Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 62

End of Season Review 2009

This will take place on Thursday 8 October, starting at 6.30pm with the usual coffee, tea and patisseries at the Danish Church on the Outer Circle. The meeting itself will begin at 7pm. All Friends are, of course, warmly invited to attend. This year's special speaker will be Nick Biddle, now park manager of Regent's Park but whose subject will be his work with English Heritage as garden curator on the restoration of the garden and grounds of Charles Darwin's former home in Bromley, Down House. This was a five-year project and the aim was to illustrate his life and work by recreating the atmosphere and appearance as it was in Darwin's later years. On completion of the project, Nick Biddle moved to Regent's Park as assistant park manager. There will also be time for Friends to raise points about the park including, for example, the impact of events. Marylebone Green has hosted Toast and the big screen cricket and will soon be transformed for Frieze Art. Friends are welcome to contribute their views and ideas both at the Review and by email to chair @friendsofregentspark.org

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Iolo Morganwg memorial... Iolo - Who he?

The Committee of the Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill are writing to the Royal Parks to object to the appearance of a memorial plaque in the grass to one side of the top of Primrose Hill. Surrounded by concrete, it commemorates the 1792 first meeting of the Gorsedd of Bards, which was absorbed into the National Eisteddford. It also features their leader, the somewhat suspect Welsh druid and poet, Iolo Morganwg. Somewhat belatedly, given there has been no planning permission, the Royal Parks are currently holding a public consultation on this feature until the end of September.

Iolo plaque

The Friends are objecting in principle to the use of parkland for memorials on the grounds that such insertions can too easily proliferate and change both the park's atmosphere and even its purpose. Secondly the man in question, Edward Williams, otherwise known as Iolo Morganwg, had an extraordinary and interesting but not necessarily praiseworthy life. Truth is not the obvious word to use in his connection. A radical and supporter of both French and American revolutions, he was first a stonemason, became bankrupt, spent time in prison, was dependent on opium and was both a druid and member of the Unitarian church. He had a bookshop, wrote poems and folk songs and discovered a series of influential medieval chronicles. It was only after some 100 years that these were discovered to be forgeries. The Friends do not want monuments on the hill, but particularly not this one. Members can write to give their views to Simon Betts, Director of Estates, The Royal Parks, The Old Police House, Hyde Park, W2 2UH.

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London Zoo

Throughout the summer ZSL has been celebrating new arrivals, in our Zoos and as part of vital conservation programmes which safeguard critically endangered animals, writes Carolyn Bennett, development manager.

Proud lions

Two Asian lion cubs have made their debut this summer at ZSL London Zoo. Born on 8 June, the brother and sister, unnamed at three months (see below), are now spending their time playing in the lion enclosure with their parents, Lucifer and Abi. Climbing up Lucifer's mane is a favourite activity. Only 300 Asian lions remain in the wild, in a tiny pocket of threatened land in India. So these births are extremely important for the survival of the species.

lion cub lion and cubs

Dirk at 70 has shine on Dolly 16

Also settling in well are our three Galapagos Tortoises. The star of the new exhibit is Dirk, a sprightly 70, and his two companions Dolly, aged 16, and Dolores, 14. Dirk - who weighs in at 200kg - had been living alone at his previous zoo and has taken a shine to Dolly in particular. Their new home has climate controlled temperature, watering holes and heated mud wallows, as well as a big outdoor area that they are starting to explore. The exhibit also gives visitors the chance to measure their weight against our giant tortoises, and explore the contentious issue of a visit to the Galapagos Islands.

A new male gorilla?

The sad death of Bobby, London Zoo's silverback gorilla, last December left a huge gap on Gorilla Kingdom. After much searching, it is now hoped that Yeboah, a 12-year-old male currently living at Boissière Zoo in France, will join Zaire, Effie and Mjukuu in October. ZSL keepers have visited him and think that he has the right temperament to fit in well with the three girls, who each have very distinct personalities. As Western Lowland gorillas are classed as critically endangered in the wild, it is also hoped that Yeboah's arrival will be the start of a successful breeding programme.

The 120-kg elephant baby

Friends may still mourn the loss of the elephants from Regent's Park zoo but, at Whipsnade, staff and visitors celebrated the safe arrival of a female elephant calf at the end of July. Born to mum Kaylee after a 22-month pregnancy, she was exploring the outdoor paddock at less than 12 hours old. She is already extremely confident and curious, and keepers are predicting challenges ahead when they begin simple training.

