Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 69

To GLA or not to GLA, that is the question!

The latest news was published on 18 July, 2011 quoting a written ministerial statement to Parliament by John Penrose (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport). His intention is to:

  • Create a new Royal Parks Board to give the Mayor and the people of London a voice in the parks' management.
  • Give the Mayor power to appoint the Chair and the other members of the Board, including representatives of the London boroughs and the Royal household; and
  • Direct the Board to develop new processes for giving local communities and park users a role in decision making.
  • But...The Royal Parks will remain in Crown ownership, under the overall responsibility of the Culture Secretary.

Clearly the Department did not relish having to legislate for such a transfer of power. You will note also that there is no suggestion at the moment that representatives from associations such as the Friends, should be included on the Board.

A day later, on 19 July 2011, Mark Field, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, voiced his concerns over the future of the parks, in particular, Hyde Park, as he has received countless complaints from his constituents over the noise and disruption caused by the concerts and other events regularly taking place in the park. With the severe reduction of funding to the parks, further commercialisation is likely and he is anxious that local residents? and amenity associations have every opportunity to make their views felt. He stresses that ?if the devolvement of this power does come to pass, I believe that active local amenity societies must be given a place on the Board?. The Royal Parks are a tremendous gift to us all. The softest voices supporting this priceless asset must not be drowned out in the bustle for reform.? Let us hope that his voice will be listened to!

Generous gifts to Regent?s Park

A major benefactor to the park both during his life and after his death was Sigismund Goetze 1866-1939. British-born in London but of German ancestry he was educated at University College School, University of London, the Slade and the Royal Academy schools. He was a distinguished artist and patron of the arts and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1888.

He lived in Grove House, the regency villa on the north side of the park built by Decimus Burton, and perhaps the least altered.

Goetze’s most famous work, but probably least seen by the public, is the series of murals surrounding the grand staircase in the Foreign Office, depicting great imperial moments as well as one of Christ in glory. They were his gift to the nation in 1921 which was intended to be anonymous.

Queen Mary's Rose Garden Gates

Great Jubilee Gates

In 1935 he presented new gates to the park to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V and he had already contributed to the new main south entrance to Queen Mary’s gardens. Many other gifts from him can be found in the park and his death was celebrated by the splendid Triton fountain in the north of the gardens.

The Constance Fund established by his wife carried on his philanthropic work after his death. It continues to operate today supporting the creation of fountains, such as the Millennium fountain by Richard Rome in 2000 which is in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon.

To return to the Foreign Office, Goetze shared with Winston Churchill the misfortune to attract the venomous spite of Lord Alfred Douglas, better known for his role in the downfall of Oscar Wilde. In 1920 Douglas acquired a paper ‘Plain English’ which quickly became notorious as a fund of work for libel practitioners. The November 1921 edition contained an article headed ‘Our foreign frescoes’ which continued, ‘our foreign office is quite foreign enough without the specious decorations of a foreign Jew at the expense of the British taxpayer’. Unsurprisingly, Goetze as a practising Christian, took grave exception to this and initiated a prosecution for criminal libel against the printers of ‘Plain English’ and Captain H Spencer, who had taken over as editor from Douglas on the day of publication. Spencer was thoroughly disreputable and had been declared unfit for military service in 1917. He was found guilty and Mr Justice Salter said he had published one of the most scurrilous and malignant libels he had ever read and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment.

In another edition of ‘Plain English’ Douglas claimed that Winston Churchill had been guilty of war profiteering whilst 1st Lord of the Admiralty and had, with the help of high-profile Jews, conspired to murder Lord Kitchener. Churchill did not react to this but when Douglas repeated the libel the next year in the ‘Border Standard’, Churchill acted and Douglas was found guilty of criminal libel and sentenced by Mr Justice Avory to six-months’ imprisonment.

Sigismund Goetze should be remembered as a popular guide and mentor to children visiting the park and the zoo as well as being such a generous benefactor.

Jock Craven

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Meet your committee

Anne-Marie Craven came to Regent?s Park relatively late in life. She was born in a Wrens? nursing home in the middle of England, but was raised and educated in Melbourne, Australia, and has a degree in Art History.

After coming to London in 1964, a secretarial course led her to various jobs, before she went to Florence. There, funded by an American charity, she worked cleaning statues in the chapel dedicated to St Luke, patron saint of artists, in the church of Santissima Annunziata. Returning to London she worked first as an image researcher for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and then for a weekly part work magazine, “Australia’s Heritage”, before becoming a freelance image researcher, and in 1979, setting up her own picture library with a photographer.

It was this company that brought Anne-Marie to Regent’s Park, when, in 1990, she purchased premises on Albany Street that combined home and office, and joined the Friends. Semi-retiring in 2006, her husband suggested that she train as a Blue Badge Guide to fill her spare time. Now she works all over London, showing the City to locals and tourists alike. What a pity Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill are not included in those Blue Badge guided tours!

