Information from the Royal Parks team in Richmond Park

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The Deer Rut. The mating season reaches its climax in mid October. Male deer prepare for this sexual extravaganza by urinating in their wallows, coating themselves in mud and thrashing their antlers in vegetation to embellish them with Bracken. Roars and bellows sound across the Park as Red Stags establish territories and challenge rivals.  Stags assess each other's strength by body size, the dimensions of the antlers and the power of the voice.  A clash will only ensue if challenging males are evenly matched.  Opponents first walk parallel to each other, then turn and clash antler, shoving and manoeuvring until one of the pair is dislodged and quits.  Dominant Stags are usually between 10 and 12 years of age.  Each gather a harem of Hinds which must be constantly prevented from wandering, defended from rivals, tested for readiness to mate and finally mated.  This exertion leaves little time for resting or feeding and Stags lose condition and become exhausted.  This leaves opportunistic younger Stags to mate with one of the harem while the dominant Stag is distracted elsewhere.  During the rut, Stags become territorial and it is particularly dangerous to approach the deer too closely.

Autumn Colours: The best autumn colour comes when a long hot summer suddenly ends by a sharp drop in temperature and Maples produce the best colour of all in the landscape.  Close to Kingston Gate, above Gallows Pond a glade of Sugar Maples were planted to recognise the support of the Canadian Army during WWII.  The bright red autumn colour jumps out from surrounding Oak Woodland during October.  Elsewhere in the Park, the native Field Maple produces a subtle yellow leaf in autumn.  The Field Maple is associated with the heart and love and is said to bring contentment to those who are burdened by responsibility. According to ancient wisdom passing a child through the branches of a Field Maple would ensure a long life!

Fungi:  Once the summer weather breaks the soil and air becomes damp with autumn rain allowing Fungi to emerge without drying out.  Some species can be seen all year round but the abundance and variety are displaying now and last only until the first hard frost.  Fungi are neither plants nor animals – they are decomposers of organic matter, surviving underground or within plants all year but emerging as mushrooms or toadstools in order to reproduce. Some of these fruiting bodies are palatable to humans, whilst most are not and a few are poisonous.  Collecting mushrooms is forbidden in the Park as doing so will diminish the population within the ecosystem.  Despite what celebrity chefs say – If you do want to forage mushrooms, you will need the landowner's permission and avoid protected areas.

Migrating birds:  summer migrant birds such as Swifts and Swallows were still to be seen at the end of September – but not for long.  As the weather changes and the days become shorter the summer migrants fly south and we welcome the arrival of winter migrants that fly to us from their summer spent in northern Europe.  Look out for flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares (both members of the Thrush family) and for a varieties of duck such as Gadwall, Widgeon and Teal that use Pen Ponds for their winter retreat.


Near Thompson's Pond: Nyssa sylvatica, the "Tupelo Tree" growing on the bank of the Pond assumes brilliant colours from gold to flame this month. Parrotia persica, the "Persian Ironwood", grows on Thompson's Lawn, this tree has a wide spreading habit and colours richly in Autumn. Liquidambar styraciflua, the "Sweet Gum" grows on a boundary lawn set back from the path, it has lobed leaves similar to those of an Acer but can be distinguished by the alternate rather than opposite arrangement on the shoot. Another “Sweet Gum”, Liquidamber styraciflua 'Worplesdon'grows on Thompson's Lawn, it  is pyramidal in shape, unlike most this cultivar often bears fruit in Britain. Both these trees are transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour with leaves ranging from pale yellow to dark crimson hues.
The native “Spindle Bush”, Euonymus europaeus can be seen growing at the top of Thompson's Lawn in the shelter belt area, its mid green leaves redden in the Autumn as it red fruits open to reveal orange seed. Euonymus alatus also grows on the southern boundary of the Thompson's Pond area and is one of the finest deciduous shrubs for autumn colour,  with leaves turning a rich rosy scarlet before falling.
Last but not least seek out Stewartia serrata standing below Thompson's Pond its leaves bear rich Autumn tints.

Elsewhere: Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion', bears dense clusters of violet fruit. A group of these shrubs may be seen on the banks of the small stream flowing from the Still Pond. A common streamside plant within the garden is Osmunda regalis , the “Royal Fern.” At this time of year the fronds turn an attractive golden yellow colour before dying back in the Winter months. Acers throughout the garden show Autumn tints and bear 'propeller driven' seeds. The red foliage of the large Acer palmatum above the Still Pond reflects in its dark waters. Hamamelis mollis, the”Chinese Witch Hazel”, near the gate from Broomfield Hill, turns a rich butter yellow. Look out for  Acer rubrum 'October Glory' which has  spectacular foliage in autumn with long lasting colours of rich metallic- red and orange. It  can be found  growing in a number of places within the garden, including the glade behind the toilet block just off  Camellia Walk.The large rounded leaves of Vitus cognetiae, the climbing vine shows stunning crimson and scarlet autumn tints, it can be found scrambling up an oak tree near a bench on the Main Stream. In Wilson's Glade Viburnum betulifolium grows alongside the main path at this time of year its long swaying branches are laden with red-currant like fruits.

Bog Garden: The three clumps of tall grass bearing elegant silky flower plumes and showing reddish brown are those of Miscanthus sinensis Malepartus. A form of “Sacred Bamboo” Nandina domestica 'Firepower' grows within the Island bed and the marginal bed adjacent to the pontoon decking. This compact shrub has  yellow-green foliage in Summer  which turns  orange-red in the Autumn and Winter months. Nyssa sinensis is planted in the main Bog Garden bed and also by the stream, look out for its narrow pointed leaves that are purplish when young and then mature to a brilliant scarlet in the Autumn months. The gardeners protect Gunnera manicata from hard winter frosts by cutting and laying the giant rhubarb like leaves over the crown of plants. As Autumn moves into Winter and the leaves rot a layer of bracken fronds harvested from the Park will be added to the leaves to further protect these plants.


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

  • October: Friday 2nd, Sunday 18th and Friday 30th
  • November: Friday 6th, Sunday 15th and Friday 27th

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

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