Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 67


Transfer of the Royal Parks

A document was issued in January 2011 summarising the current position under the aegis of the Department of Media Culture & Sport (DCMS), the benefits of the transfer and the conditions to be built into the framework. Key issues included are:

  • The identity and character of the Royal Parks (TRP) is not adversely affected
  • The wide range of interests within, and uses of, the Royal Parks continue to be recognised and valued
  • The management of the eight Royal Parks is retained by a single administration
  • Local representation is adequately accounted for
  • The Parks must be managed on behalf of the nation as a whole
  • The Royal Parks Management Structure will be an integral but a distinct part of the GLA
  • The GLA must consult widely on any major changes to the Royal Parks
  • The GLA will continue to honour the informal arrangements made by TRP with the Royal Household and the Army in relation to ceremonial use of the parks which should have overriding priority
  • Quiet recreation by the public remains the Parks primary use
  • The transfer will take place post 2012 to minimise disruption to the Olympic and Paralympic Games

To read the statement in full go to:

Friends’ financial support for 2011: The reed beds

Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill have made a contribution towards the funding of a project to improve and enlarge the reed beds along the side of the boating lake close by the Hanover Bridges.

The reed beds were originally constructed in the late 1990s and have been a wildlife refuge for the typical parkland species of birds, mammals and insects to be found in Central London. Birds such as the reed warbler, reed bunting and the water rail have found a home or over-wintered here as well as a number of moths which include Webb’s wainscot, the bulrush wainscot and the chamomile shark. Most of the plants were sourced from the Lavender Pond Nature Park in the Surrey Docks.

The objective of this new project is to create two more substantial areas of marginal plants, and to dig out a small shallow pond which will protect dragon and damselflies from the waterfowl. A small island will be constructed from the spoil to provide a refuge for fish to spawn away from predatory cormorants, thus providing food for the smaller fish-eating birds such as the little and greatcrested grebe. Five pussy willows and a mixed native hedge will be planted inside the fence with the height maintained so that the view across the lake towards Sussex Terrace and Baker Street is not obstructed.

The Triton Fountain in Queen Mary's Gardens
The Triton Fountain in Queen Mary's Gardens this winter © All photos by: Malcolm Kafetz

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The Regent’s Park allotment garden

Opened in June 2010. in association with Capel Manor College and Capital Growth, the plans for 2011 are well developed and under way with a contribution from Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill towards the costs of:

  • Managing six Open Days including a Harvest Festival. Open days will be themed and will include lots of activities to engage in
  • Managing a total of six one-hour sessions each with two schools from the London Borough of Camden. (12 one-hour sessions in total)
  • The development of interpretation/educational materials for use at Open Days and school visits in 2011 and beyond
  • The purchase of seeds for one growing year
  • The purchase of an additional 1000 litre water tank to increase rain-water harvesting capacity

Don't forget to visit the garden which is located on the corner of the Inner Circle and Chester Road just near the Park Office and watch out for the Open Days and Harvest Festival.

The Allotment Gardens

Park Updates

Primrose Hill Summit Improvements

More proposals are under consultation to enhance the appearance and the materials of the summit of Primrose Hill. The scheme now covers all aspects of the hard landscaping, drainage and the relocation of the Iolo Morganweg plaque. Find out more from the Royal Parks website or the Park Office.

If you go down to the park today’d better go early

(Regent’s Park opens at 5am) if you want to spot the Park Manager striding his domain. Nick Biddle won’t actually be on a tour of inspection at that time of day though you can be sure his professional eye will be noting details needing attention.

The real reason for getting up so early three mornings a week is that Nick is training for the London marathon at the end of April. One of the bonuses from his training programme is seeing the dawn come up in Regent’s Park: “a wonderful experience and a great joy - magical” says Nick. I know what he’s saying. The last time I saw dawn come up in Regents Park – several decades ago, it has to be said – I remember likewise being entranced by the spectacle and especially by the roar of lions saluting the sun in the Zoo, or perhaps just demanding breakfast.

