Newsletter ‐ Winter 2017

End of Season Review

Heritage Pavilion

The 2017 end of season review on 19 October at St John’s Wood Church Hall began with a most interesting keynote talk from Daniel Hearsum, Chairman of Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park. After Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park lay derelict and rotting for 23 years in 1997, Daniel’s company contracted with the Royal Parks to restore and operate the lodge long term.

A new trial visitor information point has been a great example of teamwork between the Royal Parks, the Friends of Richmond Park and his company. It helps 53,000 visitors a year and encourages sustainable visitor use at no cost to The Royal Parks. The banqueting suite has proved to be a real cash provider. Pembroke Lodge now generates over £300,000 of vital annual income to the parks, year on year.

Zoological Gardens Regents Park

Before starting restoration work, Daniel and his team researched the history of Pembroke Lodge and Richmond Park and uncovered and collected much hidden material containing over 10,000 items including maps, painting, prints, photographs, postcards and ephemera. Daniel showed examples from all the parks showing the diversity of the collections such as Regent’s Park ‐ The Zoo in the 19th century with an elephant wandering amongst the visitors. The collection also included contemporary issues, such as recent pictures of accidents or near accidents when selfies were taken near wild deer.

Row Boat

The collection is shared with visitors using interpretation boards, and temporary exhibitions in partnership with The Royal Parks. Because of the numerous requests for access and the lack of proper storage facilities at Pembroke Lodge, they have developed plans for a heritage pavilion in Richmond Park. These have formal approval from the Crown Estate and The Royal Parks. The next steps are obtaining planning permission, building regulation consent, and fundraising, for which they will be inviting donations. Once the pavilion has been built it will be operated by their registered charity which includes trustees from the Friends of Richmond Parks and the Richmond Local History Society. Daniel praised the benefit of teamwork. For five years The Royal Parks, the Friends of Richmond Park and his company had worked together to develop a scheme that had unanimous support, a rare commodity these days. Ianthe thanked Daniel, and gave him a copy of The Regent’s Park by Martin Shephard.

Andrew Scattergood, Chief Executive of The Royal Parks, then gave us an update of what had been happening since the formation of the new charity on 16 March. The new Board had more freedom to protect and enhance the fabric of the Parks and think long term. With Government grants decreasing, there was a need to grow park activities in a balanced way; the Board remained committed to the major event strategy published in 2014. He mentioned the following projects in Regent’s Park:

  • The borehole had given greater irrigation to the site and had flushed the lake which had shown real improvement.
  • The tennis courts had been re‐surfaced and were now floodlit.
  • Hybrid pitches had been installed. Material installed around the grass roots would increase the use of the pitches. The first rugby game was scheduled for Sunday 22 October 2017.
  • The work of the Hedgehog Research and Mission Invertebrate Habitat improvements research is now in its fourth year and showed thirty‐siz individuals, which has increased from seventeen.
  • HS2/Thames Water works: HS2 had sequestered access to ZSL’s car park using primary legislation.
  • CS 11: Cycle Super Highway no news: the royal parks will consult on a 20 mph speed limit. This will require secondary legislation.
  • Future of the nursery site: Once the rebuild of the nursery site in Hyde Park has been completed, the old nursery site in Regent’s Park would become redundant along with other buildings e.g. the Old Iron Works. Andrew listed current project objectives:
    1. New park management && contract facilities.
    2. New high‐class architecture.
    3. Return some brown space to park.
    4. Habitat & sustainability enhancements.
    5. New sustainable income stream.
    6. Delivery through an open fair process working with Westminster City Council.

He stressed that the intention was that they would be working with the Friends, residents and all other stakeholders. Several uses for the nursery site had been suggested including: concert hall, spa, museum, education centre, ménage, or horse riding centre. Private developments are likely to be ruled out. He asked the Friends to let him know of any ideas by emailing

Ianthe then chaired a question and answer panel session with Daniel Hearsum, Andrew Scattergood, Nick Biddle (Manager of Regent’s Park) and Rebecca England (Dedicated Parks Police Officer for Regent’s Park)

There were complaints both about dog behaviour e.g. in café areas, and how they were dealt with. Nick Biddle, a dog owner himself, said he had a duty to tackle anti‐social behaviour and he felt that a few irresponsible dog owners were letting all the others down.

