Friends of Regent's Park

End of Season Review

Our End of Season Revue will take place on Wednesday 29th September 6.30pm for 7pm at St Marks Church St Marks Square NW1 7TN off Prince Albert Road opposite the Zoo. This year we have changed our venue to St Marks Church. We will be discussing the future of the Park. The speaker will be Andy Locke, Marketing Director of the Regent's Park Theatre.

Doubtful future for Parks

The Coalition Government has been discussing the transfer of the management of the eight London Royal parks to the Greater London Authority. Whitehall participants involve the departments of Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport and Communities and Local Government.

Although the Royal Parks agency has not been without fault, as the Friends well know from the battle about the possibility of five-a-side football development, there is strong concern about the proposal among parks enthusiasts, especially as to date there has been little attempt to consider alternatives before decisions are taken.

The parks are national heritage and attract large numbers of visitors from abroad as well as catering for Londoners and people from other parts of the country. They are historic and quite different in appearance and quality from the traditional municipal park.

The GLA has no expertise or experience of looking after such public open space. Indeed it was the present mayor who suggested holding mass assemblies of up to 20,000 people combined with the sale of alcohol to watch the World Cup football for 23 days on a large screen in Regent's Park. Luckily the licensing application was withdrawn but it augurs badly for the future should he take control.

If the Government wants change, it should at least consider alternatives including the possibility of a non-departmental public body with a board and chairman which would allow more independence from Whitehall pressure. Other possibilities include the creation of an independent Royal Parks Trust, English Heritage, or the City Corporation, which looks after Hampstead Heath and the Crown Estate, which manages Windsor Great Park, the Savill Gardens and the Old Deer Park in Richmond. Although in recent years, the Royal Parks have increasingly had to earn funds through concessions and entertainment, the small budget (by Whitehall standards) will be under further pressure in the autumn and beyond.

Judy Hillman, Patron

After the meeting organised by The Friends' Forum, a letter outlining the current thinking on the proposal was received by the Chairman. The interests of the Parks and their users appear to be uppermost in their revised plans. It looks as if the aims of the GLA match ours, the only problem is the funding. Hope this is of interest. The letter can be read PDF here

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Movies In The Park

Royal College of Physicians as a Silent Witness

August saw the filming at the college of one the stories in the new series of Silent Witness to be screened on the BBC in 2011. Lasdun's stunning building became the Royal Netherlands Embassy where a bloody siege was taking place, so St Andrew's Place was filled with ambulances, police vehicles and numerous 'police, medics and paramedics'. While stars Emilia Fox (Dr Nikki Alexander) and Tom Ward (Dr Harry Cunningham) wait in the background the Dutch Ambassador staggers out of the embassy carrying his wounded daughter. A policeman, stuntman, Tony Lucken, lies 'dead' at the bottom of the steps covered in blood. He told me that the mock blood is very sweet and is hugely attractive to wasps, very awkward as he had to play dead on and off all morning. Hoses were out on the second day of filming for continuity as it poured with rain on the first day. The producer for this series is Richard Burrell. He has produced many memorable TV programmes such as Waking the Dead, Framed, All the Small Things, and The Invisibles. Working on a series such as this he says is 'all consuming'. Each story which has two episodes takes 15 weeks from preparation to the final edit, not to mention the months spent in advance planning. Filming on location such as this is a mammoth logistical task with about 65-75 people involved. Remarkably for the neighbours the noise levels were minimal.

filming silent witness
Police surround the Embassy while Nikki and Harry are hidden behind a police car

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Park Updates

A Green Flag for the Park

The Regent's Park was awarded the Green Flag for 2010/2011, recognising the park as one of the best green spaces in the country.

An excellent park

We have been successful in our application for the Parks' Forum Excellence in Parks Award and best practice in operational programs, as evidenced by improved outcomes in the park/parks in which they are implemented. The TRP team applied under the Social category, outlining the Sports Delivery project which culminated in the building of the Hub and the provision of facilities to the wider community around the park. Congratulations to the Hub team and Dave Ellis (Community Sports Development Officer) as well as former parkies Beth Andrew (Hub Manager 2005-2008) and David Caselton (Park Manager 1980-2007) as well as Edward Strickland who led the project to build The Hub as an external consultant and is now a valued Royal Parks staff member. The considerable support of The Friends of Regent's Park and Primrose Hill for the Sports Improvement Project was also integral to its success.

