There has been a lot of comment on social media regarding the closure of Bushy Park to vehicles, and the subsequent partial opening for vehicles to give access to the car parks on weekdays.
It shows that Bushy Park matters to people and is a strong feature in the lives of many.
This is particularly good news for the Park and people look forward to a return to normal as soon as possible.
Normal is not likely to be “as before” but is likely to be the normal that we will all get used to. It’s a normal that looks after the park while maintaining an important green space for people to enjoy. This normal will be a result of Covid-19 and also as a result of The Royal Parks’ Movement Strategy. The lockdown resulted in the closure of the park to all but essential vehicles. The Royal Parks worked hard to ensure that the park remained open for people on foot or on cycle.
This arrangement was enjoyed by many but abused by some whose antisocial behaviour was enough for the police to demand the closure of some gates. This antisocial behaviour isn’t peculiar to Bushy Park; it is a nationwide problem. However, the impact on Bushy was not only a nuisance to other park users but put the wildlife in harm’s way. Broken glass, hypodermic needles, plastic bags, discarded food and containers could prove fatal to all living things, domesticated or wild. Further, the invertebrates that have given Bushy Park the status of a Site of Scientific Interest were impacted.
The problem prompted a campaign by The Royal Parks to encourage everyone to be kind to the parks, their plant and wildlife. #BeKindToYourParks
Closure of the park completely would have been an easy option but The Royal Parks’ priority for the last few months has been to keep the parks open and safe, knowing that to be able to have access to valuable green spaces is now crucial for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Since changes to the lockdown restrictions on 4th July, The Royal Parks are opening up the car parks to vehicular access on weekdays, giving much needed access to those who cannot reach the park by foot or on cycle. This applies especially for those people who cannot reach the park without vehicular access, such as blue badge holders.
However, there is a balance to be struck between opening the park and adhering to the need to maintain social distancing. The high footfall in the park in the lockdown presented problems for the park in terms of crowds, litter and litter’s impact on the wildlife and provided a marker for precaution. Opening the car parks presents the potential for a repeat of the problems, yet The Royal Parks are keen to open the park up for all by giving access to car parks. However, the car parks have a finite capacity, and parking outside of the car parks is not permitted. Weekday footfall is lighter than weekend footfall, so the balance struck was to open the parks to vehicular access on weekdays only. However, as of 1st August, cars will be allowed to access the Pheasantry and Diana Fountain car parks.
Concurrent to all these events is The Royal Parks’ movement strategy, which was published in 2018, and includes all eight parks. For The Royal Parks pedestrian access is a priority, followed by cycling and then vehicular access to the car parks. The Royal Parks’ roads and car parks are principally there for those who wish to visit the parks and vehicular access has always been subject to restriction. As part of this Movement Strategy, The Royal Parks will commence a trial across the 8 parks starting later this year placing the emphasis on ensuring green spaces for people to enjoy for public recreation, health and well-being while protecting, preserving and maintaining the biodiversity which includes the protection of all wildlife. This trial will finalise arrangements for the future. Ahead of this trial that all 8 parks will start concurrently, The Royal Parks have allowed vehicular access to car parks during weekdays rather than continue the vehicular ban until the start of the trial.
The social media attention is very encouraging for The Royal Parks and the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks, and as polarised as opinions are, the underlying message is that the parks are particularly important to people. The Royal Parks’ movement strategy places an emphasis on the wellbeing of people and the park while also adhering to the government direction on social distancing.
The Friends of Bushy and Home Parks welcome the interest in the park, and if you would like to be more involved and more informed, we would welcome your joining to contribute your thoughts and opinions to the betterment of the parks. Click here for more information and to join us.