Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 70

GLA takeover of the Royal Parks

The Royal parks are being reorganised under the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). Members of our committee have attended at least 12 meetings over the last year about the changes and we are still none the wiser. All we can see is yet another layer of administration, a new advisory board and the Mayor of London having a greater say in the running of the Parks, for which he has, as far as we know, little experience. The last meeting we attended was on Tuesday 12 October 2011 with the GLA Environment Committee. The new Advisory Board are advertising for three new members to join the Board. The Friends of the Royal Parks have not been invited to send a representative, despite the fact that the Friends represent nearly 7,000 park users of all the eight Royal Parks. It is interesting to note that in 2005 a member of the Friends’ Forum was on the advisory committee. My predecessor, Valerie St Johnston, was told by Tessa Jowell of the DCMS, that the Friends were “too elitist” and could no longer be included on the advisory board.
Malcolm Kafetz, Chairman

Fabulous works in this yearís Frieze Art Fair

the roses, will ryman
Will Ryman, The Roses, 2011

Seer, kiki smith
Kiki Smith, Seer (Alice II), 2005

circle dance, tom friedman
Tom Friedman, Circle Dance, 2010
superyacht, christian jankovski
Christian Jankowski, Superyacht

Once again the Art Fair in the park was a wonderful opportunity to see around 170 galleries representing over 1000 contemporary artists, all in one place, with additional talks, films and installations, although some might have questioned that of Christian Jankowski – a multi-million pound super-yacht marketed both as a boat and an art work! Galleries from London, New York and many European cities exhibited their artists as well as those from further afield such as The Third Line based in Dubai with a beautiful work by Pouran Jinchi.

top of page

A good turn out on 5 October

The Chairman introduced the End of Season review with a brief overview of the discussions on the handover of the Royal Parks to the Greater London Authority (GLA). He regretted the fact that the Friends of the Royal Parks’ potential input is not being taken seriously and urged members to try to attend a meeting to be held at City Hall on 12 October. Sadly, no one joined the chairman and Conall Macfarlane. Then, Andy Williams, our very own assistant park manager, regaled us with the story of the allotment garden, its development in association with Capital Growth and Capel Manor College and its huge success this year. About 25 training sessions were conducted by Capital Growth during the year as demand for growing one’s own fruit and vegetables is increasing fast. Funding from the Friends has helped the Regent’s Park to continue employing Amy Solomons (see newsletter 69) for another year as the coordinator for the 6-8 core volunteers and about 10 more who help on an ad-hoc basis. And again, thanks to the Friends, there have been a number of very successful open days and the harvest festival which over 600 people visited. Looking forward to 2012, funding of £6000 will be needed and Andy is hoping to provide the caterers in the park with some of the produce. Will such produce be on sale next year to the general public? Let’s hope so.

Inspector John Arkell from the Park police office reported that there continued to be a very low rate of crime in the park, in spite of his losing six of his Police Support Officers (PSOs). When grilled on the extent of illegal cycling in the Park and other minor crimes, he stressed the importance of reporting such acts and anything suspicious to the police team. Use the new number 101 for non-emergency police matters such as Park Regulation offences where, for example, unauthorised activities are interfereing with the comfort and convenience of park users.

Concerns over the remodelling of the Primrose Hill summit, the proposed GLA running of the Royal Parks and difficulties with funding were aired with Nick Biddle before the meeting closed. Many thanks to the speakers and to the Friends who attended the meeting.

top of page

Park News

Mark Camley leaves the Royal Parks

The CEO Mark Camley, is moving on to run the Olympic Park Legacy Company as Director of Park Operations. Below is the email that he sent to the all the Friends’ committees.

Dear All,
“I wanted to let you know, as chair of the Forum, that I am leaving The Royal Parks to join the Olympic Park Legacy Company as Director of Park Operations. This is a significant new challenge for me and I am delighted to get the chance to shape the new park for London. I also wanted to say thank you for all your support in my current role and for your support for TRP. I only hope HM the Queen is rather better disposed when she hears I am taking on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park than she was when she heard from the Lord Chancellor that I was taking on The Royal Parks”

The Department of Culture Media and Sport will be advertising the post to senior civil servants. Mark will be leaving before the end of the year.

autumn in the park
Autumn in the park

Tony Duckett leaves Regentís Park after 34 years

Tony Duckett has sadly lost his job as Wildlife Officer after 34 years of service.