There was concern about speeding cyclists and the outer circle being used as a velodrome, especially on Sundays. Rebecca England replied that she already conducted speed checks and she had a good working relationship with the cycling community in Regent’s Park. There was also concern about cyclists travelling three and four abreast and potential danger at the junction opposite Clarence Terrace.

Robert Rigby (Ward Councillor), asked how the 20 mph would be enforced. Rebecca England explained that daily speed checks were already undertaken. Andrew Scattergood said that no signage would be added to change the landscape or the streetscape.

When asked about progress with funding for the Heritage pavilion Daniel Hearsum replied that his company were about to embark on fund raising for a further £1.2m which had to be agreed by The Royal Parks.

Mark Evans described a preliminary idea for a commonwealth conservatory to be built in Queen Mary’s Gardens as a 100th birthday gift for the Queen, if it could get permission from the Royal Parks, funding and planning consent from WCC. Brochures were distributed and he welcomed comments from Friends.

Andrew Scattergood was asked about the costs/benefits of the Frieze Art Fair which had lasted four days but had caused locals disruption for considerably longer. He assured the meeting there was a considerable financial benefit to the park. Replying to a complaint on the commercial aspect of the events’ strategy he stressed that the strategy limited the activities in the Regent’s Park. Taste of London and Frieze were the only major events allowed and that Hyde Park took the brunt of major events. Income cuts required events to maintain the parks. Nick Biddle said the park staff worked to reduce the impact on residents and noise on Sundays. He asked residents to speak to him directly of their concerns.

Ianthe thanked the panel members for their time.

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New Membership System Goes Live

Urgent Responses Requested
As you will be aware we have changed the membership recording system for Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill. Many thanks to Alan Martin who has helped us to do this, and continues supporting the Friends. All those who have given us their email address will have received an emailed letter and, if members, a membership card by email in early November.

You will have received an email or a letter explaining our new membership system. However, it seems the majority of our 700+ members have not yet taken the action requested (our thanks to those who have). The previous system using Bank Standing Orders and cheques, involved manual reconciliation against the membership database which is very time consuming for our volunteers. The more time spent on this function, the less we can spend on protecting the parks on your behalf, so your co-operation is urgently required. The new system uses Direct Debit or credit/debit card, so does a lot of the work for us automatically.

If you have not already done so, please logon to your membership record (see themembership page of our new website for the link) using the username previously sent to you, and follow the instructions to set up your new payment system. If you don’t have your username, please

We appreciate that some members are not computer users, so we will continue to accept payment using your current method. However, the fewer that do this, the better for the reasons stated above.

Please act NOW ‐ thanks

With the new system, we are also phasing out the enamel membership badges. Instead, we are moving over to a Membership Card which you will need to use when claiming Friends’ discounts. Those who have not yet given us their email address will be sent a letter on their renewal date which will give alternatives depending on whether they are computer users.

  • Those who are computer users will be asked to logon to check and amend their details, and set up payment by Direct Debit, Credit or Debit card for the new annual rate of £20.
  • Those who are not computer users will be asked to amend their existing Bank Standing Order, or write a cheque for the new annual rate of £20. (Ianthe McWilliams is very grateful to those who have written to her about this so far.)

Anyone who has an email address but has not yet supplied it, please with your name and address so we can log your email on the system.

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Masters of Art

At this year’s Frieze Masters, outstanding works of art, both ancient and modern, were brilliantly displayed, the atmospheric lighting adding to the sense of theatre that has become a hallmark of this show.

