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

Footballing ghosts

The 1951 Ordnance Survey map shows 40 sports pitches in Richmond Park, but nowadays there are just 4 rugby pitches close to Roehampton Gate. The other pitches have all reverted back to natural grassland and contribute to the important habitats the Park provide for wildlife.

Evidence of these pitches can be seen on online satellite photos such as Google Maps. If you scale in quite close to the line markings of football pitches to the south of the rugby pitch pitches can be clearly seen. Exploring these areas on the ground reveals the lines are still quite visible as restricted growth of the grass – presumably because of the chemical changes in the soil caused by the marker paint. The anthills are quite established too. Using the approximation that an anthill increases in size by 1 litre per year – one can work out how long it’s been since the pitches were last played on.

Toads crossing

As the mild nights start to become more reliable, hibernating wildlife becomes more active. Toads will migrate from their winter hide-outs and make their way to their spawning grounds. If the nocturnal weather conditions are mild and wet, this may happen over a period of time from February until May. However if a prolonged dry and cold spell suddenly becomes mild and wet it result in a concentrating of toad activity.

Although motor vehicles are restricted in Richmond Park, cyclists will need good lights and their wits to avoid amphibian catastrophes! Outside the Park on Church Road, toad barriers have been set up and volunteers are staging all-night vigils to help the toads on Ham Common.

Sidmouth Woods

For the past two years the London Probation Service (community payback team) has been cutting back Rhododendron from the fence of Sidmouth woods. This has uncovered a dilapidated fence that is no longer deer proof.

Contractors are now replacing the necessary posts and wires. Next year work will start to remove invasive rhododendron from within the wood and over time re-plant where necessary to improve the habitat value of this quiet sanctuary for wildlife.

Olympic cycling

Following speculation in the media it came as no surprise when it was officially announced last month that he Olympic road race route will come through Richmond Park on 28 and 29 July 2012.

On the outward journey the cyclists will enter at Roehampton Gate and exit at Richmond Gate. Then on their way back they will enter at Kingston Gate and exit at Roehampton Gate. Subject to agreement a trial event is expected to take place this summer on 14 August when the Park roads will be closed for part of the day.

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.

The dogs-on-leads request introduced at Pen Ponds is respected by the majority of dog walkers and the reduction in year-round disturbance means they are gaining confidence to nest.

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.

Camellias 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.

Magnolias 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 the Scots Pine

Narcissi 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 2011

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

March: Friday 4th & 25th, Sunday 13th  

April: Friday 1st, Sunday 10th

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 11am.

© The Royal Parks