Budget cuts meant losing one of the wildlife officers and the need for one who could also work with deer. Tony, although a first class bird man, had no previous knowledge of deer husbandry leaving Richmond and Bushy Park with no backup deer keeper in an emergency. Unfortunately for us, Tony drew the short straw. So wildfowl will no longer be bred in Regent’s Park. Fortunately, Tony has a job with the Royal Parks Agency for the next 18 months and he can keep his home in the park, with time, we hope, to find a permanent post. We are very sad to lose some one with such knowledge, enthusiasm and charm combined with long service. As Nick Biddle has said – ‘his skills, knowledge and experience are second to none and the volume of work that he carried out in his own time (his web log for example, not to mention the many unpaid hours monitoring the breeding waterfowl collection) are just a few of the many reasons why we are all keen to keep him within the organisation’. He will be thought of with great respect and affection by us all. And Tony has asked me to thank all those Friends for ‘their kind words and offers of support at this difficult time’. We shall miss his splendid wildlife articles for the newsletter.

top of page

The eagle landed with a broken head

vanalised eagle sculpture

Sadly, the eagle sculpture in the lake in Queen Mary’s Garden was vandalised. It will be reinstated when the work on improving the lake has been completed

Personal Trainers

The Royal Parks currently licences fitness training groups within TRP & PH. Although the income generated is relatively modest, in the region of £5000 from around 12 licences, it enables the Park to manage the activities taking place. Groups are quality and safety checked, follow our code of practice (e.g. no attachments to trees, lamp columns etc.) and must operate only within the times and spaces for which they are licensed, ensuring that there will also always be opportunities for passive recreation in areas which are not in use for formalised activities.

A famous resident remembered

dame shiela sherlock

A little while ago Councillor Robert Davis unveiled a green plaque honouring Dame Sheila Sherlock DBE, MD, FRCP, FRCP Ed, FRS outside number 41 York Terrace East where she had lived with her husband Dr Geriant James for over 30 years. In a distinguished career spanning 60 years Dame Sheila became one of the most famous names in clinical science, setting up the world’s first liver disease unit and establishing the speciality of hepatology. Dame Sheila was born in Dublin in 1918, educated in Folkstone, and trained as a doctor in Edinburgh from where she graduated top of her year in 1941. In 1951 she became the youngest woman to be awarded the FRCP, and in 1959 became the first woman to be made chair of a UK department of medicine. Her work in the Liver Unit of the Royal Free Hospital led to the transformation of our understanding and treatment of the liver and its diseases. She was revered worldwide as a teacher, researcher and doctor, and published over 600 papers in scientific journals. Her book “Diseases of the Liver and Biliary System”, first published in 1955, is now in its eleventh edition and available in six languages. She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1978, was a fellow of the Royal Society, University of London President from 1990 to ,i.1998, and received honorary degrees from universities throughout the world. She died in 2001.
Margaret Elliott

top of page

Primrose Hill

primrose hill
Pic Primrose Hill summit improvements!

The changes to the top of Primrose Hill are nearly complete. Despite hours of consultation with the Friends our advice was ignored. We asked for a porous surface on the top, this was not implemented. We have opposed the work on the summit since 2000. Don’t blame us if the water does not drain away through the ground instead of down the hill as it does now.

Stop Press

On Sunday night 13 November the newly renovated summit was vandalised. White and blue paint were sprayed on the stonework and seat.

