Little owl in veteran oak hollow © Tammy Marlar
Visitor Centre – November 2021
Unique Christmas gifts available this month
With Christmas only weeks away, the Visitor Centre is the perfect place for present shopping. We have lots of new unique gifts, which will be available over the coming weeks.
- Richmond Park 500 piece jigsaw puzzle in cloth bag, priced at £11.50 (due 8th November). Pictured above.
- Selling fast, our wood turned fruit created using seasoned wood from Richmond Park; prices from £15.00.
- A new Snowy Richmond Park tea towel, priced at £7.00.
- Small and large vine deer, suitable for inside or outside decorations. Made in Scotland; prices from £12.50 (due w/c 8th November).
- New delivery of honey (due 8th November).
- Ceramic Christmas decorations, priced at £7.00.
- New design fridge magnets, priced at £2.50 (due w/c 15th November).
Special offer: We are running a pre-Christmas promotion offering a Friends’ DVD to all customers who spend £30 or more.
New Winter Visitor Centre opening hours can be found here.
Friends Christmas Cards – at the Visitor Centre and online
Photos clockwise from top left: © Kasia Ciesielska-Faber, © Amanda Boardman, © Nigel Attenborough, © Tammy Marlar, © Paula Redmond, © Diana Loch.
A bad year for swans
Normally there is a pair of Mute Swans occupying Upper Pen Pond and another on Lower Pen Pond. Earlier this year, the Upper Pond pair lost all their brood, but immediately started a new nest and laid an egg; they then abandoned the nest and the egg vanished!
Subsequently the male was killed in a battle with the Lower Pond male and the female eventually displaced to Barnes Bridge. The victorious Lower Pen pond pair had three of their cygnets remaining, one with a severely deformed beak.
Then in mid-October two Swans were seen fighting (presumably one being the Lower Pen Pond male and the other an interloper), with their necks entwined and biting and holding onto each other’s wings for 15 minutes until the Lower Pen Pond male eventually got away; he was attacked again but seemed to survive. Swans are very aggressive in defending their territory and young, but this year was exceptional!
But better for other birds ….
Skylarks. A survey in June showed at least 12 singing skylarks on Crown Field (opposite the rugby pitches), with others on The Bog, Sheen Field, Lawn Field and Pond Slade, giving 19 territories in total, an increase of one on the previous year. Crown Field is particularly encouraging since this was the focus of new protection measures this year.
Green Woodpecker. It was a conspicuously successful year with many young noted, although quite a number were predated after fledging, judging by the piles of feathers seen!
Stonechat. A survey in June found 6 breeding territories, which is up from 5 last year. Another good breeding season with the six pairs fledging eight broods, totalling 25 young. This population represents three times the total for the whole of the rest of London.
Exceptional bird sightings during the Autumn migration
Autumn is a time of bird migration. Most visitors to the Park would be unaware of the movements high above them as flocks passed overhead, many on passage to or from this country, but a small number of birdwatchers were richly rewarded for their observations last month. As well as the last departures of Swallows and House Martins there were good numbers of Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Goldfinches and Bramblings. More than two thousand Starlings and only a few less Chaffinches were recorded, and a highlight was more than eight thousand Redwings in a single day. Other notable sightings were six Crossbills and a total of twenty four Ring Ouzels (a species of thrush). Other birds uncommon to the Park were a Marsh Harrier, a Short-eared Owl, a Rock Pipit and two Woodlark. All in all a remarkable month.
Picture of Halloween Olly © Ken Edwards
Over 90 children on nature discovery trail
On a sunny Tuesday morning during the autumn half term, a queue of excited children and their families formed outside the Visitor Centre. They had come early for the Friends’ first free autumn half term trail, which took them to the four types of trees that make up 70% of all the trees in the Park.
The mile trail, based on our new booklet Let’s Discover! was repeated on the Thursday afternoon, and was a great success – over 90 children and their families took part and had a very enjoyable time. Let’s Discover is beautifully illustrated by Ken Edwards and features Olly the little owl and his friends and is available at the Visitor Centre for £1.50. And Olly, in his dramatic Halloween costume, flew in especially for this occasion!
Each child received a recording card ready for tree identification and finding out keywords to a sentence that revealed where to find an Olly surprise. The surprise was a colouring sheet of Olly to be returned to him (he now has his own e-mail address!) and for us to exhibit in due course. Keep them coming in if you have not sent yours already!
Collecting stamps on their recording cards was fun and the children loved the activities that they did at each tree with the help of volunteers. They measured tree heights, circumference, worked out how old trees are (sometimes very precisely: one particular oak is apparently 101 years old!) worked out how far roots extend, examined sweet chestnuts, beech nuts and observed barks and their wildlife very closely. Acorns and conkers are more elusive this year after a bumper crop last year, but as I always say whenever I visit somewhere exciting: it’s always good to leave something for next time!
Heartfelt thanks to all our wonderful volunteers answering our call – we really could not do any of this without you.
Discoverers event – Fascinating Fungi
‘Fascinating Fungi’ – Discoverers families have fun finding out about the park’s diverse fungi, on Sunday, November 7th. Keep an eye on our web pages for details of future activities.
London’s Royal Parks retain prestigious Green Flag Award
London’s Royal Parks including Richmond Park have been recognised as among the best in the UK, after they retained their Green Flag awards – the international quality mark for parks and green spaces.
They also achieved the much-coveted Green Heritage Site Accreditation, supported by Historic England, for the management of their historic features.