Anne-Marie loves the diversity of the park, the way it ‘divides’ into different sections. She sees the role of the Friends as that of a ‘gentle monitor’, and, to support their activities, at the end of 2009, she volunteered to edit the newsletter. For this she would welcome all contributions from other members of the Friends - stories about the Park, its history, old photographs, news, views, letters, in fact anything you think might be of interest to other members.

There is a saying “If you want to get a job done, ask a busy person”. In addition to still working one day each week as an image researcher, working as a tour guide, and editing our newsletter, Anne-Marie also volunteers most Tuesdays at All Hallows by the Tower. We are lucky to have such a busy person on our committee.

Margaret Elliott

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In the gardens

Bridger?s Woods

The dawn redwoods have been planted in what was the boggy area of the English gardens. When they are established, Mark Bridger, assistant park manager, plans to enlarge this plantation.

Hedging and scrub land in Primrose Hill

Thanks to a substantial private donation of 30,000, Mark has been able to plant a mixed hedge around the northern part of the reservoir and the area near Ormonde Terrace. In about two years? time it will have grown sufficiently to enable it to be cut and tied in to become a traditional layered hedge. It will soon become a habitat for nesting birds. To the north of the park there are two more new plantations of mixed British native species. They are being protected at the moment with chestnut fencing to allow them to get properly established. An ideal scrub habitat here for butterflies and small mammals. The funding also provides for three-year maintenance. Fortunately there will be no need for watering.

The hard landscaping at the summit of Primrose Hill is to start in September and what Mark calls ?the running track?, the track caused by erosion, will be rotavated, nourished and reseeded, protected by chestnut fencing, and should be looking its best by next Spring.

Shane Carroll has been filling in for Andy Williams while he is on secondment to Kensington Gardens as park manager. He has been looking after the renovation of some of the beds in Queen Mary?s Gardens. The New Lodge border has been prepared for replanting roses and work is to start on renovation of the lake in September. The plans include removing the carp that cause the lake to be like ?real soup?, using the silt inside the lake to build up the banks and to have a viewing platform to survey the new splendour. The work on the reed beds has been completed and was a great success ? 40 volunteers did all the work in one day and they want to come back for more! Tony Duckett, our wildlife officer, has already seen a big increase in the population of dragonflies. Some work will have been completed in August on the drainage in the garden of St John?s Lodge which should help to ensure that it is no longer a ?no-go? area in the winter. The chestnut trees in the plateau badly affected by canker have been replaced by some Malus trilobata. The Open Air theatre will be replacing some storage units in September, no doubt, long overdue, so the road outside the exit will be closed for a day or two. Shane leaves Regent?s Park in September for Victoria Park, close to the Olympic Park. Much exciting work is being planned there prior to the Olympic Games.

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The allotments

Three very successful open days which were funded by the FRP&PH were held with a total of around 280-300 people attending. They were run by staff and volunteers of Capital Growth and also attended by experts from the Royal Parks Guild. Various activities and competitions for all ages were run at each event.

The Friends also funded a number of visits from year one pupils at Primrose Hill Primary School, who came and explored the garden, made collages, and sowed seeds to take away with them.

The training sessions have proved very popular. Local experts have been present to advise on aspects of organic, urban and community food-growing. There will be three more in August and September:

Friday 19 August, 11 am to 4 pm

Saturday 20 August 10.30 am to 1 pm

Wednesday 21 September 5.30 pm to 8 pm

Saturday 24 September 10.30 am to 1 pm
Training - Seed-Saving and Fruit /Veg Preserving Cost 20 for individuals and 10 for Capital Growth members To book please email

jolly scarecrow

The next open day is on: Sunday 25 September 11 am to 5 pm

It will be a Harvest Festival. Chefs and bakers will be cooking fresh produce from the garden and experts from the Royal Parks Guild will be present and there will be a children?s scarecrow-making workshop.

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Spring migrating birds down in numbers

The early dry settled weather was ideal for birds migrating from Africa through southern Europe, to the UK and then further north. This was countered by advance breeding of invertebrates such as insects and spiders, food to migrating birds and their chicks. So there was less food for birds and so fewer visitors stopped here on their way north. Willow warblers were quite plentiful, however, as were chiffchaff, and a male whitethroat which returned to the cricket pen (the triangular enclosure at the end of the lake). Last year was the first confirmed breeding in the park since 1954. For the first few days after leaving the nest, the young whitethroats spend most of the time walking through the long grass rather than flying, with their distinctive scolding call being the main clue to their presence. A flock of 22 whimbrel (a mediumsized wader)| was sited on 30 April in Leaf Yard Wood. But the sighting of the year had to be the snake bird or wryneck, a member of the woodpecker family. It no longer breeds in the UK so an alert was put out to spot it feeding in the yard. Next morning it was gone ? Just a one-day bird, but that is good enough!

Tony Duckett, Wildlife Officer

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Zoo news

Penguin Beach ? get up close with our penguins!

new penguin pool

Penguin Beach has opened to great acclaim. Now home to over 60 penguins, the new exhibit offers dramatic underwater viewing and fascinating insights into Antarctic penguin conservation. The twice-daily feeding time talks have been packed out with enthusiastic visitors ? including the everoptimistic seagulls!