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Zoo membership offer

ZSL is delighted to offer the Friends of Regent's Park an exclusive £5 off the cost of becoming a ZSL Friend when you pay by direct debit. Friends of ZSL not only contribute to our vital conservation work, but also enjoy unlimited annual visits to both London and Whipsnade Zoos, plus other benefits such as free parking, half-price tickets for family members, WildAbout magazine, discounts in our shops and cafes, and access to a programme of exclusive events. http://www.zsl.org/info/support-us/membershipbenefits,299,AR.html for more details on benefits.)

A year's full-price membership of the ZSL Friends scheme normally costs £65. At present ZSL is also offering three months free during the first year of membership to everyone paying by direct debit, and you can combine both offers, so that Friends of Regent's Park will pay just £43.50. A concession rate of £53.50 is available for Regent's Park Friends who are over 60 and for a second adult taking our normal membership in the same family. The £5 and direct debit discounts are also available for these categories.

To become a ZSL Friend, please contact the Membership team on 020 7449 6228, email lzmembership@zsl.org , or visit the Membership kiosk in Barclay Court on your next zoo visit. Please note that you will need to show your Friends of Regent's Park membership badge, and photographic identification, to confirm your entitlement to the £5 discount; the discount is not transferable and can only be used by current members of the Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill.

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Royal Parks Forum Meeting

on 11 June 2009

The Royal Parks forum is made up of the chairs of the eight Royal Parks, writes Malcolm Kafetz. We meet once a year with the minister of culture responsible for the Royal Parks, at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This year it was with Mrs Barbara Follett. This meeting enables us bring the problems of the individual parks to the minister. I have been to these meetings with Chris Smith, David Lammy, Margaret Hodge and Barbara Follett. At the two hour meetings at the Trafalgar Square offices, the minister listens to us. Unfortunately nothing comes of it. The only minister ever to reply to me has been Barbara Follett, with an unstamped letter saying she could do nothing. The other parks, in most cases, have had similar treatment. We live in hope that the next culture minister will be more sympathetic.


Cycle docking facilities

The Friends have objected to Transport for London's planning applications for cycle docking facilities on a number of sites in Regent's Park.

The Friends are certainly not against cycling per se but think the application premature, particularly given the current limited experiment on the Broad Walk. To give approval would be to prejudge the issue. Certainly the appearance of cycles for hire on the edge of the park could only encourage more people to break the current no cycling by-laws on all other paths. As it is, the police have difficulty in enforcing the current regime.

In addition the committee objects to the use of parkland for the proposed cycle racks. Such urban infrastructure would be better located, if needed in this area, on the Outer Circle on, for example, existing car parking spaces. This would provide less temptation for people to cycle unlawfully in the park and make the return of the machines possible after the park shuts at dusk.

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Park Briefs

• Winfield House and its twelve and a half acres have welcomed the arrival of the new American ambassador to Britain, Mr Louis Susman, and his wife Marjorie. A former investment banker and campaign supporter of President Obama, Mr Susman's home town is Chicago. He is said to be an avid baseball fan.

• A notice forbidding the picking of blackberries on the Holford House site was changed after complaints from Friends members. It now reads 'This is a wild life area. Only pick what fits in your hand.' Apart from the bad grammar, it does not make sense in an area that has long been used for collecting blackberries. Has anyone seen, over the years, any dead birds caused by local greed?

• Regent's Park has nine new rustic timber benches made from green oak from Richmond Park. A number of new 'stump' seats (no back support) are planned to provide additional brief resting points for less athletic walkers across longer stretches of parkland.

• The Royal Parks Foundation has sponsored a series of eight short paperbacks, one for each royal park. Ali Smith has written the story centred on Regent's Park and copies can be bought for £2 at the Park Office in the Inner Circle.

• Following public interest in homegrown food, the park is looking at ways of making the allotments in the Store Yard accessible to members of the public. The area is managed by Capel Manor College students.

• Congratulations to the Royal Parks for altering the southwest access to Primrose Hill from Prince Albert Road by the installation of fixed railings half way across. It is no longer possible for cyclists to steam over the pedestrian crossing straight on to the officially banned paths of Primrose Hill frightening people as they go. Unfortunately the new railings had to date obliterated the ground sign saying 'No Cycling'. Incidentally this might be an appropriate moment for the park to repaint similar signs on paths where cycling is still banned and which have become virtually illegible.

• The Frieze Art Fair, which brings together worldwide contemporary art, takes place on Marylebone Green from Wednesday 14 October to Sunday 18.

• The erection of a giant screen by npower on Marylebone Green for the weekend of the last test cricket match proved a great attraction. In hot sunshine, crowds turned up - about 7,000 the first day and then 10,000, the maximum allowed, on the Sunday. The gates had to be shut at 4pm.

