Newsletter ‐ Summer 2018

From the Chair

The AGM in March reported on the change of membership system, to one essentially requiring on‐line membership, and change from standing orders for £10 to direct debit or card payment at £20. Many members whose renewal dates come later in the year still need to make the change, ideally to direct debits.

The website had been renewed and new members could join direct through it. Donations to the park over the last year included owl nesting boxes, fruit cages for the allotment; and sponsoring Nick Biddle’s marathon run which he used to buy a cherry tree now planted in the Chester Road. Jacky Erwteman was appointed secretary, and committee members were re‐elected. Henry Oakeley gave a lively talk.

It promises to be a lively summer in the park. Friend Mark Elliott has inspired and worked to organise a programme of concerts on the bandstand ‐ see poster of concerts and dates. Ex‐treasurer Richard Portnoy has helped with administration and a team of volunteer site supervisors will welcome and look after the bands on the day. Nick Biddle, Park Manager will be training them.

We had the opportunity to participate in a pop‐up postal sorting office commemorating the WW1, Home Depot which was a 5‐acre wooden structure on Cumberland Green. Actors played a soldier and his wife and we (and a range of school parties) were shown how to carry out the sorting of letters and parcels for the front.

We hope to continue gaining new members, so please do invite your friends and neighbours to pick up a leaflet (now in all the cafés in the Park and elsewhere) and join online. If you are having trouble with your membership arrangements, do please
Ianthe McWilliams, Chair

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Parks, Police and Poisons

Chaste Plant

The speaker at this year’s AGM in March was Dr Henry Oakeley, one of the Garden Fellows at the Royal College of Physicians which is celebrating its 500 anniversary this year. To commemorate this event Henry, the head gardener, Jane Knowles and artist in residence, Gillian Barlow, have just published The Illustrated College Herbal, Plants from the Pharmacopoea Londinensis of 1618.

Henry’s highly instructive and entertaining talk introduced the audience to some of the 1100 plants in the College garden, most of which are poisonous but 70 of which were the basis for modern medicines. Just half a leaf of the foxglove for example was fatal but it contains digoxin which increases the strength of the heart’s contractions and so increases cardiac output in heart failure. The illustration is of Vitex castus‐agnus, or the chaste plant, said to have been carried by nuns to guard against impure thoughts!
(Image: © Mine Soral and the Royal College of Physicians)

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Introduce More Friends

A plea from the Membership Secretary
In order to attract more Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill we would like to ask existing members to introduce a friend or colleague to join. By increasing our membership this will give us the opportunity to be able to sponsor more events and provide additional support to the park.

By encouraging friends or colleagues to join via the Friends of Regent’s Park website, they will of course enjoy the immediate benefits of membership.

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Ascension Day on Primrose Hill

Ascension Day on Primrose Hill

Left to right, the new Bishop of London ‐ the Rt Revd Sarah Mullaly, the Bishop of Edmonton ‐ Rob Wickam, the vicar of St Mary’s Primrose Hill ‐ Marjorie Brown and the curate of St Mary’s ‐ Nick Walters
(Photograph by Alison Kemp)

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Safer Parks Police Panel

PC Rebecca England and Justin McKie

I was pleased at the AGM in March 2018 that everyone who replied to my question about whether they felt safe in the park said yes. This note describes some of the work that goes on behind the scenes, keeping the Parks safe for all.

Every quarter our Dedicated Police Officer, PC Rebecca England, reports to the Safer Parks Police Panel about the activities and results achieved in policing the park regulations and crime in Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill.

The panel consists of a wide range of representatives, including The Royal Parks, Crown Estate Paving Commission, park users, local businesses as well as the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill. It is chaired by Justin McKie from Regent’s Park Cyclists.

Each quarter three priorities are set for the next period, and these are reported on alongside any other infringements of park regulations.

The spring priorities had been unauthorised trade vehicles, of whom 86 were reported as being in the Park without justification. Parking outside of hours saw 181 tickets issued. Finally, road safety activities generated 42 warnings issued to vehicles speeding between 30 and 35 mph (under the park regulations) and 67 prosecuted for over 35 mph.

Road safety also included cycle safety. We saw a decrease in cyclists fined for going through red traffic lights which fell to three. There was a slight increase in cyclists without lights during the hours of darkness, with six tickets issued.

It was also reported that bogus ‘plain clothes’ police officers had been targeting foreign tourists near the Zoo and searching their wallets. On three occasions thefts were reported. If you see anything that looks like that going on please alert the tourists.

Priorities set for the next quarter are to target theft, including theft from motor vehicles. The Police will continue the focus on unauthorised trade vehicles and vehicles travelling dangerously above the 30 mph speed limit.

As the Safer Parks Police Panel normally operates during the working day, PC England has agreed to be available for ‘drop in sessions’ to discuss any concerns about Park safety.