Thesepieces have been chosen for their seminal value. They are all powerfully evocative of their time and place.
Amanda Malpass

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The Bandstand

Members of The Friends are working with The Royal Parks to develop a programme for the summer to include some Royal Academy of Music students. Volunteers are required to provide site supervision on the day (training will be provided). If you are interested, please email Nick Biddle at the Park

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Birds in The Park


Earlier this year, the Friends gave a donation towards the installation of owl nesting boxes to help the proliferation of both the tawny and little owls in the park. Little owls were originally introduced into this country from Italy in the late nineteenth century by landlords eager to help control garden pests. They are now widespread throughout Europe and have become permanently established here too. These partly diurnal owls are territorial being resident in the park throughout the year. Little owls are only one‐third the size of tawny owls and often can be mistaken for more common song thrushes which are similar in both size and colour, although, unlike the thrushes, they are rarely seen on the ground.

Also, resident throughout the year, are the pairs of breeding kestrels. The young parents by the lake only had one chick this year, while the more mature birds on Primrose Hill produced three. The mute swans were very successful and had five cygnets that could be seen, under the watchful eye of the parents, on the bank by the long bridge throughout the late summer.

Small gregarious flocks of constantly twittering siskins have arrived from eastern Europe to winter in the park and can often be observed flitting through the shrubs and blackberry bushes. While pairs of pied wagtails with their distinctive long bobbing tails are inspecting the soccer pitches in the afternoon sunshine, grey herons can be seen flying leisurely towards the zoo in time to participate in a daily ritual of the feeding of the penguins.

In the colder stormy weather, the park’s open spaces are often covered by large flocks of black‐headed gulls with their raucous cries; but their trade mark black hoods have been replaced temporarily by the dark smudges of their winter plumage.
John Malpass, Committee Member

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Reaping the Harvest


The harvest festival open day at the park allotments was an occasion not to be missed. Julie Riehl and her volunteers had worked tirelessly beforehand to clear storm damage by the rain and high winds experienced just beforehand (hurricane Harvey or Irma?) to present a nearly immaculate garden.

Herbs, fruit and vegetables were on display with some available to purchase together with delicious jam and other preserves. Visitors enjoyed several activities including ‘guess the weight of the cake’, beeswax candle, newspaper seed pod making and bug viewing. Musical entertainment was provided and there were delicious pizzas baked in the outdoor eco‐friendly wood burning brick pizza oven, washed down with apple juice made on the spot. The Friends helped to man the welcome and information table at the entrance.
Alison Kemp

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Hug a Tree

Tree Hug

On Thursday 28 September a group of The Friends of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill was taken on a tree tour which took place around Queen Mary’s Gardens. We could not have asked for a better afternoon as the sunshine made our walk even more pleasant. We were fortunate to have as our guide Paul Akers who is Arboricultural Manager involved with Westminster Council and has been associated with them in this role over the past forty years.

His knowledge and description of the trees kept everybody interested and provided much speculation amongst the group as to where trees originated. He produced a very descriptive brochure explaining the names and history of all the trees on the walk. The afternoon was enjoyed by all and we hope he will be persuaded to do another walk in 2018.
Vivienne Appell

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Winter Garden Renovation

The Winter Garden (formerly Heather Garden) which greets visitors entering the park from the Charlbert Bridge entrance is being renovated this winter using the Royal Parks Cyclical Landscape Improvement Fund which was set up for just this type of project. The design will remove much of the dense evergreen shrub layer and open up views of the magnificent maturing birch and maple trees. The layout of the beds will be reorganised to allow visitors closer access to the planting and thus enjoy the colour and scent during the winter months.

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Grass Hybrid Sports Pitch

At the end of the summer the grass hybrid sports pitch was installed as featured in the last newsletter. It is 80 ‐ 90% grass with 10 ‐ 20% plastic carpet beneath. The small amount of plastic leaves significantly improves the pitch’s ability to resist wear. The greatly improved drainage system and unique soil blend should allow up to 25 hours of play a week compared to the 12 hours per week possible on 100% natural turf pitches during the winter. The pitch accommodates one adult pitch and two 9v9 pitches. The latter will provide the correct size football pitch for all age groups.

The trial is fully funded by Sport England who selected the park from several other similar venues because of the high level of community use, the existing infrastructure and reputation for maintaining decent quality pitches for the type of environment (open access land). The performance of the pitches will be monitored by canvassing user feedback, logging the hours and type of use and carrying out regular quality measurements of the surface.