This year Nick is collecting for Water Aid. “I’m always telling my children what the difference is between want and need. Clean water is a need in my book and it’s so easy to forget that millions of people still don’t have access to such a vital necessity.” Two other runners in the park office are also taking part - Andy Williams, Assistant Park Manager and David Ellis, Community Sports Development Officer. Maybe this is a case of trying to keep up with the boss. Or maybe vice-versa.

Let’s all support Nick and co-runners in collecting for Water Aid by sending a donation to:

Heron near Clarence Bridge
Heron near Clarence Bridge

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Winfield House
Tuesday 3rd May 2011 at 10am

Ambassador Sussman and Mrs Sussman have kindly agreed once again to let the Friends visit the gardens of Winfield House. This is a wonderful opportunity to tour a garden with the expert, and committee member Stephen Crisp, and his team, who will explain how it has developed, the changes which have taken place over the last 20 years and answer questions about the plants and planting. It is a large garden, so the walk will take around two hours. Stout shoes and a mac are recommended in case the weather is inclement.
Booking closes on 12 April.

Treasures at the Zoo
Wednesday 5 June 2.30-4.30pm

The Zoological Society of London’s Library contains a unique collection of journals and books on zoology and animal conservation. Founded in 1826, the ZSL Library is one of the major zoological libraries in the world, with over 200,000 volumes dating from the 16th century. Join us for a private tour and behind-the-scenes chance to see and hear about the unique collection of historic books, artworks, photographs and publications. The tour will last approximately two hours. Refreshments will be provided and a £5 donation is requested (can be made on the day) to cover costs.

Booking closes on 12 May.

To book tickets for these visits contact Anne-Marie Craven or 020 7935 4236.

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Zoo news

On 21 February ZSL announced its most ambitious public fundraising campaign to date – an urgent SOS call to help give tigers a tomorrow. The funds will develop a state-of-the art Tiger Conservation HQ at ZSL. Over five times the size of the current tiger enclosure, the HQ will be a superb breeding habitat for Sumatran tigers, and give visitors amazing close encounters with these magnificent animals. The HQ will also spell out the threats facing the 300 remaining wild Sumatran tigers, and inspire support and a lifeline of funds for ZSL’s tiger conservation work in Indonesia and other key tiger ranges.

ZSL has already raised £1.6 million of the £3.30 million required to build, but another £2 million is needed urgently to make this project a reality. To find out how you can help give tigers a tomorrow, visit

Membership offer A reminder that the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill are entitled to £5 off the usual ZSL annual membership fees when you pay by direct debit. (Please note that you will need to provide proof of membership).

Zoo events

Climate change in Africa:
more than melting icebergs and drowning polar bears
8 March 6pm to 7.40pm

Wildlife forensics:
using tools from medicine and crime scene investigation to help save wildlife
12 April 6 pm to 7.40pm

Three speakers will discuss how techniques from forensic and medical science are finding new applications in wildlife conservation. Examples of patient or crime-victim investigation will be transferred into an ecological setting and used to highlight how forensics can be applied to identify the causes of wildlife decline and to put management strategies in place that can help threatened species.

Biodiversity Big Brother
10 May 6pm to 7.40pm

At this meeting findings will be presented from studies using camera traps - a rapidly expanding tool used in conservation and behavioural studies. Through this work, the private lives of some of the rarest and most elusive animals located in the remotest parts of the world are observed.

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Meet your committee

Judy Hillman

Judy Hillman is Patron of the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill. She has lived in Primrose Hill for 40 years, and has a thorough knowledge of the Park, not just as it is today, but also of its history, and how it developed. This is invaluable to the committee, and she is an active patron who sees her strengths as complementing those of our Chairman with whom she works closely.

Judy Hillman is not a Londoner, but was born in Seaford, Sussex. In 1940 she was evacuated with her sister to relatives in Canada, and began her education there. She later won a scholarship to Roedean School, Brighton, where she became head girl, then read political economy and moral philosophy at St Andrews University in Scotland.

