Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 63

Borisí Bikes and Regentís Park

Four out of five planning applications for racks for Boris Johnson’s cycle hire scheme in Regent’s Park have been approved. However two locations will be sealed off at night because they are inside the park and cyclists will be unable to return bikes to these points after dusk when the gates are shut. One is just west of the zoo off the Outer Circle and the other at the northern end of the Broad Walk.

The other two successful applications are located in zoo car parks. The fifth and unsuccessful site was proposed near Clarence Gate and was turned down by Westminster City Council because it conflicted with the historic terraces.

There are four and a half miles of road in Regent’s Park including the two circles, on which cyclists are welcome. They are banned from all footpaths in the park and on the hill except for the northern section of the Broad Walk. The current experiment there is due to finish in the new year and a decision is expected on its future at the end of January.

The hire scheme as a whole, which will be launched this summer, involves the erection of about 400 hire points and as many as 6,000 cycles. Regular users can take out subscriptions and get their first half hour free of charge. The fees then rise from £1 for up to one hour to £50 for between six and 24 hours. Members will have a chip-enabled key to release a bicycle from a docking point. Casual users will need to use a credit or debit card in the local payment terminal and authorise an advance payment of £150. Late returns will be charged £150 and the penalty for losing or damaging a cycle may be as much as £300.

A similar hire operation has run into substantial and expensive problems in Paris, where some 8.000 machines have been stolen and more than twice as many damaged beyond repair. The Mayor’s London scheme will be run by Serco, which is responsible for the Docklands Light Railway.

Memorial cedar

The tree planting in memory of Michael Goldhill took place on a sunny October Sunday on the Nannies Lawn beside the Park Café in Queen Mary’s Garden. Michael was a founder and the first treasurer of the Friends and a committee member until a few years ago.

Pam Goldhill, (second from left below), Michael’s widow, his sons, daughter, grandchildren, other family and committee members of the Friends were present and his son, Professor Simon Goldhill, gave a speech. The tree, donated by the Friends, is a calocedrus decurrens, more commonly known as an incense cedar. This tree, native to North America, is a distinctive conifer with dark green aromatic leaves. After a slow start, it can grow to some 30 metres or nearly 100ft.

memorial cedar group photo

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Darwin’s Foresight

Charles Darwin predicted the existence of a moth with a foot-long proboscis from an orchid long before it was discovered, according to Nick Biddle, park manager, when he spoke to the end of season review in October. Darwin had found a rare orchid in Madagascar which boasted a foot-long spur or tube to the base of the flower, where its nectar was stored. There had to be an insect able to reach down to achieve the necessary pollination. But none was known – until years after Darwin’s death.

Nick described his work at Darwin’s house, where he was for five years in charge for English Heritage of the restoration and recreation of the garden and grounds. His work involved the family garden, the replanting of the orchard, the south-facing kitchen garden, which was walled on three sides, and the sand walk (known as Darwin’s thinking path) along the edge of the meadow and woodland.

During this time, Nick undertook a good deal of research at the Cambridge archives, where he worked on original manuscripts and hand-written notes with Randall Keynes, Darwin’s great grandson.

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Charitable status?

The Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill are investigating the possibility of applying for charitable status, Malcolm Kafetz, chairman, told the end of season review at the Danish church. He also asked whether any member knew of anyone who might be willing to act as an independent auditor.

Apart from tax advantages, transformation into a registered charity could generally enhance the Friends with people being more likely to offer time, energy or money.

£10,000 on offer

In the meantime, the Friends have offered a substantial sum – up to £10,000 – to the park for specific improvements for which it can obtain matching funding. Suggestions, to be costed in detail, include the replanting of the Alpine Garden in Queen Mary’s Garden; floating reed beds; markers to provide information to runners and walkers on distances; and individual items of equipment for one of the children’s playgrounds. Malcolm also reported that the Royal Parks had decided to remove the remains of the golf and tennis school and landscape the area. He added that the Royal Parks were under constant pressure to raise funds so that the government could reduce its grant. “The problems we have with the Royal Parks are dictated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport,” he said.