Nick Biddle, Parks Manager

The allotment garden

Open Monday to Friday 8.30am - 4pm

A partnership between the Royal Parks, Capital Growth, the Greater London Authority and Capel Manor the garden has shaped up well over the summer and has hosted a number of training sessions since it opened in the Spring. There have been six school sessions with a dedicated trainer employed by Capital Growth. Four whole day events for teachers were all fully booked and a fifth session is planned for September. A number of community training events were also fully subscribed. (see Courses for further sessions in the autumn).

Delphinium border

Assistant Park Manager Andy Williams proudly reports that the National Collection of Elatum hybrids with the RHS award of garden merit (see the border near the main gates to Queen Mary's Garden) won high praise from the secretary of the London Group of the National Council for Conservation of Plants and Gardens. Not resting on his laurels Andy has bought a further eight new varieties for planting out in Spring 2011.

Geoffrey - a new carpet bed!


A novel approach to creating carpet bedding, Geoffrey was conceived and designed by Andy Williams to celebrate the skills of his team of gardeners in the Park. He is a metal frame plugged first with sedge peat which is heavier than normal moss peat, and then with all the plants supplied by Kernock Plants in Cornwall. You may see him sometimes with a runny nose because he has a micropore irrigation drip tube inside his body which is attached to a nearby water point. Watering therefore takes place from the inside and this continues until his nose drips! He needs regular clipping to keep in shape and so yes, his hair will be cut as well.

Sparrows galore!

An area of Primrose hill is part of a London-wide three-year research project conducted by the Royal Parks in association with the RSPB and SITA Trust for the support of our local population of house sparrows whose numbers have been shrinking. This is partly because, in urban areas, in the breeding season, the sparrows suffer from a lack of insects to feed their young. The project is testing different habitat management types, hence the section of long grass set to seed over winter in Primrose Hill. Four marking posts designate the area which was prepared as a wildflower meadow for Spring and Summer. It was finally trimmed at the beginning of August and volunteers have been monitoring the bird use of the plots. Next Spring it will start all over again.

Birth of baby birds of prey

Four species of birds of prey can be seen regularly in the Park if you know where to look. Kestrel, sparrowhawk, tawny owl and little owl, the latter pair being the newest resident and only pair in Central London. There are two pairs of kestrel, one in the Wetland Pen in a poplar tree at the north-eastern end of the lake whose single fledgling was being mobbed in June by magpies and jays. The other pair is on Primrose Hill by Barrow Hill reservoir. The four fledglings suffered similar harassment.

The sparrowhawk is more secretive with the distress calls of tits and finches announcing its arrival. Two pairs were spotted in the Park in early Spring. Breeding will be confirmed in August.

A late night or early morning watch is needed to spot the young of the tawny owl so my assistant was delighted to see the family perched on a tree at the end of his garden. Once again the little owl pair bred successfully with three juveniles at a secret location on the eastern side of the Park.

Tony Duckett, Regent's Park Wildlife Officer

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Meet Your Committee

Richard Portnoy

RICHARD PORTNOY has been Treasurer of the Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill since he joined the Committee in 2006, when the previous Treasurer, Malcolm Kafetz, became Chairman. His responsibilities as Treasurer include maintaining the accounts, processing membership applications, sending out subscription renewal letters to those who do not pay by direct debit, and managing any financial transactions for the Friends.

Richard was born in New York, USA, and studied aeronautical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A highlight of his engineering career was working for Grumman Aerospace Corporation on the lunar module, the vehicle used in the moon landings. In 1973 he joined Chase Manhattan Bank, and was transferred to London a year later. He and his wife, Alice, moved here with their three children, living initially in Beaconsfield and Maida Vale. They moved to their present home in St John's Wood in 1983.

Richard worked for a number of banks in London before retiring from Citibank. Since his retirement he has put his computer skills to work for a number of UK charities including Magen David Adom, Aged UK, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and currently Cancer Research UK. He also serves as a Governor at the George Eliot Infant School, and has organised a number of his neighbours to be Readers at the school. Alice and Richard are keen travellers, and Richard's research and organisational skills have been appreciated by many friends who have travelled with them. He also plays bridge, enjoys the theatre, and is an enthusiastic Arsenal supporter.