• The Honest Sausage, a favourite coffee stop-off for dog walkers, has new oiled table cloths - colourfully and suitably printed

honest sausage

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Yummy honey

Toby Mason has been keeping bees in Regent's Park for four years. So we asked him to tell us about bees, beekeeping and honey. "London has an amazing diversity of flowers and plants and Regent's Park has a particularly great range of flower species. This makes the honey much more interesting than country honey: its taste, colour and texture change with the flowers that the bees get the nectar from throughout the season. My spring/early summer honey is light and very liquid. This year's June batch tasted of elderflowers and limes. A couple of years ago I had honey that really tasted of roses in the middle of summer. As we go into autumn the honey becomes darker and stronger with a spicier flavour.

Apart from the great taste, local honey is in demand because people use it to alleviate allergies and hayfever. The honey contains traces of pollen, the allergen, thus strengthening the immune system. There are a few medical uses of honey that are well-established scientifically, for example it's a safe and effective cough syrup and helps wound healing. The other advantage is that urban flowers are not sprayed with vast quantities of chemicals.

toby mason bee keeper

I started with a course run by the North London Beekeepers Association. After my course I adopted a hive as part of their adopt-a-hive scheme to learn the ropes from an experienced beekeeper before getting my own apiary in Regent's Park. I eventually set up my own business and made it my full-time job.

I love beekeeping because it's very hands on and a calm contrast to hectic life in London. I love working outside after years of being stuck inside an office. I also find bees and their society fascinating. Their organisational structure is unique - for instance the way tasks are shared out in the hive, and the fact that a hive with thousands of bees acts as one organism, a superorganism. The queen looks to be in control, but actually it's the workers who decide when they want a new queen, so they have the real power. I also love honey!

Honey is stored food for the bees. Bees collect nectar from flowers, turn it into honey and store it in the honeycomb so they will have plenty of food to get them through the winter. Unlike other insects, bees don't hibernate but cluster together and stay active to keep parts of the hive at over 33įc even in winter, which requires a lot of energy. In good years, bees can produce a lot more honey than they need to survive, which is why beekeepers can take off some of their honey, replacing it with sugar syrup at the end of the season for the bees to eat in the winter.

During spring and summer, worker bees fly out to collect nectar from flowers, up to a few miles around the hive, although the food sources in the park are so good they are unlikely to venture beyond the Outer Circle. During this process they carry pollen on their legs from one flower to the next, thus cross-pollinating the plants. About 50% of all flowering plants are pollinated by bees, which is why bees are so important in our ecosystem. The forager bees carry the nectar back to the hive where it is handed over. The hive workers store it in hexagonal wax cells, the honeycomb. They seal the cells once the liquid nectar has evaporated to honey consistency, about 17-18% water. In the wild, bees would keep the honey stores until the winter.

No day is the same. Early in the season, when the colonies are growing in size, I check through each hive once a week, making sure the bees look healthy and are not about to swarm. A hive can only have one queen at a time, so if the bees are rearing queen cells that's a sign they are getting itchy feet. If they do swarm, I get a phone call from the park officers that I have to collect a bunch of bees, usually from a high tree! I also get calls from people outside the park who have a swarm in their garden.

As the season progresses and the hives fill up with honey, I take the frames full of honeycomb off the hive for extraction. My honey extractor looks a bit like a giant washing machine drum on its side. The frames are spun round in a large stainless steel cylinder and the honey collected on the bottom. I filter the honey twice through organic muslin cloth before bottling it into glass jars. The honey is not heated or altered in any other way as it reduces the complexity of the flavour.

During the winter the bees stay in the hive and they would die if I opened it on a cold day. I wear a veil and full body suit and welly boots, so my body is well-protected. But I wear thin disposable gloves for hygiene reasons, so I get stung in the hands a lot when I work on a hive. This does not mean that you have to be worried about bee stings in Regent's Park. Generally bees are very unlikely to sting you. They only do it in self-defence (such as when a bee-keeper rifles through their home). The bees I use are extra gentle to minimise risk to the public in the park.

I do recognise my bees and always look out for them! Bees have different colours and stripes. I use New Zealand queens who are golden with black stripes. They look quite like a wasp but much more beautiful and refined. The worker bees all take after the queen.

My queen bees arrive by air mail in a small packet with holes in. The queen is looked after by five or six attendants who feed and clean her on the long flight. The postman is now quite happy to hand over the strangely buzzing parcel but was very concerned the first time."