Improving the Open Air Theatre for the players

The Open Air Theatre is redeveloping the main theatre site to accommodate all of its park-based activities (most rehearsals now take place in larger studios off site). Work started on 26 September and will be completed in time for the start of next season.

top of page

2012 the Olympic Route Network

To enable the Olympic Family to meet target transport times during the Olympics, London will operate an Olympic Route Network with Olympic-family-only lanes and bus lanes suspended. Within the Regent’s Park the following arrangements are proposed:

  • closure of York Gate south- bound from York Terrace East
  • closure of Clarence Gate
  • signage before Hanover Gate to advise drivers of the above so that they may exit there to avoid being unnecessarily diverted to Park Square East
  • signage as part of diversion routes to mitigate against confusion for park users and residents exiting the outer circle in a southerly direction

Transport for London are operating the principle of minimising the amount of diversionary signage – specifically in areas where the majority of traffic is likely to be local, as locals will be informed well in advance of any arrangements (in the form of maps and letters) and will find alternative routes easily whereas visitors will need assistance and directions. The next set of plans are likely to become available for consultation in early November. The Crown Estate Paving Commission is actively involved in the consultation process.
Nick Biddle, Park Manager

Attention all rugby players!

If you are aged between six and 12 years’ old then why not join the new Regent’s Park Royals Junior Rugby club which started recently and takes place on Sundays 10-12 pm. It’s the only junior club in central London and in each session children receive expert training and tuition to develop their skills! The games and drills are adapted to children of all ages but specifically for the 6-12 year olds. Contact or log on to for more details.
Jill Osleger, The Hub

top of page

In the gardens

Drainage works have been completed in St John’s Lodge garden. New piped drains have been installed which hopefully will alleviate some of the prolonged wetness on the grassed paths encountered in the winter months.

Queen Mary’s Gardens

The Head Gardener, Tom Moss-Davies, has designed his first bedding scheme which has been planted in the jungle border. The theme is a rainbow and he describes it as having a design within a design.

Police box Border

The Royal Parks have received a large financial donation for use within the park. The largest shrub rose border is to be replanted, with the removal of all existing vegetation and soil to a depth of 450mm and the replacement of new soil. Planting will be quite traditional using cottage perennials and around 60-70% roses and this will take place in late winter and early spring. This is the final phase of the three-year restoration of all the shrub rose borders in the gardens.
Andy Williams, Assistant park manager

Attention all you expert gardeners!

Open Garden Squares Weekend (London) is looking for new gardens to take part in the annual weekend, which will take place 9-10 June, 2012. The closing date for new gardens is the end of February. Contact Rachel Aked Tel: 07790 732448, Email:

top of page

Zoo News

The planning application for the new tiger enclosure has been accepted with a view to a grand opening in Easter 2013. Tiger fundraising has been going well as £2.3m of the £3.6m needed has been raised. A trail of tiger paw-prints is to be created through the new tiger exhibit, set into the ground, and from mid-September supporters can choose to dedicate one with a personalised plaque when they donate £400 or more. There will be a total of 150 paw-prints along the trail – which will be lifesize, as if a tiger has been prowling along the path! Donations to claim one of these paw-prints can be made through the website or by contacting Carolyn Bennett on Tel: 020 7449 6358; Fax: 020 7586 6177 or at

Summer at the zoo has been busy and slightly up on target. Towards the end of the summer season a fast-track admissions gate for members and on-line advance bookers was put on trial and substantially reduced the lengthy queues.

The Zoo Lates evenings through June and July were a great success, with over 59,000 tickets sold across the nine evenings. The Lates have encouraged quite a different audience from the more family-focused visitors, appealing to people looking for a different kind of night out after work. More Lates are being planned for 2012!
Carolyn Bennett ZSL Development Manager

Primrose Hill Down Memory lane

Greta Lewis, a Friend of RP&PH, contacted me after the last newsletter with her memories of Primrose Hill during the war when she was a very young girl. There was an anti-aircraft gun on the summit and many nissen huts at its rear and the whole area was protected by barbed wire. If you look carefully you can still see the undulations of the submerged concrete-lined trenches. She played with her friends on the stumps of the poplar trees immortalised by Louis McNiece in ‘Autumn Journal’: and they’re cutting down the trees on Primrose Hill’, removed because it was thought they might spoil the sight line of the anti-aircraft guns. A delight to the children was the ‘Balloonatic Asylum’ housing the barrage balloon known as ‘Primrose’. And it was grow-your-own as well, with allotments covering the Hill as they did in the Regent’s Park. Greta’s family was bombed out a couple of times as well, but they stuck it out and Greta herself stayed on the edge of the hill, married, had children until 1978 when she finally moved away.

