Photo: Slavonian Grebe by Paula Redmond


The launch event for our Year of the Tree 2020 campaign was held at Pembroke Lodge on 6 November, with 120 people attending. The new Royal Oak picture by Mark Frith, which has been adopted as our Year of the Tree emblem, was unveiled by Friends’ patron Baroness Susan Kramer and Park Manager Simon Richards. Tony Kirkham, Head of Gardens and Horticulture at Kew, gave an informative and highly entertaining talk; and Mark Frith revealed some fascinating background into his creation of the stunning Royal Oak drawing. Read more and see photos. 

As you’ll know, Sir David Attenborough is patron of Friends of Richmond Park. Now he has also agreed to be patron of our Year of the Tree campaign. So we took one of our limited edition Royal Oak prints to show him, and he was very impressed. He thinks Year of the Tree is …. “a brilliant idea and using Mark’s wonderful portrait of the Royal Oak is inspirational”. See a photo of Sir David inspecting the print.

We are pleased to announce a series of new photo competitions to celebrate Year of the Tree 2020.  ‘Winter’ is the first of 4 seasonal competitions, organised by the Friends, and starts right now until 29 February. The Spring competition then starts in March. Your photos should be all about the trees of Richmond Park. Entrance is free and you can see full details and prizes here 

The draw for the No.1 print in the series of 100 signed, limited edition prints of Mark Frith’s Royal Oak drawing was made by Simon Richards on 28 November. The lucky winner lives in Richmond. Those in the draw were all purchasers of the print from its 6 Nov launch until 27 Nov. At time of writing we have now sold 77 of the 100 prints, so there’s still time to get yours. See here.

Now  available,  a  new  smaller  version  of  the  Royal  Oak  by  Mark  Frith. The Royal Oak Limited Edition prints have been so popular that we have now produced a smaller unlimited version. The print is supplied unmounted and measures 35cm x 28cm. It’s on sale at the Richmond Park Visitor Centre, priced £30.

The Visitor Centre, by Pembroke Lodge, is open every day 11.00 – 3.00pm. 

The recently introduced tree walks have been a great success and the packs of Walks 1-4 have been selling like hot cakes at the Visitor Centre. The booklets are very informative, with lots of great photos, and make an ideal gift at only £5. You can now download maps of the tree walks on to your mobile so you can follow them when you do the walks. See here

From March, Christopher Hedley the author of the Tree Walks will be leading a monthly tree walk, based on one of the walks in the booklet. The first walks are on 21 March and 25 April; the January bulletin will have more details.

On the 29th November a Slavonian Grebe (see our featured photo), a rare and red-listed species, was spotted swimming close to the bank at Upper Pen Pond, barely casting a distinctive red eye at the Friday Bird Group as it fished unconcerned by their presence (photo by Paula Redmond) A welcome treat indeed, this bird was the first to have been recorded in the Park since December 1939, only months after the start of the Second World War.

A medium-sized grebe, 30 or so pairs of Slavonian Grebe, breed in the UK in Scotland. With its beautiful chestnut and black feathers, and with large yellow tufts (horns) on the side of its the head the Slavonian Grebe is a sight to behold. By winter it has moulted into an undistinguished plumage of white, black and grey with a flat black cap, and larger numbers (maybe a thousand) may be found around coastal areas and sometimes inland. The name is something of a mystery as the bird is not particularly associated with Slovenia.

Then, early on 2nd December, a Whooper Swan, a winter migrant from Iceland and never before recorded in the Park, was spotted briefly on Upper Pen Pond before it was chased off by the resident Mute Swans.

There’s so much to see at the Visitor Centre and it’s looking very Christmassy with lots of gift and souvenir items. Along with the regulars, like the park themed greetings cards (some new designs) and the amazing 2020 calendar (includes 50 beautiful park photos), there are some new books on trees containing lots of little-known facts; and a very colourful children’s book on trees through the seasons.

  • There are  limited edition handmade wood turned objects using oak from the Park – but hurry they’re selling fast.
  • Don’t forget the David Attenborough DVD of Richmond Park and the new, very popular Tree Walk packs.
  • See a framed edition of the brand new smaller version Royal Oak print – how yours might look?
  • Just back in stock – Friends’ Beanie hats now in Grey as well as green, and Friends’ peaked caps now in navy as well as beige and green. Delicious Richmond Park honey in two sizes.
  • There are also lots of stocking fillers for children.

Come and see us on your next park visit.

We hope you enjoyed the autumn newsletter, sent out last month. Did you know you can see all past issues of the Friends’ Newsletter, dating back to 2006, on our website?

Please feel free to forward it to your friends and contacts. If they want to receive it on a regular basis, as well as our printed Newsletter, they may wish to join the Friends too. We welcome new members, so please spread the word. For easy reference, here’s a link to the Friends of Richmond Park membership page.


Events  Calendar

Next 3 months


All are welcome to join our walks. Start at 10.00am from the designated car park.

  • 07 Dec  Pen Ponds Car Park
  • 26 Dec  Pembroke Lodge Car Park
  • 04 Jan  Robin Hood Gate Car Park
  • 01 Feb  Roehampton Gate Car Park

TALKS & WALKS – Friends’ members only. (New members – join here)

Start at Pembroke Lodge at 10.15am, unless otherwise stated. No need to book – just turn up. Coffee/tea provided. The talks are usually 45-60 minutes, followed by an optional 90 minute walk, unless otherwise indicated.