Richard is a keen supporter of the aims of the Friends, and was saddened by the demise of the Golf & Tennis School, of which he was a member. He is currently working to ensure that the 'substantial' funds in the Friends' accounts are put to good use in Regent's Park & Primrose Hill.

Margaret Elliott

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Visit to Winfield House Gardens

Rain did not stop play on our visit to these gardens on 1 June. Stephen Crisp, head gardener since 1987, together with Andrew and Peter, gave us a wonderfully comprehensive tour of the gardens which range from intimate garden rooms, a formal Parterre garden, the Summer and Green Garden and then of course the huge lawn with its shrubberies and many newly planted trees. All designed to make the visitor feel away from the bustle and noise of central London. Unusual plants and trees were identified by the three gardeners which made the tour all the more interesting. I hope that the Ambassador and his wife will let us visit again soon.

Visit to Down House

The visit on 7 July was a great success and enjoyed by everyone who took part. Down House, in Kent, was the home of Charles Darwin and his family for 40 years (from 1842 until his death in 1882) and is the place where he developed his theories and wrote On the Origin of Species. The property is now owned by English Heritage who have restored the house and garden to appear as it was when Darwin lived there. To tour the house, we were each given an audio guide with a commentary recorded by Sir David Attenborough. We were guided round the grounds by Nick Biddle, our Park Manager, who was in charge of the restoration and re-creation of the garden and grounds of Down House before he came to Regent's Park & Primrose Hill. The tour included the sandwalk which became known as Darwin's 'thinking path' and the hot house where he carried out experiments. In the afternoon, we walked across to a special field where Darwin studied a plant which fascinated him, the orchid of which there are many different varieties, including the rare bee orchid! (This area is owned by the Kent Wildlife Trust.) Many thanks to Hilary Bach for her excellent organisation of a memorable day. And thanks were received from the Kent Wildlife Trust for the Friends' donation, sent after the visit, of 70 towards their conservation work

Diana Newman, Secretary

Friends visiting Down House
Friends arriving at Down House

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Open Air Theatre

Starry performances

The series of warm evenings this summer created regular magic for the many visitors to the open air theatre. Regardless of the weather, however, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, (which I had never seen), was spellbinding as the small community reacted to the accusations of witchcraft and questionable justice. Darkness fell during the final denouement and sentencing for execution. The worrying chorus of young people only emphasised the horror of mass crowd influence - only think of Barabbas and Christ's execution in the gospels or the impact of some media campaigns today. The play was thought provoking long after the fairy lights round the bar were dimmed and the audience drafted back into London life far removed from the early east coast American settlers. Comedy of Errors was another imaginative production - a fine cast with the welcome ability to speak Shakespeare with today's cadences. It was fun with music enlivening the North African scene as the two pairs of male twins, parted since childhood, tripped in and out of happily farcical situations. It was a perfect way to spend an evening - a walk across the park, a picnic outside the box office and then the play with its little light music.

Judy Hillman, Patron

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In the allotment Capital Growth/Capel Manor/Regent's Park Allotment

Container Growing

Saturday 4 September (10.30am - 1pm)
Wednesday 8 September (5.00pm - 7.30pm)

Growing & Preserving Soft Fruits

Saturday 25 September (10.30am - 1pm)
Wednsday 29 September (5.15pm - 7.45pm)

Preparing Soil, Mulches & Leaf Mould

Saturday 16 October (10.30am - 1pm)
Wednesday 20 October (5.00 - 7.30pm)

Low Cost Gardening

Saturday 13 November (10.30am - 1pm)
Wednesday 17 November (5.00 - 7.30pm)


The training costs 10 for Capital Growth members*, 15 for London Food Link members and 20 for individuals or other groups. To reserve a place please email

Fees are payable in advance and booking is essential. *Maximum 2 discounted places per space per session

Growing for Schools in Camden

Capital Growth in partnership with NHS Camden, London Borough of Camden and City Leaf is pleased be able to offer FREE* 'Growing for Schools' training courses for schools in Camden. Friday 10 & 17 September, 12.30 - 3pm (same course split over 2 days) Email to find out more or book a place.