These will be held between 6 and 8 p.m. on Thursday 19 July, Friday 20 July and Thursday 23 August.

They will be held at the Park Office, Inner Circle in the conference room which you will find to the right of the barrier entry by the allotment garden. Please put the dates in your diary if you wish to attend.
Ianthe McWilliams, Chair

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Meet Our New Secretary

Jacky doing her stint in the allotment garden

Dutch national Jacky Erwteman is the new secretary of the Friends of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill.

She has been a resident of St John’s Wood and a park user all her life. Her parents fled from the Netherlands to London in 1940 and settled in St John’s Wood. Jacky was born in Harley Street, and as the family lived in a small, top floor flat, Queen Mary’s Gardens became her playground.

Jacky worked first for ICI, but expecting equal pay for women and men, left to join the Civil Service. She worked first in the field of forensic science, but promotion led to management positions in various departments until she was working directly for government ministers. Retiring at the then compulsory retirement age of 60, she then worked freelance for five years as a qualified investigating officer and mediator for both central and local government.

Today this busy lady volunteers for an organisation that supports people in severe crisis, is the patient representative on a London hospital’s risk and quality assurance committee, is an active volunteer in the Regent’s Park allotment and sings in a choir. She is also a keen supporter of the Open Air Theatre and since attending her first performance as a baby on a blanket on the side lawn, she has been to every production.

Asked how she views her new role within the Friends, she says "One of work, not opinion", and how she sees the Park developing, Jacky refuses to be drawn until the full facts are known under the new structure. For now, she sees the Friends working with the park managers and representing the park users on general issues such as the monitoring of existing facilities to ensure that they are properly maintained and that park users are controlled for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone.

One issue on which she has very strong views is that of any new development in the park. Current funding means park managers can barely cope with what we already have, so before any new project can even be considered, be it the development of the old nursery area or the building of a new glasshouse, the question of how it will be kept going after it is finished must be fully addressed.
Margaret Elliott

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In the Gardens

New Map Boards
The new park map boards are now in place with revised names and updated information.

Regent’s Park Nursery
Now that all of the plant production is taking place at the brand‐new state‐of‐the‐art nursery at Hyde Park, the nursery site at Regent’s Park requires a new purpose. Any new development would need to be ancillary to the park, be primarily available to the public, enhance the experience for users of the park, and add value to the assets of the park.

The Royal Parks have initiated dialogue with Westminster City Council to explore constraints and restrictions. This is an exciting opportunity to create a new facility appropriate to the park and to rationalise the Inner Circle operational buildings. The Royal Parks hope soon to be in a position to seek expressions of developer interest which could include sport, health and culture, but not housing.

The Broad Walk Café
The newly refurbished Broad Walk Café opened for Easter this year serving a selection of hot and cold food all day, delicious pies, deli style salads and a range of food to take away as well as great coffee and cakes.

Nick Biddle, Park Manager

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Postcards from the Park’s Past

Sophie Sephalian singing her heart out

During two weeks in Regent’s Park from 8 to 19 May, 239 school children, 179 members of the local community and over 800 members of the public worked a shift at the Pop‐Up Home Depot to find out more about the gargantuan task of getting mail to the troops during WW1, and it was a great success.

The performances given by Sophie Sephalian were a great hit as she sang well‐known WW1 songs. This event helped to create a grand finale for the commemorative events of the war. It was also fortunate that the weather was clement. The short drama was devised by the Postal Museum with the Big Wheel Group.

Julie Riehl dressed in WW1 dress

The community groups ranged from Penfold Community Hub, Regent’s Park Conservation area committee, Third Age at the Regent’s Park Estate, Open Age, Carer’s Network and Dragon Hall. Three 45‐minute lesson plans for Key Stage 2 school groups with supporting cross‐curricular learning, focussed on growing plants, orienteering and the Regent’s Park History.
(The image shows Julie Riehl in her allotment dressed in a splendid WW1 dress - not that easy to work in when the ground was muddy!)

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Zoo News

Superheroes take over the Zoo
2018 is the year of the superhero at ZSL London Zoo. From our animals’ hidden superpowers to the incredible work that our conservationists and scientists are doing for wildlife, ZSL London Zoo will be celebrating the wonders of the animal kingdom and the heroics of the people working to protect it, through a series of fun and inspiring events taking place throughout the year.

Test your own superhero skills in our superhero school, opening this summer, before teaming up with ZSL’s heroes to help protect our planet. It’s time to dust off your cape and join us for a super day out at the zoo. for more details.

Giant 'shellebrations' for new arrivals
The biggest living tortoises to walk the earth have arrived at ZSL London Zoo ‐ albeit in a slightly smaller shell than people might expect. Four juvenile giant Galapagos tortoises have joined our four adults as part of the European‐wide conservation breeding programme for the species.