After graduation she came to London, working briefly as a secretary before entering the world of journalism as an editorial assistant on the Muck Shifter and Public Works Digest. After a short time as a subeditor on Woman’s Day, she became a trainee leader writer on the Evening Standard, and she remained with the paper for eight years in a variety of roles, finishing up as planning correspondent. From there she moved to the Observer, then the Guardian, before joining Taylor Woodrow working on the first major renewal project in London’s docklands at St Katharine by the Tower. Since 1979 she has been a free-lance urban consultant and writer.

Her ‘specialist’ knowledge of Regent’s Park resulted from an invitation by the then Minister of the Environment, Sir George Young, to be a member of the Royal Parks Review Group chaired by Dame Jennifer Jenkins. The Group, which included Sir John Drummond and Sir Terry Farrell, looked at all eight Royal Parks, and Judy Hillman was responsible for writing their five reports published between 1992 and 1996.

Interestingly the Royal Parks Review Group undertook the first survey of what the public wanted from the Parks, and found that green space and tranquillity were considered most important. Ms Hillman believes that Friends must be vigilant and act as watchdog, joining together to persuade, and, if necessary, to fight management to maintain the Park as a place of relaxation, to complement and to offset the tensions of the city. The next four years will be difficult, and cuts in the budget will need to be made, but she believes that these should come not from the parks on the ground but the Royal Parks Agency which has grown in size and scope over the years.

The Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill are fortunate to have Judy Hillman as such an active and knowledgeable Patron, and we are grateful for her support and participation.

Margaret Elliott

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William Robinson

1838-1935 - crusader against bedding

On your next visit to Queen Mary’s Garden have a look at some of the shrubberies. They are a legacy of the time spent by William Robinson from 1861-1866, early in his career. He was born in Ireland and a student at the National Botanic Garden in Glasnevin. When he joined the Royal Botanic Society’s Gardens, established in the Park in 1839 by Robert Marnock, as a rival to the Royal Horticultural Society in Kensington, he was made foreman in charge of herbaceous plants and education. The Medical Garden was an important training tool. A grant of £12.00 enabled him to spend a month touring gardens in the UK and meeting other gardeners and he returned laden with plants and ideas. This led to a wholesale renewal of the garden which went some way to achieving his aim, eloquently stated in his book Garden Design and Architects’ Gardens published in 1892

botanical gardens
The Botanical gardens in the late 19th century courtesy Stephen Crisp

The true garden is a scene which should be so delightfully varied in all its part – so bright, so green, so freely adorned with the majesty of the tree, the beauty of the shrub, the noble lines of the fine-leaved plant, the minute beauty of the dwarfer plants of this world; so perpetually interesting, with vegetation that changes with the days and seasons, rather than puts the stamp of monotony of the scene for months; and so stored with new or rare, neglected or forgotten, curiious or interesting plants – that the simplest observer may feel that indefinable joy which lovers of nature derive from her claims amid such scenes, but which few, except those of a high degree of sensitiveness and power of expression, like Shelley, can give utterance to it.

Andy Williams, Assistant Park Manager, aims to retain this spirit in the gardens today. It is ironic that the Royal Botanic Society never really fulfilled its original ideals and by the 1920s it was struggling financially, requesting more than once for the rent of the leasehold to be reduced. In 1931 the Office of Works, its landlord, declined to renew its lease, so the plants and library were sold.

After leaving the park, Robinson pursued a career in writing about and creating great gardens, the most famous of which, Graveytye Manor in Sussex, has been undergoing a grand restoration to its former glory under Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter.

