We were founded in 1990 as a response to plans to cut down and replant the historic Chestnut Avenue in Bushy Park, campaigning successfully to change those plans. We supported the revival of Chestnut Sunday and its’ Parade that was so popular in the late Victorian era. We were instrumental in promoting the restoration of the Water Gardens – a project that eventually became a keystone in the more extensive Bushy Park restoration of the early 21st Century.
Campaigning for adequate policing of the royal parks; supporting the introduction of the volunteer Rangers in Bushy Park to improve visitor understanding; funding wildlife schemes and planting schemes in both parks; assisting Bushy Park and NPL to win a space sapling; providing education and interest through the highly regarded walks and talks programme. These are all examples of the many achievements of the Friends. We aim to do more to keep these parks for future generations of visitors to enjoy.
For more details you can read our latest Annual Report below.
Friends of Bushy and Home Park
Annual Report for 2021/22
Once again, the year has been dominated by the Covid-19 virus. The rigours and restrictions caused by the pandemic have emphasised how essential the parks are for maintaining the well-being of the people who visit them. We are immensely grateful to the staffs of the parks for keeping them open.
There are downsides to the popularity of the parks as increasing numbers of visitors seek them out as places for recreation and recuperation. Wear and tear of footpaths and grasslands increases from greater footfall, litter increases, and uncontrolled off-road cycling damages areas vital to both parks’ SSSI status. During the year there have been several problematic encounters in the two parks between dogs, deer, and people.
The positive side is that both parks continue to be places which interest, restore, and reinvigorate visitors. Our volunteers hear stories from visitors about how much the parks are appreciated, and membership of the Friends continues to grow steadily as a demonstration of that appreciation. The Visitor Centre has been an attraction for visitors throughout the year following its re-opening at Easter.
In Bushy Park the manager, Phil Edwards, has continued with enthusiasm during his second year here. He has introduced changes to the maintenance programme, to cope with a reduction of 20% in his budget. For example, grass cutting has been reduced in places where it makes sense to do so, and Shire horses have been used instead of heavy machinery as they are kinder to nature. A programme of new hedging and fencing along various boundaries has begun. There has been substantial succession planting of Hawthorn, together with 13 large specimen trees. Major work clearing and improving several ponds and waterways in the Woodland Gardens was undertaken as part of the Mission: Invertebrate programme, using funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery. Some extra government grant from DCMS has also been provided, in recognition of the role of The Royal Parks during the pandemic, which is being used to address damage to paths and lawns.
The Friends were delighted to see the installation of a new pedestrian gate at the Hampton Court end of Chestnut Avenue. This is something we have been pressing to be done for almost 10 years.
The Woodland Gardens have been subject to obvious alterations, notably the removal of Rhododendron Ponticum in the two plantations. The plant is an invasive toxic species, that is illegal to plant now, and Natural England has asked parks to remove it. Following removal there will be replanting with native species, to improve habitat for invertebrates, birds, and other wildlife. For the time being, the areas have been sown with grass which, with the reduced shade canopy, will aid soil recovery. The Friends’ plan is to help fund the replanting in future years. New metal gates are to be installed at various entrances to the Woodland Gardens in 2022.
In Home Park there has been less obvious change, although the park continues to delight and is well-maintained, despite significant staff reductions and budgetary constraints. Members may have seen some of the television programmes on Channel 5 featuring the palace gardens and park team which have been broadcast during the year.
Issues affecting the parks
The Royal Parks proposed to introduce car parking charges in Bushy Park at some point in the next year or so. It is aimed to cope with parking space over-subscription through timed ticketing, and it will provide income for the maintenance of the car parks. However, the legislation necessary to implement the proposal has not been given a slot in the parliamentary programme, and it seems increasingly unlikely this will occur this year. The FBHP Trustees acknowledge the need to manage parking over-subscription and park income. We have suggested that local users should be able to visit at certain times free of charge.
The Royal Parks’ Movement Strategy, which the FBHP Trustees support, establishes an order of priority among park users, viz. first wildlife, then pedestrians, then horse riders, cyclists, and lastly motor vehicles. In Bushy Park the proposal closes Chestnut Avenue to through traffic. The Friends have continued in the past year to receive a few requests asking us to object to this proposal. We have received other requests asking us to support the closure. FBHP is a charity which aims to campaign to support and conserve the park; we do not exist to lobby on behalf of car users who wish to keep the road open simply for through traffic. Anecdotal evidence, since no through road was introduced, shows the park, its inhabitants, and its visitors, now enjoy a more tranquil and less polluted park environment. We are aware that visitors who wish to reach the Pheasantry café and Woodland Gardens from the Diana car park will benefit from improved pathway access, and we will continue to press for this improvement on their behalf. The final decision on closure of the avenue, or not, for the long term, has still to be made by The Royal Parks following the trial. We may know more later this year.
In 2020, Teddington Cricket Club’s new fencing created some controversy, mainly because it had no pedestrian access to the cricket pitch from nearby the Coleshill Road and Clapperstile gates. Our polite discussions with The Royal Parks during 2021 led to the creation of pedestrian access points on the Coleshill path.
Projects in 2021
FBHP Trustees approved a further £5000 funding to support the removal of Rhododendron Ponticum in the Woodland Gardens. We anticipate future funding of parts of the replanting scheme.
The Royal Parks undertook improvement of Triss’s Pond and the watercourse and sluice feeding it. This was funded by Mission: Invertebrate and the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Around 25 FBHP members undertook the replanting of the Pheasantry car park in November, as a major part of the scheme to use species which can cope with the prevailing harsh conditions in this area. Sharon Evans, the head gardener, has designed this based on ideas drawn from the “Derek Jarman” garden at Dungeness. The plants were funded by a large donation from Teddington Society’s 2019 “Teddington in Flower” event, coupled with a matching donation from FBHP, totalling £2500.
