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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

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Wildlife Conservation in the Royal Parks

Dr. Nigel Reeve, 5th March 2010

Report by Alison Blaney

Did we all realize that many inhabitants of London’s Royal Parks are saproxylic ? And that we should be pleased that that is so? Now we do!

Nigel gave us an inspiring picture of the background to his management of biodiversity i.e. wildlife ecology. He listed the sites and parks under Royal Park management, pointing out that while Richmond Park had SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest), he hoped Bushy Park would have that too before long. His core business is management of diverse multi-use green spaces.

We truly need biodiversity to maintain the richness and variety of all living things, including all genes, species, and ecosystems. Organisms act for us by breaking down wastes. Good horticulture by us can work with biodiversity for the benefit of education, health and quality of lifestyle.

Nigel feels that priority species and habitats must be increased in the UK. We have wonderful parks, but lack species such as red squirrels, adders, house sparrows. Only Bushy Park (of the Royal Parks) has hedgehogs and water voles (and they are find to find).

Air pollution from cars has a huge impact on our parks. The lack of lichens on many trees indicates this. Other impacts are from lighting (e.g. from sports grounds), compaction of root zones around trees by trampling of our feet, fertilizing by dog faeces and urine, and disturbance to wildfowl by dogs (especially in the breeding season).

In Bushy Park in 2010 at the south-east end Nigel has a scheme in place to increase the breeding of skylarks. Dogs are asked to be on a short lead and stay with humans on paths. Studies have shown elsewhere that this management helps increase skylark numbers.

Our practice of feeding pigeons, crows and other pests has caused a sharp increase in their numbers in recent years. Herons have become a dangerous nuisance in Regent’s Park.

Bird excrement causes the build-up of blue-green algae in ponds which are truly toxic, especially in summer. Invasive exotics as plants or animals are destructive too, many brought in by humans. Examples are the rhododendron ponticum, floating pennywort, grey squirrel, Canada geese, Chinese mitten-crab, horse-chestnut leaf-miner, and oak processionary moth. (This latter should be reported at once to park managers).

Nigel said we have a moral and statutory duty to increase biodiversity. Examples of the ways the Parks do this are:

Reed-bed management to improve water quality.
Fishery management.
De-silting, and creation of herbaceous borders (as in St. James’ Park).
Floating reed-beds (as on the Serpentine).
Creation of a third-of-a-hectare wetland in Brewhouse Meadows at Bushy Park.
Creation of a silt-pen in Regent’s Park.
Creation of a meadow in Hyde Park, using different grass-cutting practices to increase flowers and butterflies.
Grassland management in St. James’ Park and Hyde Park.
Creation of flower-rich grassland in Regents Park and Greenwich Park.
Nigel told us that heather has appeared in Kensington Gardens, and hare’s foot clover. He reminded us that management of acid grassland is constantly crucial, with its special species of grass, flowers, fungi. Invertebrates, rabbits and deer are essential . Bushy and Richmond Parks have 160 species of bees. The yellow meadow ant creates millions of ant-hills . (He told us that one can date an ant-hill – the size of the ant-hill in litres equates to its age in years). He has been making habitat maps of the Parks since 2004.

Surveys have shown that Bushy and Richmond Parks are important habitats for many species of spiders, also butterflies and moths (over 500 in Bushy), including the very rare Double-Line moth (in both parks).

Ancient trees are very important. They support a rich wildlife- birds, bats, fungi (especially heart-rot fungi). Decaying wood is important as good habitat for invertebrates, some rare e.g. the cardinal click beetle and stag beetle in Richmond Park. They are SAPROXYLIC- dependent on dead and decaying wood (pronounced saprosillic) ! In a 2004 survey of beetles Bushy Park came 12th in the UK. A designation SSSI would be for invertebrate interest.

The Royal Parks work as partners with other groups such as London Wildlife Trust and Natural England, in the Biodiversity Action Plan. Such partnership and understanding result in better biodiversity. Interpretation boards are being increased, such as signs in Bushy’s Woodland Gardens. Panels and leaflets, checklists of birds, increased education resources are all available. Volunteers provide important data in collaboration with Park staff.

Nigel brought up the change to the car-park at Pen Ponds in Richmond park. This has happened since 2003, and grassland is developing where half the previous car-park had been.

In awareness of climate change the Parks have ‘green’ initiatives such as use of bracken for compost in Richmond Park.

Nigel was asked in questions that followed his talk about the Olympics in Greenwich Park. He said all was being done to minimize harm. On the question of light levels from housing in Sandy Lane, Teddington, he said he had not monitored this, but it would be impossible to assess the effect. On parakeets he said the jury was out. 3-year studies were being done, including in the Royal Parks, and only when these had been concluded would action be considered (and it wouldn’t be easy).

In as far as we who enjoy the Royal Parks are dependent on their rich diversity and ecosystems, perhaps we could be called saproxylic too!

Many thanks to Nigel.

Report by Alison Blaney March 2010

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Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Thursday, 23rd Nov 8:00 pm

The Royal Parks in the Great War. Talk by David Ivison

Latest report

A perimeter walk of Home Park led by Nicholas Garbutt was enjoyed by over 45 people on 2nd September.Walk in Home Park- 2nd September

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Information Point

The Information Point next to the Pheasantry Welcome Centre café is where our volunteers help visitors to find out more about the parks and where visitors can purchase souvenirs of your visit to support our work.

Click this panel to visit our Information Point section and also to find out how you can get involved as a volunteer.