Other points included: the handover to the police of a bicycle, bought by the Friends, and the constant need for new members.

Members raised a number of points including noise levels at the BUPA event (a helicopter) and Taste of London; cycling; and the poor condition of horse chestnut trees. Nick Biddle said he would do his best to try to ensure minimal noise. As to the trees, the cause was a leaf minor disease for which there was no cure and which occurred every five or six years. But they were trying to combat it. On cycling, Sergeant Polly Rowell said the police would try to spend more time on Primrose Hill. In reply to a question, she said that the police on cycles should normally patrol on their own, not in pairs. However they might be with another policemen if they were expecting trouble or if they were under supervision.

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The Safer Parks Team is currently running a ‘brightlights’ campaign to make sure cyclists know they have to have working front and rear lights between sunset and sunrise. This is particularly important within the royal parks because the lights on park roads are less bright than on city streets. As a result, cyclists are more at risk of accidents because car and other vehicle drivers have not had time to adjust to the lower levels of light. Cyclists with no, or only small, flashing LED lights are difficult to see, particularly if they are not wearing high visibility clothing. A steady bright light is recommended. The police have been stopping and warning cyclists who do not have lights on their bikes. In due course, they will not be so lenient and will issue £30 fixed penalty notices if they are on park roads without lights.

cycle awards

The Metropolitan Police Regent’s Park Safer Parks Team were winners of the best cycling initiative for young people in the 2009 London Cycling Awards for their work with the Frank Barnes School for deaf children. Sergeant Polly Rowell (left) is seen here with Ms Emma Kelty, assistant head teacher

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Dog Watch

The Safer Parks Team has set up a dog watch scheme, modelled on the concept of neighbourhood watch. The idea is to increase communication and cooperation between the dog walking community and the police. Since dog walkers use the park regularly at all times of day and in all weathers, the team feels they are in a good position to make observations and suggestions. Any Friends who wish to become members should email The team has a regular newsletter to keep people up to date on its work and issues which have been raised.

The team holds surgeries in the park every month and details can be found on posters or by going to the web site . Malcolm Kafetz, chairman, is the Friends’s representative on the panel which sets priorities for the team.

The dog education days were organised by PCSO Rosy Gladstone working with a collective of experienced canine professionals, who are funded by the London borough of Camden to support people who cannot control or manage their dogs. The money comes from the anti social behaviour and street population services and street environment services. Rosy hopes to organise a similar event in the spring.

dog acting dead dog show ring

This dog was so obedient that it lay down and pretended to be dead at the dog education day held on Primrose Hill. Two such days have been held - the other was on Cumberland Green – for any owner who wanted extra tips on controlling their dogs.

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Hub packs punch - and mother and baby yoga

Jill Osleger loves sport – and just as well. A triathlon enthusiast with a budding interest in female rugby may not be the obvious qualifications for the manager of the Hub with its mixture of indoor classes and more noticeable football and cricket pitches and players. However a general love of sport and fitness certainly matters, together with knowledge and experience of sports organisation.

Jill, who was previously a physical training instructor with the Metropolitan Police, has been running the Hub for about a year. Before that she had experience in health clubs as a gym instructor, personal trainer, fitness manager and operational manager plus facilities management.

“This is a combination of a lot of those roles and so far I’m thoroughly enjoying it,” she says.

The Hub really is a hub, much more than the operations centre for booking in football teams, cricket, softball and touch rugby. Under the café, it provides first-class changing facilities for up to 240 team members. It also has two sections with full-length windows onto the park, which can cater for meetings or double in size for fitness classes or parties. Classes include yoga, pilates, parents and prams, (the parents, usually mothers, take the exercise), aerobics and cardio blast. There are even special sessions for medical referrals for injuries.

