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 2020/21
The past year has been dominated by the effects of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. It has shown the parks to be essential, providing physical, mental, and spiritual health to the people able to access them. We have been immensely grateful to the staffs of the parks for keeping them open.
Both parks became places of solace and exercise for many more visitors than ever before, due to lockdowns and other restrictions. The two parks have been discovered by people who were not previously aware of them. This brought extreme pressure on Bushy Park, from vehicle traffic and associated car parking, from an increase in off-road cycling, from the increased numbers of dog-walkers, from increased numbers of visitors who approached deer, and from the numbers of visitors who deposited litter. In Home Park the numbers of visitors increased, with more cyclists, more deer encounters, and more litter. In both parks, many staff and contractors were furloughed which exacerbated the difficulties of maintaining the parks despite increased visitor numbers and the issues they created.
The arrival just after Easter 2020, of the new Bushy Park Manager, Phil Edwards, coincided with the start of a lockdown. He found that most of his staff were furloughed. We commend his positive response during his first year in the post, despite experiencing reduced resources and increased demands on the park.
The Visitor Centre was closed from March until September, and again in the last weeks of December. When it reopened in September it only operated from the barrow outside the front doors of the Visitor Centre. The closures were frustrating for several reasons; it was a hot and sunny summer which attracted huge numbers of visitors whom we were unable to service with information and advice which might have mitigated some of the poor behaviour in the parks; our cadre of volunteers were unable to perform their roles, and several chose to resign; income generated from merchandise sales at the Visitor Centre was reduced.
We closed our programme of Walks and Talks for the year, a disappointment to both members and speakers who enjoy these events. Chestnut Sunday was cancelled.
Two matters affecting Bushy Park were initiated by The Royal Parks during 2020. Firstly, the consultation on proposals for the introduction Car Parking charges. Secondly, the Movement Strategy proposals to remove through traffic from the park, which has been trialled and has had a consultation period.
There has been a substantial rise in cars visiting Bushy Park over the past decade and car parks have been oversubscribed even before the pandemic. The overflowing of car parks leads to illegal parking on verges and grasslands, undermining Bushy Park’s SSSI status. Pollution from idling engines queuing for spaces to be vacated, coupled with occasional bouts of heated argument, are not conducive to the peace which the park offers. The park is not intended to be a massive car park and if there are to be fair shares in usage of parking spaces this can only be readily managed by timed ticketing. The trustees noted that our members have a variety of different views and so recommended that members should respond to the consultation individually. We provided a Trustees’ statement to The Royal Parks, generally supportive of the proposals in order to manage the problems but with some suggestions about ways to enable local, regular, park users and young families to enjoy periods when charges are not in operation.
The Movement Strategy, which the Trustees of FBHP support, establishes an order of priority among park users, viz. first wildlife, then pedestrians, then horse riders, cyclists, and lastly motor vehicles. Each Royal Park has localised proposals for reducing traffic and improving each park’s environment. The Bushy Park proposal is to remove through traffic along Chestnut Avenue. During the first lockdown period no public traffic was allowed into the park and there were many positive comments made to FBHP about the peace and quiet this engendered. We were receiving requests to ask if this could be made permanent. Those requests came from people who had no difficulty in getting to the park. When the trial of the “no through road” began, we received some requests asking us to object to the restriction and other requests asking us to support the closure. Many objections were because people used Chestnut Avenue as their frequent route to somewhere and they did not want to increase their journey on public roads. The trustees recommended that members should respond to the consultation individually, because there were divided opinions for and against the proposed restriction. A Trustees’ statement was submitted to The Royal Parks, supporting the proposal as it benefits the park environment, but drawing attention to the impact it would have on surrounding traffic routes.
Issues raised by Members
Some anti-social activity occurred during the first lockdown at the Hampton Hill end of Bushy Park. It was primarily noise, drinking, litter, and upsetting deer and nearby residents. It was dealt with speedily by the police and by locking pedestrian gates at night on that side of the park.
