The Royal Parks' team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (November 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 email@example.com
Habitat status improves Natural England is the government agency responsible for the nation’s biodiversity. They oversee the management of land protected for wildlife, assessing Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s) as one of seven different condition statements.
Richmond Park was designated a SSSI in 1992 when the grassland habitats were assessed as ‘unfavourable’ condition. Since before 1992 the Royal Parks, partnership organisations and countless individuals have worked very hard to monitor and improve the habitats of the Park, applying legislation and good management practices appropriately. This month all the hard work was rewarded as Natural England officially recognised all the Parks habitats as being in ‘recovering’ condition or better. It may only be a change of one word in a government ‘audit’ but the significance cannot be overstated.
Return of the cows The grazing trial continues for its fourth year with the return of three cows. They are held in a 4 hectare (10 acre) paddock near Holly Lodge. Cattle eat grass in a different manner to deer and are used on many nature reserves to subtly change the grassland and benefit wildflowers. The trial is intended to run for an initial five years. This summer the grassland showed a marked improvement for wildflowers and The Royal Parks will look at extending grazing to other areas in the Park.
Prince Charles Spinney Restoration work has begun again for the third of approximately 5 years. The woodland is being heavily ‘thinned’ because most of the trees are tall and slender, offering little cover for birds etc and the high percentage of non-native trees offer even less to the ecosystem. Trees will be felled and allowed to re-grow as multi-stemmed coppice stools where appropriate. In the new-year the woodland will be densely re-planted with species that form low level cover such as Hazel and Elder. The initial effect will be stark but within a few years the woodland will grow back in a more complementary form. The overall effect should be dense low level foliage, supporting a better abundance of wildlife and ground flora.
Mushrooms and toadstools In the autumn many types of wild mushrooms and toadstools enrich the Park's grassland and ancient trees. The underground 'mycelium' of these fruiting or spore-bearing bodies is otherwise hidden all year. Removal of the mushrooms and toadstools is illegal as it affects reproduction and removes food for dependant wildlife. Some rare insect species depend entirely on a particular type of mushroom.
The Isabella Plantation in November
Shrubs that flower this month: Camellia sasanqua ‘Rubra’ has small single red fragrant flowers and grows in the ‘V’ shaped section of the Garden formed by the convergence of the Main Stream and the Small Stream which derives from the Still Pond. Growing next to this shrub is Camellia sasanqua ‘Maidens Blush’ which bears similar flowers that are pale pink in colour. Look out for more C.sasanqua growing in other areas of the Plantation.
Autumn colour and fruits: Acers throughout the gardens assume a variety of autumn tints. Nyssa sylvatica, the “Tupelo tree”, growing on the bank of Thomson’s Pond, turns to shades of rich scarlet, orange and red in the autumn. Liquidamber styraciflua stands set back from Thomson’s Lawn; this tree was selected for its reliable autumn colour. At this time of year leaves take on shades of rich black, crimson and red.
Taxodium distichum, the “Swamp Cypress”, grows by the side of Peg’s Pond and also on the bank of Thomson’s Pond. This deciduous conifer colours bronze in the autumn. When grown by water, larger specimens produce ‘knee-like’ growths called pneumatophores. These growths come from the roots and project above ground to enable the uptake of vital gasses in waterlogged, anaerobic soils.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides, the “Dawn Redwood”, is another deciduous conifer and can be seen growing on Thomson’s Lawn. Its leaves colour russet before dropping.
Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ grows along the Small Stream from the Still Pond. This shrub bears striking purple berries on bare stems.
Euonymus myrianthus can be found growing in Wilson’s Glade; this evergreen shrub bears stunning orange-yellow fruits that split to reveal orange-scarlet seeds. Arbutus unedo, the “Strawberry Tree”, can be found growing above Thomson’s Pond as well as other locations around the gardens. Red strawberry-like fruits are produced at the same time as white small bell-shaped flowers.
The heather garden Forms of Erica x darleyensis and Erica carnea flower throughout the winter. Also look out for Erica lusitanica, the “Portugese Heath”, a type of tree heath whose stems are crowded with white tubular fragrant flowers that are pink in bud. Nandina domestica, the “Sacred Bamboo”, is planted at the top end of this garden. This evergreen shrub has purplish-red tint to the young leaves and a bears a profusion of red spherical berries at this time of year.
The bog garden The leaves on two stands of Gunnera manicata, the “Giant Rhubarb”, have been cut down and placed over a layer of cut bracken covering the plants crown to protect the plant from the elements during the cold winter months.
Congratulations go to the Richmond Park third and second year apprentices Ergon Ahmed and Adam Savill for recently being nominated as The Royal Parks Apprentice of the Year for their respective years.
© The Royal Parks