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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.

We are always pleased to receive feedback. You can contact us by clicking here.

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The Ancient and Veteran Trees of Bushy and Home Parks

South west London, and the Richmond area in particular, is a hot spot for the number of ancient and veteran trees. But what are they and why are they so important to our landscape and environment? Jamie Simpson from the Ancient Tree Forum together with Gillian Jonusas from The Royal Parks (TRP) and Nicholas Garbutt from Historic Royal Palaces provided us with a wealth of information on the subject.

The Ancient Tree Forum is an organisation started as a group of individuals who came together in 1993 to discuss ancient trees and their management. The Forum has grown to become one of the key partners in the identification, mapping and management of veteran trees in Britain. They lobby government and provide assistance in the production of reference books.

The age of ancient trees can vary considerably depending on the type of tree. For example a birch tree becomes ‘ancient’ at around 150 years old, while an oak can only be considered when it is about 400 years old. This is because an oak can survive a lot longer than a birch. Characteristics of an ancient tree are a low, fat or squat shape with a wide stem and a hollowing trunk. A veteran tree can be any age but shows characteristics of ancient trees. These can be caused by, amongst others, natural damage such as broken limbs or fungi that cause rot and help create cavities, or through deliberate tree management such as removing limbs for safety reasons. The ecological importance of ancient and veteran trees is immense. The fissures, cracks and cavities in the ancient trees harbour a wealth of wildlife, from the tiniest mites to birds and small mammals; each creature is reliant on all others in the food chain.

Bushy and Home Parks were one of the first places in the country to be designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due in part to the population of ancient and veteran trees. There are 140 veteran trees in Bushy Park, including lime, oak, hawthorn, black poplar and silver maple. The oldest tree, a sweet chestnut of 9.5 metres in circumference, is not in the park but beside Bushy House sports ground on land managed by TRP. In Home Park, near Oak Pond, there are the remnants of the ‘1,000 year old oak’ which in 1982 was measured with a 12 metre circumference. Unfortunately, following a lightning strike it never fully recovered, despite efforts to help rejuvenate it. Other ancient trees, which can be seen on the Barge Walk, were remnants of an old boundary hedge containing field maples contorted after hundreds of years of management.

During the 20th century there was an increase in the problems faced by veteran trees. High visitor numbers to the Parks walking around the trees can cause compaction of the root zone, which in turn restricts oxygen and water being taken up by the trees. You will see in both Parks areas at the base of old trees where the soil has been carefully aerated and a mulch of bark applied, or a fence has been erected, to prevent further compaction taking place. Natural pests and diseases are also spreading, helped by climate change and imported materials.

Why we need more Friends

With more members our voice is stronger when we campaign to protect the Parks, and with more subscription income we can do more to provide information and education about the Parks, their wildlife and their history.

Join us today!

Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Thursday, 25th Oct 8:00 pm

TALK by Kate Canning, “Friends to nature – the wonder of bees”

Latest report

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

Full report...

Information Point

The Information Point next to the Pheasantry Welcome Centre café is where our volunteers help visitors 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.