Adopt-an-Area (AaA) litter picking and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme (DofE)
AaA is keen to help under-18s working towards their gold, silver or bronze DofE awards by volunteering to litter pick in the Park. Volunteering opportunities generally for under-18s are increasingly limited by child protection and insurance requirements so our willingness to include them provides a great opportunity. We require under 18s to be accompanied by a named adult (usually a parent) when litter picking in the Park as roamers. AaA provides them with litter picking kit.
DofE volunteers typically litter pick for 3-4 months after which we meet up to discuss their regular reports and their experience so a report can be sent to the DofE.
Since 2017, when AaA started, nearly 40 under 18s have used litter picking volunteering in the Park to complete successfully their DofE awards. There are currently 33 DofE roamers, who, with their parents, account for nearly half our roamers.
Members will have been shocked to learn of several violent bike robberies that took place in the park in October. The police increased their presence in the park and there is an active police investigation being run by Operation Venice, the Metropolitan Police unit which tackles motorcycle-enabled crime across London. One arrest has been made and we understand that there have been no more thefts since then.
Anyone with information is asked to call the police on 101 giving the reference 5103/07OCT and not to share photographs or video on social media. The robberies as described by the police were:
On Wednesday evening 6 October, a man in his 20s reported having his bike stolen on Sawyers Hill by two men riding electric scooters. They pushed him from the bike, causing minor injuries.
On Thursday afternoon 7 October, there were reports of a robbery near Roehampton Gate. A man in his 30s was approached by four men on two mopeds who pushed him from his bike, threatened him with a machete, took his bike and left him with minor injuries.
About 5pm Monday 11 October, a man in his 30s was knocked from his bike by two men on a moped who then stole his bike. He was also threatened with a machete. He suffered minor injuries.
Although the police presence has increased, visitors, especially cyclists, should remain vigilant.
Cycling speed limit
There has been some recent publicity to the results of a Freedom of Information request in which the Royal Parks responded that the speed limits in its regulations “are not deemed to apply to bicycles”. Following this, the police have emphasised the obligations that do apply to cyclists and have issued a statement saying:
“It is a criminal offence, under existing Royal Parks regulations, for cyclists or any person in a park to intentionally or recklessly interfere with the safety, comfort or convenience of other visitors. This includes those cycling dangerously or recklessly at speed.
“We acknowledge that while most visitors who cycle in the park are law-abiding, a small minority are not and their behaviour is an issue of concern for the wider public as well as other cyclists. We work closely with The Royal Parks as we enforce safe cycling across the parks, so all visitors and wildlife can enjoy the parks safely.
“To this end, we recommend that cyclists use the signposted limits as a guide for appropriate speeds.”
Our free guided walks do not need to be booked ahead. Walks begin at 10am on a Saturday morning and finish around midday at the same car park or gate. Please keep dogs under control. The next walks are:
- 4th December 2021; walk is from Pen Ponds Car Park at 10.00am. Note: Motor vehicle access only via Roehampton Gate.
- 26th December 2021; walk is from Pembroke Lodge at 10.00am. Note: Motor Vehicle access only via Richmond, Ham and Kingston Gates.
Richmond Park Diary – November 2021
Each month Adam Curtis, Assistant Park Manager for Richmond Park, brings us news from the Park.
Christmas tree sales
Christmas tree sales are due to return to Roehampton Car Park this year in November and are also available online. The concession ‘Pines and Needles’ also offer a delivery service. www.oncloudpine.com The trees range in height, species and pot-grown or cut-trees.
With no predators and 200 births annually, the deer population would increase beyond the Park’s carrying capacity without human intervention. To prevent starvation and malnutrition, the deer are selectively culled during November and February. This ensures a healthy herd of 600 with the correct balance of ages and sexes. The high point of the rut is now over, and the lean bellies and hindquarters of the exhausted stags bear witness to the recent deprivation of food. They regain condition by feasting on tree seeds, building up winter fat reserves. Removing chestnuts deprives the deer of essential food. Please leave the chestnuts for the deer.
A Gibbet was a simple wood structure from which a metal cage was suspended to hold the body of an executed criminal. Gibbeting bodies set an example to others that a particular criminal activity was not tolerated. The crime had to be quite serious and be potentially tempting for others to follow. It was generally reserved for, traitors, pirates and highwaymen. The route that is now the A3 was the major route from London to Portsmouth used by stagecoaches and other travellers. Stag Lodge stables were originally stables serving this busy transport route and the Park gate, former pub, roundabout and school in this area have all been named after Robin Hood – giving reference to the activities of highwaymen! It’s thought that Gibbet Wood did have a gibbet nearby. It is positioned at the top of steep hill that could have easily been seen from the general Robin Hood area as an example to anyone who considered criminal activities on the highway.
The deer cull
Commences again on Monday 1st November and will go on no longer than Thursday 9th December (6 weeks). The Parks pedestrian gates will be locked from 20.00hrs with the gates being unlocked by 07.30hrs. If entering the park in the evening remember that the time advertised on the gates is the time that one must exit the park by, to avoid being locked in, so plan your visit or journey with this mind. Inevitably a little time is required to lock all 12 sets of pedestrian gates and there is a risk of finding your exit gate locked. If this occurs and you have to travel to another gate to exit, not only will your journey be delayed but you may find the alternative gate locked behind you and cause more delays whilst patrol staff search the park for lock-ins!
Pen Ponds causeway
Thank you to all the regular walkers for their patience whilst the works have continued through October. The work has been delayed, due largely to delays in the supply of materials, which isn’t uncommon across the whole of the UK at present. The work is nearing completion and we hope to open access between the 2 lakes by the 5th November. The bank and steps down to the lower ponds will remain fenced off for some time as we need to allow grass to develop on the areas of bare soil.