Anne-Marie Craven - Newsletter editor

Trees in St Marys Garden
Trees in St Mary's Garden

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A truly Royal park

The King’s Speech in Avenue Gardens

Sharp-eyed cinema goers will have spotted that one of the key scenes in The King’s Speech was shot in the Avenue Gardens in Regent’s Park. Albert, the Duke of York (Colin Firth) and Lionel Logue, his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) are walking together in the misty and almost deserted gardens. The duke is terrified that his brother, David (aka Edward VIII) will abdicate, thus forcing the duke to succeed to the throne. Logue has from the start insisted on treating the duke as his equal, even calling him by his first name “Bertie”. He now taunts the duke about his fear of becoming king until the duke finally explodes and tells Logue their relationship is over. His parting words to Logue are particularly wounding, “You’re a nobody!”

Both men regret the rupture in their relationship but a mixture of pride and protocol impede their getting together again. The duke feels he can’t and shouldn’t apologise to a commoner, the commoner has to swallow hard to admit that perhaps he overstepped the mark. Protocol makes it difficult for Logue to gain access again to the duke, now King George VI. The king’s debilitating stammer has tortured him throughout the abdication and accession crisis and with prodding from his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), he finally relents and turns up unannounced at Logue’s front door, announcing with a wry smile, “Waiting for a King to apologise can be rather a long wait”.

The scene was shot at the beginning of December 2009 – notice the overcoats and the bare trees. The length of the scene and the speed the men are walking make the gardens appear bigger than they really are. Filming took just one day – Tom Hooper, the director, likes to work fast and the film was shot in just seven weeks. For an ambitious full-length film nearly 2 hours long that’s fast.

Two reminders of the past. Not a security guard in sight for the first in line to the throne. And the mist that shrouds the garden, a metaphor for the kind of gloom that hangs over Bertie’s life. Tom Hooper apparently heard from an aged neighbour about the “pea-souper fogs” which were common until the late 1950s, so thick that drivers often asked pedestrians to walk in front of their cars to show the way. In the film the fog is more mist than fog. In a real pea-souper the duke and his speech therapist would probably have had difficulties finding their way out of the gardens.

Harris Watts - Committee member

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Book review

Cottages and Villas,
the Birth of the Garden Suburb by Mireille Galinou.
Yale University Press ISBN 378-0-300-16726-9

Mireille’s new book covers the history, design and development of the area we all know as St John’s Wood. It tells the remarkable story of what was the Eyre Estate which extended from Rossmore Road in the south, Belsize to the north and the boundary of Regent’s Park to the east. James Burton designed villas along the canal.

His son, Decimus, a friend of the Eyre brothers, was undoubtedly influenced by the landscaping and architectural style adopted by the trustees of the Eyre Estate and the book is filled with wonderful maps, plans, drawings and pictures illustrating this, including details of the Regent’s Park development.

The book is both scholarly and accessible in its discussion of architecture, design, notable residents, the artists’ quarter, sport, shops, schools and religious buildings. Postwar developments up to the present day also feature, including the proposals for St John’s Wood barracks.

Its 544 pages make it a local history which sets a new bench mark in publishing excellence. It should be on everyone’s gift list, or if you cannot wait, go out and buy a copy. I did!

Stephen Crisp - Committee member

Available from, for example:

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For your diary

21 & 22 March 9am to 3pm

A two-day scheme organised by the Metropolitan Police to give young people between the age of 11 and 17 the opportunity to have training sessions with a qualified athletics coach. It will be held on the running track in the park and a number of speakers from the Met will be there helping to inspire the participants towards their goals and aspirations

London Marathon
17 April 2011

See above – If you go down to the Park today

Race for Life
21 and 22 May 2011

‘Join the Girls’ to help beat cancer by entering Tesco and Cancer Reseach UK’s Race for Life in the park on 21 and 22 May. Last year 5300 women took part and raised an incredible £571,310. This year the organisers are hoping that 10,000 will ‘put their best feet forward’ and raise £643,000. Race for life, which started in 1994, and is the UK’s largest women-only fundraising event raising money for Cancer UK’s research work, welcomes all women, either on their own or in a group. To take part contact: or telephone 0871 641 1111

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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 Friday 25th February 2011, last edited Saturday 26th February 2011.
Errors & Omissions excepted