The formidable equipment of some gyms may be missing but, as Jill says: “You don’t need all that equipment to keep fit.”

Classes tend to attract up to 10 people in winter, often more in summer, and, except for pilates, which has to be booked ahead because of its popularity, accept whoever turns up. The timetable is available from the Hub, together with charges, which range from £1 for the over 60s, disabled and unemployed to £6 for pilates and yoga. Cardio blast is just £2.50. In addition there is a weekly one-hour health walk for free from Clarence Gate and an evening running club.

There is a Hub-led programme at half term and during the summer holidays for school children between eight and 14 years old which includes orienteering, athletics, Ozzie rules football and dodge ball as well as the more usual sports.

The room(s) can be rented for private functions for about 65 people at a cost of £110 plus VAT for two and a half hours. While parties can be self catered, the park’s Company of Cooks has to be used if outside caterers are required.

jill osleger

Jill was born in Holland to a Dutch mother and American father but grew up in Bedfordshire. She currently travels in from Stevenage to King’s Cross each day – a daily commute of one hour 20 minutes door to door.

Her team includes two full-time sports officers who encourage local participation in sports and are visiting schools. A duty officer is responsible for the administration including bookings and part-timers are brought in at weekends and in the summer.

The Hub Tel: 020 7935 2458

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Zoo News

The lion cubs are now more than five months old and continue to do very well. They and have been named Gabriel and Rubi.

Yeboah, the new male gorilla, arrived in London at the end of November from La Boissiere du Dore Zoo in the south of France. He has settled in well so far and has appeared sufficiently relaxed for the keepers to begin to introduce him to the female gorillas. This will be a lengthy process but has been positive so far.

Recent notable births have included a baby slender loris, which is a critically endangered Sri Lankan mammal. The zoo has one of only three breeding pairs in Europe. A Victoria crowned pigeon chick has also been born. Crowned pigeons have distinctive crown feathers and beautiful blue colouring and are 70cm tall, the same height as a turkey. They are declining in the wild.

London Zoo was awarded silver in the Visit London awards for Best Visitor Attraction and the zoo has received a Learning Outside the Classroom quality badge for its education work.

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Fun at the Frieze

This year’s Frieze Art Fair provided the usual mixture of the strange and stimulating, depending on one’s view of cutting edge (sometimes literally) contemporary art. The visitors also attracted a lot of attention, particularly younger women (only possibly artists) who had dressed to hit the eyeballs with stunning colours or sometimes very brief cut. More than 160 galleries took space from a string of cities worldwide including Paris, Copenhagen and Prague as well as places across the oceans such as New York, Sao Paulo, San Francisco, Tokyo and Seoul.

Sculpture Garden

The English Garden temporarily became a sculpture park with a charming bonsai potato who talked quietly to itself and anyone who got really close. The Couple by the nonagenarian American Louise Bourgeois caused tremors in the park office, as there was more than some concern about its impact on the Turkey oak on which it was suspended. Equal to six large men in weight, calculations had been made to spread the load and checks were made daily to ensure there had been no movement or deflection. None occurred, the stainless steel sculpture with its entwined figures remained for the show and the tree seems none the worse. Louise Bourgeois was responsible for the extremely popular giant spider in the great hall of Tate Modern when it first opened.

the couple photo

Meanwhile the massive solid bronze sculpture, Henry Moore Bound to Fail by Paul McCarthy, remains on view until March. In three sections, it weights seven tons and stands on a concrete plinth.

henry moore bound to fail photo

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Park briefs

Car damage and thefts from cars increased between April and November compared with the previous year. This year reports were made of 14 cars damaged and 11 thefts. There was an increase in the amount of vandalism within Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens but decreases in robbery, where someone uses force to steal, and burglary. However the police point out that the numbers are extremely low compared with figures for surrounding boroughs.

Since the end of May 150 people have been stopped in the park for cycling on unauthorised paths. Three are being taken to court for being caught on more than one occasion.