Project Ocean

The set of window displays, instore activities and promotions at Selfridges in May and June in support of Project Ocean, has helped to raise a fantastic 96,000 to enable ZSL to create new a marine protected area in the Philippines. Selfridges has also committed to selling only sustainably-sourced fish throughout the store. Find out more at

New arrivals

In London, the squirrel monkeys? spring breeding season has resulted in 14 babies. Hope, a white-naped mangabey, is an important addition to our successful breeding group, and at Whipsnade our pygmy hippo calf, Sapo, is beginning to explore his outdoor paddock with mum Flora.

iBats ? turn your smartphone into a batphone!

ZSL scientists and their partners have developed the iBats app (for both iPhone and Android) which records ultrasonic bat calls and uploads them for monitoring. ?Bats are like a heart monitor for wildlife. Their presence can tell us a lot about the health of the environment because they have an important role in terms of eating insects and acting as pollinators for many different plant species. We hope the iBats app will encourage more people to monitor their local bats and make a contribution to the global conservation of wildlife,? says Dr. Kate Jones, iBats Project Manager from ZSL.

Carolyn Bennett, Development Manager

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Tasting in the rain

Squelch and splodge! Who said something about mud being glorious? But inglorious mud under foot and rain from above greeted the first and some later sessions of this wet summer’s ‘Taste of London’ in the park. Matting, umbrellas and canopies provided some protection and a multitude of tastes, purchased with the usual Regent’s Park currency of crowns, soon restored British phlegm and pleasure.

Some 40 of the capital’s best known restaurants flew purple pennants and offered delicacies of which my most memorable were: pea and mint mousse with goat’s curd and cream; a shrimp and scallop burger; Cornish fish soup with wild garlic pesto; Iberian pork and a triple chocolate brownies with vanilla mascarpone and raspberries.

What with so many decisions and doubling backwards and forwards for this shared thoughtful late lunch, there was all too little time to attend one of the several cookery demonstrations, wine tastings or test what British Airways called ‘height cuisine’.

In spite of the weather, about 50,000 people enjoyed more than 200,000 dishes of gourmet fare, 10,000 boasting contact or more with the mysterious truffle. Incidentally the pound was worth two crowns, with dishes costing mainly between six and 12 crowns and icon specialities up to 46 – a lobster and truffle cocktail in an engraved Le Gavroche glass.

Judy Hillman Patron

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Friends? visit to Bushy Park

A group of Friends went in May to visit Bushy Park, Teddington, and the second largest of the Royal Parks. Mark Bridger, now working as assistant park manager in Regent’s Park, who worked for some years on the renovation of the woodland area within the Park, gave us a most interesting and detailed guided tour.

mark bridger

It is an enormous park in which there is a variety of landscapes: open bracken with herds of red and fallow deer, wooded groves and plantations criss-crossed by streams and ponds containing a variety of flora and fauna, several historic houses and a remarkable baroque style seventeenth century water garden with pools, cascades and a canal.

We first visited the newly renovated woodland gardens planted with a variety of trees and shrubs, walking along narrow pathways and crossing bridges over the River Longford. This is an artificial waterway dug during the time of Charles I when it had become evident that Hampton Court was short of water. We saw numerous birds, although most evident was the colony of green parakeets which have made their home in Bushy Park.

pump house

We then had an excellent lunch in the new café next to the woodland gardens. In the afternoon, we crossed the deer park (once the hunting ground of Henry VIII) in order to visit the remarkable water gardens created in the time of Charles I and recently restored, which are situated near Bushy House, now the home of the National Physical Laboratory. Barnes Wallis performed many of his experiments here during World War II, while developing the dam busting technique and designing the mulberry harbour. Also here during the war was the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), where the D-Day operations in 1944 were planned.


It was wonderful for us to visit another Royal Park which has undergone radical improvements over the past few years, and whose woodland area, in particular, is still evolving.

Hilary Bach

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End of season review5 October 6.30 for 7 pmSt Mark's Church,
St Mark's Square NW1 7TN
Wine and nibbles Speaker to be announced.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Crazy for youuntil 10 September 7.30 pmRegent's Park Open Air Theatre
Call 0844 826 4242 or book online at
Tango al Fresco14 August 1-6 pmBroadwalk in the Avenue Gardens
Tickets available upon arrival 10 per person
The Hub16 August at 2-3.30 pmoffering 50% on discounted prices
for 10 children (11.25) 6-16 years on 16 August.
Book & pay for places in advance with
the Hub team on 0300 061 2323
Romeo and Juliet
directed by Baz Luhrmann
11 September 6.30 pm for 7.45 pm
the Nomad cinema and
the Royal Parks at Regent's Park
Open Air Theatre
Tickets on sale
Frieze Art Fair 13-16 OctoberTickets on sale now at
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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 Thursday 11th August 2011.
Errors & Omissions excepted