Toby's production is quite small, but 20 jars of his honey, exclusively for Friends, were available on a first come, first served basis, at the End of Season Review

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Tower Blocks Skyline

We can all now see just how much damage the new tower block beside the White House does to the skyline seen from the park. Built for the Crown Estate and British Land, it was granted planning permission on the casting vote of Councillor Heather Johnson in direct contradiction of Camden's planning policy to protect views from the park. And who designed it? Why, none other than Terry Farrell, described as planning consultant to the Royal Parks Agency. Be warned: the Friends and Advisory Committee need to keep a sharp eye open for more intrusive developments. Richard Simpson FSA,Chair, Regent's Park Conservation Area

tower blocks skyline

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Fly, Baby, Fly

A strange but highly engineered contraption in the middle of the running track, on the Outer Circle, was a special treat for those lucky enough to launch into space on the swinging bar at the end of August and beginning of September. Operated by Gorilla Circus, this flying trapeze visited other parts of London before Regent's Park. For £16 it was possible to join a class for an hour and a half and climb up steep stairs to a platform where two trainers attached the necessary safety ropes, handed over the bar and then launched apparently happy and excited participants into space. Some successfully curled their knees over the bar before letting go for a gentle landing on an enormous safety net. Daily drop-in sessions for just one trial flight cost £4. The classes, for six years old and upwards, were quickly booked out but ages for could be as low as three for the drop-in sessions and the oldest candidate to date has been 78. Gorilla Circus hopes to return to Regent's Park next year.

flying contraption swings

The tree gallery

An apparently makeshift camp produced a benign almost hippy playground and talkshop for children and adults near the boating end of the lake this summer. Visitors could climb steep wooden stairs to a plasticsheltered library or open discussion space among the branches of two large trees. They could also swing on hammocks beside the water or drink tea and try out new skills in a tented structure. Low key, this (ad)venture was created mainly out of donated and recycled materials backed up by efficient engineering to ensure safety

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Desecration of war

The 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II is a reminder that the peace, beauty and facilities of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill cannot be overvalued. Both were bombed and/or commandeered for defence purposes during the war.

This summer human bones, possibly buried along with the rubble of nearby housing, were discovered near the Gloucester Gate playground. Bombs fell in the park and virtually destroyed Holford House, the site involved in the recent unfortunate planning application by the Royal Parks and Goals Soccer Centres. Barrage balloons were anchored in the Inner Circle. While some animals became evacuees and snakes and poisonous insects were destroyed, the zoo remained on site.

Around the park, the Nash terraces were largely deserted and decayed to the point where there was talk of total redevelopment until a commission was appointed to consider their future. Then it was only in 1957 that the recommendation for preservation where practicable was adopted by the newly formed Crown Estate Commissioners. In the meantime their predecessors had sold 32 heavily bombed acres including the former Cumberland Market to the then St Pancras Borough Council which duly became a large housing estate. A flying bomb caught the St. Katharine's Master's Lodge and in September 1940 an incendiary resulted in a fire at St. Mark's Church near the zoo entrance. Further bombing later that month transformed it to a ruin. Even Winfield House, now home of the American ambassador, was commandeered for a Royal Air Force barrage balloon unit and aircraft reception centre. In 1944 a bomb killed a cadet near the house and injured many others. Later Winfield House became an American officers' club and a convalescent home for Canadian servicemen.

As for Primrose Hill, the summit was occupied by four anti-aircraft installations with other buildings occupying some 5.5 hectares. Allotments took up a lot of space as did yet another barrage balloon plus radar net and air-raid shelters. A few trees survived but many, including poplars and a great deal of planting, were lost.

Some 70 years on, there are new and restored buildings around the edge of the park and the park itself and the hill once again provide peace and recreation for Londoners and visitors - notwithstanding the IRA bomb which exploded at the band stand in 1982 and killed seven soldiers.

bandstand crowded musicians

Photos left: On Sunday afternoon on 6 September, a large audience, by the bandstand, enjoyed seven Klezmer bands playing a wide range of Jewish music and dance including jazz, Latin and gypsy.

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Friends of Regentís Park & Primrose Hill

Contact Links

Chair: Malcolm Kafetz - chair@friendsofregentspark.org
Treasurer: Richard E Portnoy - treasurer@friendsofregentspark.org
Newsletter: Anne-Marie Craven - newsletter@friendsofregentspark.org
Webmaster: Neil Manuel - webmaster@friendsofregentspark.org

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Created on Wednesday 5th May 2010, last edited Tuesday 25th May 2010.
Errors & Omissions excepted