Members will be aware of the ongoing tale of the Space Sapling. This is the tree grown from a seed drawn from Isaac Newton’s apple tree, of which several seeds were taken into space by astronaut Tim Peake, to determine if six months in space had any effect on seedling growth. On the face of it, there is an effect, which seems to be to slow down and weaken the development of the tree. At least, those are the effects on our sapling. It is not yet in a suitably robust state for planting out in the park and continues to be looked after in The Royal Parks nursery in Hyde Park. However, as part of our joint project with NPL, the sapling has been digitally scanned by the laboratory. This will provide a baseline image for the tree’s development and will support educational purposes.
Projects planned for 2022 and beyond
This coming year is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Both parks are royal parks, and it is fitting that the Jubilee should be marked in them. The Trustees have proposed this should be done with mature, native, tree planting in each park, and have offered £10,000 in total to achieve this. We are in discussions with the park managers to determine which species and which locations will be most appropriate. The trees will not be planted until the autumn of 2022.
We are pressing for measures to improve protection of the Skylark nesting areas. These birds are ground-nesting, and they are disturbed by dogs and walkers who do not keep to the paths. The species is in decline nationally and they represent one of the summer pleasures to be enjoyed in Bushy Park when they can be heard and seensinging in flight.
We have considered a suggestion by Phil Edwards for the Friends to use the Round Plantation as a conservation and education area. This overgrown, and largely unmanaged, plantation is fenced and gated so not accessed by the public. It needs substantial clearance to provide access. Instead of the Friends taking this on, the committee has suggested that it should be a long-term project for the newly-created Royal Parks Conservation Volunteers. FBHP can then support its use with re-wilding, appropriate conservation projects, and learning opportunities for members and groups of visitors.
In Home Park the Kingston Gate does not facilitate easy access for people with disabilities and families with pushchairs. FBHP has offered to fund an improved gate for such access. We await further discussions with Home Park managers regarding designs and costs.
Our membership now stands at 1420. Most new members now join through our online facility on the website.
Our Membership Secretary, Susan Hugill, is making excellent use of the new membership system. This system enables membership renewal on the anniversary of joining, something which may seem an obvious procedure but was previously not possible, which is why renewals of every membership used to have to take place in January.
In the latter part of 2021, the Trustees decided that membership fee rates and types should be reviewed in the light of our increasing running costs. Our fee rates having remained unchanged since 1991 when FBHP was created. A small working party of trustees and officers was established, and their findings and recommendations are to be found in a separate paper and proposal to members for decision at the AGM.
Trustees and Officers
I am pleased to record that our Trustees and other officers of FBHP have worked hard this year on behalf of the membership and in support of both parks, despite the difficulties imposed by Covid restrictions. I can report to members that the committee is vigorous, focused and provides excellent leadership to FBHP.
As in each year, members and visitors manifest their enjoyment and support for the parks with generous donations. 2021 has been no different. My thanks to all for your gifts to the parks.
We currently have 45 volunteers who operate the Visitor Centre. We have had to restrict access to the children’s discovery desk during the pandemic but we have introduced several new exhibits in display cases. The fact that these exhibits include a rat skeleton, a grass snake skin, a Cardinal spider and a badger skull, provides enough fascination for the children who dare to take a look.
We also have 28 litter pickers who frequently patrol both parks including Barge Walk alongside Home Park. The park managers are enormously grateful for the litter picking, as the costs of refuse collection and disposal are high, and the amount of litter has increased during the pandemic.
Walks & Talks and Events
Many members will have attended the programme of walks and talks which was restarted in July, and which has continued apace ever since. The current programme extends through to the end of 2022 with some dozen or more events planned. I must congratulate and thank Rebecca Harvey for picking up the organiser’s baton and tackling the role with enthusiasm and imagination. She has set a cracking pace and I am sure that those who have missed our talks and walks during the various lockdowns are now thoroughly enjoying the return of these events.
We are using an online booking system to control numbers and ensure safety, with priority always given to members. We have made arrangements with our members who do not use digital technology for them to be informed of the programme and for them to be able to book attendances.
Chestnut Sunday was not held in 2021 due to the pandemic. There are no plans for it to be held in 2022. The aim is to reintroduce it to the park annual programme in the future but in a revised form which is more environmentally appropriate, and we await discussions with park management.
We are arranging for the Jazz in the Park concert in June to be supported by the Friends.
Keeping in Touch
We have issued four seasonal newsletters, managed through her first full year by our volunteer editor, Jeannie Edwards. She is introducing one or two of her own ideas to keep the editions interesting and where appropriate, amusing.
Our website continues to be a source of information to members and visitors and is now the primary route for recruitment of new members. It is updated frequently with news items and with details of our events. We are grateful to David Meanwell, our volunteer website editor, for ensuring we remain relevant, up to date, and secure in the digital world.
We continue to enjoy these two parks as they face climate change, reduced resources, and increased numbers of visitors. The Friends work closely with the police, the volunteer Rangers, and management teams for both parks. We are grateful to them, and to the contractors, for their care in keeping the parks open in these difficult circumstances.
I want to record my thanks to all the trustees, officers of the committee, volunteers, other helpers, and especially you the members for your interest and support. We all ensure that the charity known as the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks can meet its objectives of protecting and conserving these beautiful spaces, for the long-term enjoyment of generations to come.
Friends of Bushy and Home Parks