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

Sidmouth woods rhododendron clearance and burning The restoration of Sidmouth woods is well underway and will continue throughout October. Rhododendron ponticum is a non-native plant that forms dense cover throughout the woodland, preventing other trees from growing. It can reduce wildlife, change the soil profile and humidity of woodlands making our native oak trees more likely to catch disease such as Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum).

Contractors based on site 24 hours a day are cutting and burning. You may see smoke from outside the fence line; the local Fire Brigade is aware of this work.

Sand martin nest bank During October contractors are due to start building an artificial sand martin nest bank at the southern end of Pen Ponds. These migratory birds would normally nest in sandy walls found alongside natural river systems – a habitat that is now scarce.

The artificial bank will look like a simple wall with several nesting holes and hopefully attract a colony of birds within a year or two. The project is being managed by the Thames Landscape Strategy under the London Species Action Plan. It is being financed by the Friends of Richmond Park and an Enriching Nature grant from the SITA Trust.

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 such as Richmond Park.

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.

Dominant stags are usually between 10 and 12 years of age. Each gathers a harem of hinds which must be constantly prevented from wandering, defended from rivals, tested for readiness to mate and finally mated. During the rut, stags become territorial and it is particularly dangerous to approach the deer too closely. Please keep far back from rutting deer and provide them with the space (at least 50 m) they need to behave as naturally as possible.

The Isabella Plantation in October

Early autumn colour, flowers and fruit

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 its 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 monodelpha 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.

Isabella Plantation Garden Walks 2011

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

October Friday 7th and 28th, Sunday 16th
November Friday 4th and 25th, Sunday 13th

Walks last about 1.5 hours and are free of charge. Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.