The number of dogs being walked in both parks appears to have tripled during the past year. Unfortunately, this has created two bad side effects. There have been several occasions on which deer have been chased or attacked by dogs. In one case a child was knocked over by a deer being chased by a dog, and in other cases deer have been injured; Home Park’s deer herd has suffered especially. Another side effect is that dog poo bags have been left as litter rather more often. Both effects suggest that some new dog walkers are not respecting the parks.
Off-Road cycling has increased during the pandemic and there are several routes which have been carved across areas which are important to the SSSI in Bushy Park, thereby undermining that status. Such cycling is not allowed under Park Regulations, but enforcement has proved difficult for the police and park staff. We have indicated our support for more stringent enforcement and for improved signage.
The clearance of Rhododendron Ponticum in the Woodland Gardens was objected to by some visitors who were unhappy about the work. Their objections seeming to be based on their misunderstandings or misconceptions. We suggested to The Royal Parks that they provided improved information signage to inform visitors. This work is further referenced below under Projects.
Litter has increased in the past year due to the substantially increased numbers of park visitors. It is unfortunate behaviour by those park visitors who come to enjoy the open space and clean environment but fail to treat the parks with due respect by taking their litter home. Some two dozen of our volunteers came forward to assist in litter picking across all areas of the two parks, including Barge Walk which is part of Home Park’s responsibility. This has helped the park management teams which have been operating with reduced resources during the pandemic. The increased cost to the parks in dealing with litter is significant and especially unhelpful at a time when their respective incomes are substantially reduced.
The Teddington Cricket Club new fencing has created some controversy. The fencing is higher than the previous fence, making it less easy to climb over, and does not have an access point in the fence to the cricket ground near the Coleshill Road and Clapperstile gates. The access is now via either side of the new Pavilion. We have asked The Royal Parks to consider if an additional pedestrian access point can be made near the Coleshill path.
We were delighted to support the introduction of the Shire Horses stabled at Home Park to undertake work in Bushy Park. They have been used to scarify grassed areas and will also provide rides to visitors when this is allowed.
Projects implemented in 2020:
An upside of being unable to leave our homes for much of the year did allow the officers of FBHP to press on with some behind the scenes development. A new website was created and implemented successfully by the end of June. This included an online service for joining and renewing membership, for making donations and for purchasing merchandise. The latter has proved itself successful and vital during the closure of the Visitor Centre.
We researched the market and introduced a new membership system using a low-cost service called Membermojo. This will be largely invisible to members, but it improves our administration and security of member details. The project took several months of hard work by our voluntary team, and they are to be congratulated on a seamless transfer.
Voluntary Rangers were restricted in their operations during lockdowns. Despite this, the Royal Parks’ Advisory Group judged the trial a success after just 2 years, and we recommended long term implementation. Rangers will now become a key volunteer resource in Bushy and Richmond Parks and will also be introduced in Greenwich Park.
FBHP Trustees approved £5000 funding to support the removal of Rhododendron Ponticum in the Woodland Gardens. This invasive and toxic plant has taken over vast areas of the gardens; some park users have complained about the large swathes of newly opened space, but the size of these areas provide evidence of the plant’s uncontrolled dominance. The clearance will allow soil improvement followed by replanting with native and exotic species. That, in turn, will increase biodiversity and better cope with the effects of climate change. We anticipate future funding of parts of the replanting scheme.
Another project which was implemented by The Royal Parks was the improvement to Fisher’s Pond and the watercourse feeding it. This was funded by Mission:Invertebrate and the Peoples’ Postcode Lottery. Other improvements to watercourses and some ponds around Bushy Park were also undertaken with the aim of improving amphibians’ habitats and invertebrate biodiversity in the water.
Projects which did not progress as planned:
The fruit cage to surround the Space Sapling. Progress was made, with NPL in the lead, for a competition to run in 2021 in which local primary schools will engage pupils in designing decorative appendages for the fruit cage. The themes will be scientific discovery, space exploration, horticulture, and history of Bushy Park. The sapling itself continues to grow in the Super-Nursery in Hyde Park.