Similar data will be collected from the Bisham Abby National Sports Centre which has the same type of pitch but is used more by national squads. These comparisons will enable Sport England to consider how effective this type of pitch will be for its funding of community pitches in the future.
Mark Bridger, Assistant Park Manager

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Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve


This year, bonfire night’s impact on Primrose Hill was less damaging than in previous years, thanks to the work of The Royal Parks’ police officers who are also leading The Royal Parks planning for New Year’s Eve. As in recent years, the planning process links to the wider plans for Camden and surrounding areas, involving the blue light services (ambulances) as well as Transport for London and council officers. Additions to the plans for this year include some additional lighting and first aid provisions.

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The Community Wildlife Garden

Wildlife Garden

Adjacent to the tennis courts at York Bridge this area is maintained by five active volunteers who this year have planted camassia bulbs, an American blue flowering hyacinth, as an experiment to see if this species will colonise and help suppress the invasive properties of cow parsley. The volunteers have also carried out autumn cultivation on a small parkland area in the garden devoted to a wildflower meadow, sowing wildflower seeds to give an attractive spring floral display and to benefit butterflies and bees.

The current volunteers have been with us ranging from nine months to five years. They carry out garden maintenance with minimum supervision, giving four to six hours each week. Should anyone want to join them and is interested in general garden maintenance on a long-term basis then contact Regents Mailbox at

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Benugo’s contract which commenced in November 2013 was for five years with an option to extend for a further five years. Agreement to extend has been reached and as a result The Smokehouse will be redeveloped this winter and will reopen early next year as The Broad Walk Café, offering significantly improved internal seating and a wider menu offer.

Primrose Hill Café, although funds are as yet to be identified for construction, is undergoing detailed design.

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The Nursery

The Nursery at Regent’s Park is soon to be decommissioned as the production of Royal Parks’ bedding plants will move to the new super‐nursery at Hyde Park. This will result in an opportunity to renew operational facilities, return some of the area to parkland and provide an opportunity for the creation of a new cultural facility appropriate to the park. Any new opportunity will be subject to open and fair competition.

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September fieldwork is complete, and the 2017 report will be available by the end of the year. All of the hedgehog surveys are now available to download from The Royal Parks’ web site. This year has been positive for the hedgehogs, as they appear to have bred successfully.

Of the 36 animals found in September about seventeen were juveniles, thought to have been born this year, which is extremely encouraging. The population overall remains small and extremely vulnerable. We have been surveying the hedgehogs of Regent’s Parks for four years and after a sharp decline in numbers in 2015 the population seems to be recovering.

Their distribution across the park varies from year to year for reasons that are not fully understood but the zoo car park remains a very important site and park management will pay close attention to the impacts of the Thames Water compound. Thames Water has been very cooperative in complying will all the mitigation plans. The Royal Parks continue to make habitat enhancements to support hedgehogs through a range of management interventions and ensuring their staff as well as those of other organisations operating in the park are fully aware of how their operations might impact on this population.
Nick Biddle, Park Manager

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Autumn migration has seen a once in a lifetime movement of hawfinches, fifteen have been spotted at time of writing, as well as one lapland bunting, a first for the park; one yellow hammer, the first recorded since 1998, and a short‐eared owl which flew over the park harassed by a peregrine falcon.

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News at the Zoo

Dominic Jermey

The Zoological Society of London is delighted to announce the appointment of Dominic Jermey (CVO OBE) to the role of Director General. He replaces outgoing DG Ralph Armond, who has been with the organisation for over thirteen years.

Jermey will be responsible for ZSL's goal of achieving the global conservation of animals and their habitats. This will include overseeing two world‐class Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as well as ZSL's Institute of Zoology and field programmes in over 50 countries worldwide.

The well‐respected diplomat has been at the forefront of political and public life for the last 25 years, most recently as British Ambassador to Afghanistan. He will formally take up the new post with ZSL in late November.

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New Discount for Friends

Mumtaz, the Indian restaurant at 4‐10 Park Road, NW1 4SH, near Clarence Gate, is offering Friends a 20% discount on food. Please call 020 7723 0549 in advance to check there is space, and show your membership card.

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