At £10, membership of the Friends could make a very enjoyable and useful Christmas present for someone who lives in this part of London, Your membership badge entitles you to a 25 per cent discount in the park’s cafés. Apply to the treasurer, whose address is on the back page of this newsletter.

More rustic benches are on the way to provide regular resting points near the boathouse and around the sports pitches. The park office submitted a successful proposal to Westminster City Council for a grant from 106 funds. Developers frequently have to provide cash for local improvements as part of larger planning applications. The planting of additional reeds on the edge of the lake is another project which may benefit when building starts from another 106 agreement.

The rose bed near the café in Queen Mary’s Garden is being renewed and reshaped to contain new David Austin roses and perennials. The crab apple and most of the cherry trees will be retained and the map board near the café will be moved to improve the view of the lawn.

The Royal Parks Foundation charity has recycled its artist and celebrity designed deckchair canvases, (known as the Deckchair Dream Art Initiative), into a range of extremely attractive, collectible, if expensive, tote-bags. They cost £55 plus £5 postage. Some have sold out, the Damien Hirst being the first, followed by several others including Peter Ackroyd and Rachel Howard. The bags can be viewed on line at

It is also now possible to adopt a royal parks duck or rose bush for £15 per annum or £150 for life, although, while donors can name their favourite park, the selected duck or rose may thrive elsewhere. Deer, of which only historic ghosts now roam in Regents Park, are more expensive.

The old petroleum based plastic flower pots used in the Regent’s Park nursery are gradually being replaced by biodegradable ones made from vegetable oils.

A few useful statistics for local quiz nights. There are more than 7,000 trees in Regent’s Park, most of which are less than 50 years old. About 184,000 bulbs are planted each year. And there are 207 litter bins and 44 dog bins, not that many dogs find their way inside, but hopefully owners increasingly do use them to keep the park clean.

Raffi’s seventh birthday party was held at the Honest Sausage towards the end of September. Wearing a pale blue scarf, the spinoni was joined by at least 15 other dogs and attracted a good deal of merry photography, the odd deep-throated bark or yap, a good deal of gentle panting and hardly any ill temper – perhaps because of a generous scattering of birthday biscuits.

Power League has opened six five-a-side football pitches at the southern end of Hampstead Road. This is a different company from Goals Soccer Centres, which, together with the Royal Parks and after mass objections, particularly from the Friends, failed to get planning permissions for fivea-side near the former golf and tennis school.

Mark Bridger has been appointed assistant park manager in charge of the horseshoe around the Inner Circle and Primrose Hill. Mark was head gardener at Bushy Park and undertook the recent restoration of the Woodland Gardens. Andy Williams, the other assistant park manager, looks after Queen Mary’s and St. John’s Gardens and the sports pitches. Park managers have become increasingly responsible for projects including financial management rather than simply having a horticultural supervisory role.

The Royal Parks is still considering the fate of the memorial to Iolo Morganwg at the top of Primrose Hill. It seems a Welsh political lobby was responsible for persuading the agency – and presumably the Whitehall minister and in spite of a Royal Parks policy against memorials – to record the meeting of Druids in 1792. This first Gorsedd of Bards became part of the Eisteddford. Proper consultation about the memorial only took place after the event. It now seems it may be shifted from the grass into the centre of the viewing point. It would be far better to record this event, if at all, on a board at an entrance to the hill along with other history relating to the hill.

An allotment growing fruit and vegetables will open to the public in the Store Yard in 2010. This follows the decision after three years to close the very popular allotments in St. James’s Park, which demonstrated changes in popular eating habits since the second world war.

© All photographs in this newsletter by Malcolm Kafetz except the one of the London Cycling Award by Frank Barnes.

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Friends of Regentís Park & Primrose Hill

Contact Links

Chair: Malcolm Kafetz -
Treasurer: Richard E Portnoy -
Newsletter: Anne-Marie Craven -
Webmaster: Neil Manuel -

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