Note from editor – does anyone have photos of the Hill at this time?

An Ideal Christmas Present

Why not give your family and friends a membership subscription to the Friends of Regentís Park & Primrose Hill Contact the treasurer Richard Portnoy for details.

top of page

Meet your committee

stephen crisp

Committee member Stephen Crisp was born in Walthamstow. An interest in gardening was ignited when he and a friend took over a redundant glasshouse in the school grounds and started growing tomatoes and geraniums. He persuaded the school to move the glasshouse into the main quadrangle, and he developed a garden there, activities which enabled him to avoid games!
Leaving school he was advised to join a local parks department, but Stephen wanted a proper horticultural training. Finding mention of the RHS in one of his gardening books, he wrote to them for advice. In 1977 he began their two year training programme at Wisley, and describes his time there as ‘brilliant’. Meeting people there from all over the world broadened his horizons, and, when he graduated, he applied for and was accepted on an international garden training programme at the DuPont Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, USA. This was followed by a year’s work/study scholarship in Tresco Abbey, Isles of Scilly.

His first job was at Leeds Castle, not then known for its gardens, but for which Russell Page, one of the foremost landscape architects of his time, had produced some ideas. Despite his youth, Stephen was chosen to implement them, and his establishment of the walled garden, the woodland garden and a day school programme put the Leeds Castle gardens ‘on the map’.

After five years Stephen was looking for a new challenge, and it was suggested he apply for the job of head gardener at Winfield House. Initially he was “underwhelmed” by what he saw, although he could see great potential in, for example, the neglected perimeters and broken glasshouses. The position included responsibility for decorating the house, offering him the opportunity to “push the boundaries both inside and out”. It was also well resourced, so finally, after several visits and discussions, he accepted the post and began work there in 1987. Both the design of the garden and the environment itself needed an enormous amount of work, so, taking a long-term view, he began by improving the areas closest to the house, working outwards to the neglected boundaries. His aim was to create a garden with a “wow” factor that would exceed the expectations of guests and visitors, and there is universal agreement that this he has achieved.

Stephen has strong feelings about the many benefits the Royal Parks provide, and his concern for Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill is not about which department or body will be overseeing it, but how firmly they will champion and resource it. He sees the year-on-year erosion of funding as the greatest threat to all the Royal Parks. Instead of being open spaces, with proven benefits to air quality, tourism, sport, mental health, etc., and centres for horticultural excellence and for apprenticeship schemes, they are becoming venues for revenue generation for the Treasury. Whilst praising the work done by Nick Biddle and the current team, he fears that tendering for contracts to maintain the parks will become less and less attractive to companies. They will lack any long-term commitment and replace experienced gardeners with labourers. Already the effects of inadequate funding can be seen in some local authority parks where infrastructure deterioration has led to increased anti-social behaviour and the creation of ‘no-go’ areas for the general public.

The Friends, he says, must continue to lobby the Treasury for adequate funding for the Parks, and support the Park’s team by “saying what they cannot say for fear of losing their jobs”. Whilst the Friends may pay for specific projects, they must not be a source of funds for routine maintenance, and while volunteers are essential ‘icing on the cake’, they do not replace regular gardeners.

Before he came to Winfield House Stephen had visited Regent’s Park twice, once age seven when visiting the zoo with his family, and once as an adult. His first contact with the Friends came as he tried to “build bridges” between Winfield House and the various organisations with interests in the park. He has been a committee member of the Friends for over ten years, and his horticultural and landscape knowledge, combined with his practical ideas for urban space management, development and planning, have been invaluable to the Friends. Stephen is a member of the Professional Gardeners Guild, a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, a judge for Britain in Bloom, and also sits on the committee of the London Gardens Network and the Regent’s Park Conservation Area.
Margaret Elliott

Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill

Contact Links

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

top of page

Created on Friday 25th February 2011, last edited Sunday 20th November 2011.
Errors & Omissions excepted