Introduction to Beekeeping by Zootrain

Come and learn the basics on a course run by Toby Mason and John Hauxwell Sunday, 19 September There are still a few places left. Cost 60 Contact

Special Reserve Friends of Regent's Park Honey will be on sale at the End of Season Review for 6 per jar

Toby with bees
Toby with some of his bees

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Zoo News

A new rockery for Ricky the Rockhopper and pals

one of rickey's mates

At a meeting organised by Ralph Armond, Director General, Robin Fitzgerald, Projects Manager, Adrian Walls, Bird man and Carolyn Bennett, Development Manager at the Zoo, the Friends' committee was shown plans to give Ricky and his fellow penguins a bigger and better home. The designs for the enlarged penguin area and expansion of the shop, which will be presented to Westminster Council shortly, include new 'beaches' for the penguins and a bigger viewing area for visitors who will be able to watch the penguins swimming under water as well as strutting. An elegant glass extension will make the shop more enticing and if all goes well, this will be ready for the new season in April 2011.

EDGE at the Zoo

Have you ever heard of the Sagalla caecilian? How about the Dominican mountain chicken or the olm? These creatures are amphibians - a group of animals comprising frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and the little-known limbless caecilians - and it is my job to ensure people care enough about these mysterious animals to ensure their conservation in the wild. I am based at the Zoo as the Amphibians Coordinator of the EDGE of Existence programme, which is a conservation initiative that seeks to conserve the world's most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered or 'EDGE' species. Representing a disproportionate amount of evolutionary history and blessed with very few close relatives, these one-of-a-kind EDGE species can be truly bizarre (for example, the olm is actually a blind cave-dwelling salamander that lives for over 100 years and can survive for 10 years without food). Tragically these incredible creatures are frequently overlooked by current conservation planning and many are sliding towards extinction unnoticed. My job is to plan conservation projects for these creatures, a wonderful aspect of which is being able to tell people about animals that they have never encountered before. It's a bit like leading people into an alien world, where females give birth through their backs (Surinam toads), fathers shelter their young inside their own mouths (Darwin's frogs) and offspring feed on nutritious skin layers specially grown by their over-protective mothers (Taita African caecilian). The sheer beauty and variety of amphibians is also phenomenal - for every freakish looking toad with strange behaviours, there's an exquisitely colourful frog that squats in the rainforest like a living jewel. But it is an uphill struggle to encourage the conservation of species that are so unfamiliar. So if you are interested in helping the underdogs of the conservation movement, do visit to learn about our current and future projects for amphibians, mammals, corals and birds.

Helen Meredith EDGE Programme, ZSL

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Where have all the primroses gone?

In 1855, the six-year-old Edmund Gosse, later a poet and critic was taken by his father, Philip, the Naturalist, to Primrose Hill. Later he wrote: 'I had never heard of the place, and names have always appealed directly to my imagination. I was in the highest degree delighted, and could hardly restrain my impatience ... I expected to see a mountain absolutely carpeted with primroses ...' To his dismay, he saw no primroses and found the hill 'surrounded, even in those days, on most sides by houses, with its grass worn to the buff by millions of boots, and resembling what I meant by "the country" about as much as Poplar resembles Paradise'.

Even before this, primroses seem to have been spoken of as a thing of the past on the hill. In 1837 the poet, Leigh Hunt, wrote that: 'There is talk of enclosing Primrose Hill, and converting it into a cemetery! Primrose Hill! The first green step, north-westward, for the pavement-and-shop-tired-foot of this great metropolis; the first pleasant-sounding word one meets with, that way, better even than 'Regent's Park'; a place that once had primroses, and doubtless trees'

A.D. Webster, for long the superintendent of Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, reported in 1911 that: 'The name Primrose Hill obviously arose from the growth of primroses there, and in an old list of wild plants in the Hampstead district the Primula vulgaris, or primrose, is included. But other evidence is not wanting that the primrose was at one time abundant on the hill, as in 1907 I had a letter from a lady, 80 years old, who remembers filling a basket with primroses, gathered between Primrose Hill and the adjoining zoo boundary, prior to 1838. From this it may be inferred that up to about 60 years ago primroses were abundant on the hill, and the connection between these and the name of the place will be obvious'.

