock Fern,” Matteuccia struthiopteris which show an attractive fresh green.

The native tree the “Whitebeam,” Sorbus aria grows near the Broomfield Hill gate and looks particularly attractive at this time of the year with its silvery-white young leaves. Skimmia japonica can also be found growing near this gate along the path that leads onto Camellia Walk and the Still Pond.

The “Foxglove Tree”, Paulownia tomentosa (22) stands in the glade between the Still Pond and Old Nursery Glade. This large leaved tree bares sprays of fragrant foxglove-like pinkish-lilac flowers in Spring.

The “Pocket Handkerchief Tree” Davidia involucrata, set back from the Camellia Walk, (18) has intriguing white hanging bracts. Another specimen may be found in a secluded lawn to the southeast of Thomson's Pond.

The “Snowdrop Tree,” Halesia carolina, with dangling white bell flowers, stands by the path above Thomson's Pond.

Cornus nuttallii, whose white bracts appear like flowers, can be found set back in the newly planted Magnolia Glade near the Ham Gate entrance. Also look out for the pale lemon yellow fragrant flowers of Magnolia wilsonii 'Yellow Fever' and the wonderful deep purple flowers of Magnolia liliiflora 'Nigra'.

Bluebells carpet the wilder fringes of the Garden. PLEASE KEEP TO THE PATHS TO AVOID TRAMPLING THEM.

Congratulations go to the Isabella team on their success at the recent RHS Spring Show.

(Numbers in brackets) relate to the self guided walk in the colourful leaflet, Guide to the Isabella Plantation, priced 50 pence, available from Holly Lodge and the Park Warden within the Garden


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

  • May: Friday 1st, Sunday 10th and Friday 29th

Walks last about 1.5 hours and are free of charge. Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11.00am

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