They’ve been named after four of the iconic Galapagos islands ‐ Isabela, Santiago, Cruz and Cristobal. Currently weighing in at a svelte 2kg each, the three‐year‐olds have a long way to grow yet. They will eventually tip the scales at around 400kg and could reach the grand old age of 200.

‘Sacred’ monkey is Land of the Lions first
New born Kamala The first Hanuman langur monkey has been born at ZSL’s new Land of the Lions exhibit, to first time parents Saffron and Rex. Named Kamala, which means lotus flower in Gujarat, the tiny primate is an exciting symbol of the exhibit’s success.

Land of the Lions, which opened in 2016, is also home to ZSL’s Asiatic lion pride and tells the story of the Gir, a unique area of India home to the last wild population of the Critically Endangered lion species. Hanuman langurs are widespread throughout Asia, and named after the Hindu god of healing and worship: by contrast, there are just 500 Asiatic lions left in the wild.

Friendly Spider Programme celebrates 25 years
ZSL is delighted to be celebrating an incredible milestone ‐ 25 years of the Friendly Spider Programme.

During this time more than 5,000 arachnophobics have travelled from as far away as Australia to take part in the half‐day course, which uses a combination of techniques including cognitive therapy and hypnosis and focuses on helping people to deal with spiders in the home.

The results speak for themselves: over 80% of participants report they now remain calm, confident and relaxed when they encounter a spider, while on the day most found they could also even hold a bird‐eating spider or ‘tarantula’ at the end of the session.

Course fees over the years have directly supported a number of wildlife conservation projects for invertebrates. This includes contributing to successful reintroductions of the native semi‐aquatic Fen raft spider, which is listed as endangered in the UK, but is now increasing its range due to conservation efforts.

The Friendly Spider Programme at ZSL London Zoo is available to book now. The half day course is £135 per adult with fees from the course continuing to fund important invertebrate conservation projects. for details.
James Wren, ZSL Fundraising Director

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Life in the Park

Two coots in savage combat on a serene regency pond
Underscoring this brutal reality is the relentless quest for hegemony waged by their near‐neighbour, the crow. Protecting herons amid conflict is rarely mentioned in public discourse, but their relentless persecution by gangster crows and those humans who feed malnourishing bread to the birds, has taken its toll.

In recent years, in London’s magnificent Regent’s Park, the population of herons has dropped from fifteen pairs to less than a handful. The crow is waging war; it is an intractable conflict.

However, important recognition is due. The brilliant insight and wonderful skills of Conservation Expert, Tony Duckett, afforded an unparalleled glimpse of the rich and diverse bird life in London’s Regent’s Park on Saturday 28 April. It was a privilege to learn from his decades of experience about the wealthy galaxy of birds ‐ some rare, some not so rare ‐ to be found in this wildlife oasis, gently‐undulating green space, in the heart of London. Thank you, Tony.

Having already glimpsed a great spotted woodpecker zooming into view and pied wagtails flitting around, we quickly learnt more about bird life persecution. Park foxes have learned to swim the lakes to reach islands where ducks nest on the ground. A behaviour change amongst foxes ‐ adapt and survive.

The gloomy wet morning did little to alleviate any sense of foreboding among the local avifauna. That’s not to say, house martins just arriving were not enjoying feeding on insects forced lower in the sky by falling rain. It also does not apply to the local tawny and little owl populations tucked up in tree trunks after a busy spell of night‐time hunting.

Such foreboding did little too to dampen the spirits of robins, blackbirds and song thrushes giving full vent to their sound pipes. Recent migratory new arrivals in the park are the chiffchaff and reed warblers. Guided by Tony, who literally holds the key, we were allowed into areas of the park that are usually out‐of‐bounds.

Here, ponds of reeds are home not only to reed warblers, but sedge warblers and bunting. Frog spawn and tadpoles flourish. A kestrel perched high in the trees in its nesting box monitored our movements. Yet, the violence remains.

The distressed call of a wren punctured the early morning air, so murder was afoot. Either a fox or a magpie was raiding a nest. Broken eggs, pre‐infant mortality was to ensue but best not to dwell on it.

We learned that a rare ringed ouzel had been seen in recent days in the park. A case of a mountain‐bird in urgent need of urban culture and pleasures? As we strolled across a bridge, admiring the diverse collection of ducks, a ghost‐like, white smew paddled into view. Our thoughts may have wandered at this stage, entranced by the blissful setting and remarkable multi‐coloured ducks on display.

Such casualness smacked of complacency. In recent years, many ducks have died from a form of natural food poisoning, a form of botulism. It weakened their muscles, so they couldn’t leave the water and their neck muscles deteriorated, so they drowned. Then another crow strode towards a heron on the river bank. A purposeful stride, square‐chested and chunky with a threatening tensile‐stressed beak to head off a hammer.
Mervyn Fletcher

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Privacy Notice

General Data Protection Regulations came in on 25 May, and you will all have received a communication back in April. The Friends’Privacy Policy is now available to be viewed.