We had expected to help with funding an irrigation scheme in Woodland Gardens, however The Royal Parks have shelved this project.
Planting at the Pheasantry approach based upon a “Derek Jarman garden” inspired theme. This will use funds donated by Teddington in Flower. The project has been delayed by a variety of events; poor weather conditions, staff unavailability, and by biosecurity restrictions on the sources of plants.
We had intended to fund several motion camera(s) for wildlife monitoring in both parks. This has been suspended during the pandemic as staff are not available to take this forward.
Our membership now stands at 1247. Most new members now join through our online facility on the website.
The role of Membership Secretary passed from Pat Dickinson to Susan Hugill during the second half of the year. They were both instrumental in the selection and implementation of the new low-cost membership system. This new service enables automated processes, secure online joining and renewals, and improves security and backup compared to our previous homegrown facility. Pat Dickinson is moving away, and we thank her for her considerable efforts over the past five years and wish her well in her new home.
Trustees and Officers
We have welcomed two new Trustees in recent months. Susan Hugill, our Membership Secretary and Jeannie Edwards, our Newsletter Editor and Public Relations officer, have both become Trustees. They bring new ideas, energy and skills to our committee and we are delighted they have offered themselves for these roles. Our committee currently comprises 13 Trustees.
A major bequest was received from the estate of the late Ann Sayer, one of our longstanding members. Ann was a celebrated walker so it is our plan to use the proceeds to produce self-guided walking routes and commentaries, using publications and digital technology.
Other donations have been made by members and the public in appreciation of the parks, especially during the pandemic. We are grateful for every contribution.
Our volunteers have persevered in their endeavour to help visitors to the parks, when we have been able to open the Visitor Centre albeit with restrictions on what could be done. This meant working outside the doors of the Visitor Centre with the barrow, which was enjoyed when the sun shone, but less so when the weather was inclement. The volunteers have been kept in touch with each other and park activities by the continuing pastoral care of Rosemary MacColl, the volunteer coordinator.
A group of volunteers have been established as a Litter Picking cadre, which has proved effective in assisting in both parks with the problems of increased litter deposits by some visitors.
Walks & Talks
During the year we spent some time finding an organiser to replace Jane Cliff, who has performed the role in exemplary fashion for some years. We are pleased to report that two members, Philip Wooster and Bryan Hepnar, have offered to take it on. They are looking into the possibility of establishing on-line talks while the pandemic restrictions remain in place.
Keeping in Touch
Four newsletters were produced, and the editorship passed seamlessly from David and Claire Ivison to Jeannie Edwards just prior to the production of the Winter 2020/21 edition. We record our gratitude to Claire and David for their years as successful editors.
We are also grateful to several of our members who are photographers and who have been posting photos on our Facebook page. Notable among them is Sue Lindenberg who has, in effect, created a daily diary on Facebook of her sorties each morning into one or other park to take entertaining, dramatic and soulful pictures that have been enjoyed by others, even when unable to visit the parks ourselves.
Police resources have been maintained and although crime in Bushy Park remains low, there have been significant violations of park regulations by the increased numbers of park visitors.
The Friends have continued to work closely with the management teams in both parks. We are grateful for their, and their contractors’, care in keeping the parks open in the most difficult circumstances.
Personally, I have worked particularly closely with Phil Edwards during his first year in charge of Bushy Park. He has experienced a perfect storm, dealing with the huge increase in park use while having fewer resources available. He has done so with professionalism, good humour, and enthusiasm despite a daunting workload. He has the best interests of Bushy Park at heart.
A difficult year for everyone. I would like to thank all the trustees, officers of the committee, volunteers, other helpers, and you the members for your interest and support. You all ensure the continued success of the Friends in meeting our objective of protecting and conserving these spaces over the long term for the enjoyment of all who respect them.
Friends of Bushy and Home Parks