Mr Webster, however, admitted that a few primroses were still to be seen: 'Primrose Hill was at one time famous for the primroses which flourished on the shady banks of its hedges and ditches, but to-day, except a few clumps which were reintroduced some years ago by way of experiment, not a specimen can be found'. A likely explanation for their disappearance is that primroses flourished in the hedgerows and ditches which had once divided the hill into fields. When, in the 1840s, these hedges were cut down and the hill became a single piece of grassland, the primroses quickly disappeared without their damp and shady habitat.

This, however, was not the last to be heard of primroses on the hill. In May 1981 the London Wildlife Trust asked permission for Lord Melchett, opposition spokesman in the House of Lords, and Richard Mabey, the conservationist and author, to plant a primrose on the hill to mark the trust's own inauguration. Strangely, the Department of the Environment refused permission, on the grounds that it thought a primrose was a tree. This led to an article, entitled 'The Hill with No Primroses', on the front page of The Observer and considerable publicity elsewhere. The London Wildlife Trust, forced to look at another way of promoting its work, toyed 'with the idea of introducing a nightingale into Berkeley Square'. Since then, several attempts have been made to reintroduce primroses on Primrose Hill - and indeed a few primroses can be found by those who look carefully in the hedgerow near Barrow Hill Reservoir.

As part of writing the history of the Primrose Hill, I have been trying to discover why there are no primroses (or at best very few) on the hill. I would be grateful for any additional information on the history of primroses on Primrose Hill. Contact me at

Martin Sheppard

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For your diary

Love Football

4 & 5 September - Love Football, community based event on sports pitches around Hub

JDRF (Junior Diabetes Research Foundation) Sponsored Walk, Cumberland Green and footpaths

12 September and search for Regent's Park For further information, please contact Jennifer Hughes on

The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers, The Hub

15 September from 7pm Interested in the stars and the planets? Then join this newly-formed astronomical society which meets at The Hub once a month due to the efforts of Carl Drake, a police officer in the Park. Contrary to popular belief, much astronomy can be done even from the centre of town and because The Hub has an elevated position and an uninterrupted 360 degree view of the night sky it has to be the best site in central London for astronomy. The society has already received generous support from the Royal Parks Agency, not to mention a message of support from Sir Patrick Moore.


Camden Heritage Railway Tour Thursday 30th September led by Peter Darley

Join Peter Darley on one of his tours of a railway near you. He will lead us along the Camden Railway Heritage Trail visiting the remarkable industrial and railway heritage in the area including the extensive features in the Camden Lock. Illustrated trail guides (2) will be available on the day.The guided tour will start at 11.00 am. Meet on the steps of the Roundhouse, a stone's throw from Chalk Farm Underground. The tour will take about 2 hours and finish at Primrose Hill Tunnel portals, close to St Mary the Virgin church on Primrose Hill Road.
Cost 5.00 per person The tour is for 20 only, so book soon to avoid dissapointment.
Contact Anne-Marie Craven to book a place

Pulse 3K race, Hyde Park

10 October - Jill Osleger from the Hub at Regent's Park would love you to sign up for this race in Hyde Park, raising money for your charity. 1-16 year olds are all eligible

Frieze Art Fair 14-17 October

Book before 1 October to receive significant discount.

frieze art exhibit
Frieze Art exhibit © photo Barry Dunnage

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Stop press

Safer Parks Police News

Sgt Pauline Rowell's attachment to the Safer Parks Team has come to an end as she is moving on to the Safer Parks Response Team. She is being replaced by Sgt Ben Edwin from the Safer Parks Team. His experience of Regent's Park will be a great asset.

Planning alert - flats proposed at 49 St Edmund's Terrace Primrose Hill

There will be a small exhibition showing the plans of the proposed building at St Christina's School 25 St Edmund's Terrace on Friday 3rd September between 4.30pm until 7.30pm and Saturday 4th September between 10.00am and 1.00pm. The lead architects are Squire & Partners. Details can be obtained by calling Ashley Singleton on 0870 626 9951. There are 3 blocks, 9 stories, 8 Stories 2 set back and 5 stories 1 set back. We should not comment until we see the plans, but it looks as if it could damage the sight line of Primrose Hill.

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Friends of Regent's 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 Saturday 28th August 2010, last edited Monday 30th August 2010.
Errors & Omissions excepted