  • Dec       none
  • 18 Jan  The Hearsum Collection – ‘show and tell’ by Daniel Hearsum (talk only)
  • 15 Feb  Birds of Richmond Park by Peter Burrows-Smith (talk and walk)

TREE WALKS – Open to all

From March Christopher Hedley, the author of the ‘Walks with Remarkable Trees’ booklet Tree Walks will be leading a monthly tree walk, based on one of the walks in the booklet. The first walks are on 21 March and 25 April; the January bulletin will have more details.


Richmond  Park  Diary   –  December  2019


In 1987 and 1990 two great storms resulted in the loss of over 1000 trees in Richmond Park. In the early 1990’s it was decided to plant a new wood, called Two Storm Wood, to counter this devastation. A site was chosen that already included several ancient oaks and features of archaeological interest. It was enclosed and hundreds of new trees of mixed species were planted amongst the existing landscape.

Works are taking place in the wood over the next few years to improve the growing conditions and enhance the habitat and this will include thinning of the woodland and removal of some existing trees. If you have a sponsored or commemorative tree in Two Storm Wood, know where it is located and you haven’t already notified The Royal Parks of its location, please contact the park office by 10th January 2020 by emailing or call 0300 061 2200. 

The Strawberry Tree isn’t known to many people as a UK species but a small native population is known in south west Ireland.  Around December it can be seen in flower and fruiting at the same time! – This year’s flowers and last year’s fruits still ripening. The scientific name Arbutus unedo is attributed to the Roman general and naturalist who said “”unum tantum edo“, meaning “I eat only one”.  Which referred to the bland fruits not being very appetizing It is an attractive tree for winter ornament with its bright red fruits, white flowers, and glossy evergreen leaves.

The Robin is a small brown resident bird with a striking red breast – known and loved by just about everyone because of its abundance and tendency to visit gardens, often following gardeners looking for worms in dug soil.  Robins are often depicted on Christmas cards for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, its bright red breast and tendency to be seen a lot in winter makes it familiar to us.  Victorian postmen wore bright red tunics and gained the nicknames of Robin redbreast.

Being busy around Christmas bringing cards and presents by post, the robins started to be portrayed as delivering cards to us. Secondly, there is also folk lore that the robins got their red breast from blood stains when they tried to assist Christ by removing the thorns the crown of thorns during the crucifixion.  This further adds to their charm and popularity as a caring bird but because Christ died, it also adds to the superstition that a visit by a robin (such as one entering the home) foretells the passing of a loved one. 

Temperatures are now starting to fall and as we go into December, January and February there is an increasing risk of ice, especially early in the morning.  Park staff monitor the weather and the roads and de-icing salt is spread to reduce the risk.  However, cyclists (and motorists) should be aware of weather conditions and be cautious – forecasts are occasionally inaccurate and it would be foolish to assume that every square inch of ice is always defrosted.

Rain, leaves, washed out soil and debris are also more likely in winter and the dark evenings and rain doesn’t help.  There are plenty of cycling websites that advise on winterising a bicycle or even having a second bike for winter riding.  Winter tyres and good quality lights are essential for cyclists using the park for the next few months.


The Isabella Plantation in December


  • Salix alba ‘Chermesina’ (‘Britzensis’), the pollarded willows by Peg’s Pond, have amber and red stems.
  • Cornus sericea var.’Flaviramea’ nearby under the weeping willow, and also adjacent to the Bog Garden, has smooth greenish yellow stems.
  • Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ has bright red stems. Two groups are set back behind the Heather Garden, others in the Bog Garden along with Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ with its brilliant flame red, orange and yellow stems.
  • Betula nigra, the “River Birch”, has papery shredding buff coloured bark. One may be found by the path above the Heather Garden, and the other towards the top of the Main Stream.
  • Betula jacquemontii, three young birches with striking white bark stand on the lawn above Thomson’s Pond. Several multi-stemmed forms of this tree can be found in the woodland area near the wild stream in the northern part of the Garden.
  • Prunus serrula, set back on the lawn east of Thomson’s Pond, has gleaming mahogany-red bark peeling into curly shreds.
  • Several ‘snake-bark’ acers may be found throughout the Garden as well as other species of birch, all with interesting bark.
  • Acer griseum, the “Paperbark Maple” grows in the wet lawn area by the top gate and also in Wilson’s Glade, as well as other areas of the garden. This beautiful tree not only has good autumn colour but also a great colour to its trunk, which is particularly obvious in the winter months, as the old bark peels off to expose the cinnamon coloured underbark.


  • Erica X darleyensis comes into flower this month in its pink and white forms.
  • Erica vagans, the Cornish Heath, has tawny seed heads which remain decorative all winter.
  • Erica lusitanica, the tall Portugal Heath, bears slightly fragrant tubular white flowers opening from pink buds throughout the winter.
  • Nandina domestica, the “Sacred Bamboo” provides a stunning backdrop to the heathers in this area, its leaves tinge red in autumn and winter and it also bears a profusion of spherical red fruits.

Photo by Ciar: Erica x darleyensis, sometimes called “Mediterranean White Heather”.