Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 76

Technical note for our readers - if the font used is too small please use the zoom feature on your browser (if available) to adjust the size (typically Control-key and "+" symbol) as much as you need.

A chilly AGM

In spite of the absence of our Chairman, Malcolm Kafetz, who was recovering from his stroke, Nick Biddle, the Park Manager, also poorly, and freezing weather, the AGM on Tuesday 12 March 2013 was ably chaired by Judy Hillman and Conall Macfarlane and very well attended.

Grave concern was raised over the cuts to funding for all Royal Parks. Regent’s Park had raised £3 million in 2012 but still costs £6 million to run.

Good news for the Friends is that Linda Johnson stood for election as Secretary and was elected and the committee remains the same except for her role and that of the ZSL representative. James Wren has taken over from Carolyn Bennett, to represent the Zoo on the Friends’ Committee. We wish her well as her work becomes even more demanding.

The Treasurer reported that a donation of more than £14,000 had been made by the Friends in 2012. The talk was given by Richard Simpson, the Chairman of the Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill Conservation Area Advisory Committee and the Heritage and Design Champion for Camden. He spoke graphically about the government’s simplification of the planning process and its implications for developments in infrastructure such as the HS2 rail link and its likely impact on the area surrounding Euston and Park Village East. He also talked about the new large housing developments proposed on the boundary of the park in St Edmund’s Terrace and Cambridge Terrace.

He was much more positive, however on the importance of the 2011 Localism Act and its provision for local people to become more involved in planning via Neighbourhood Forums. He encouraged the Friends to join the Primrose Hill Neighbourhood Forum which he has recently set up.

Finally, Inspector John Archell of the Parks Police spoke about the success of the new scheme which allows his team to impose fixed penalty notices for littering, dog fouling and cycling without the need for time consuming paperwork and court appearances. He then introduced his successor, Inspector Chris Churchman.

The meeting ended with the Friends wishing Malcolm a speedy return to good health.

top of page

From the archives

1932 Underground Poster
Courtesy London Transport

It is 1932 and the Royal Botanic Society has left the park but the rose garden is open for business, hence this splendid poster (above) designed by Dora Batty (1900-1966) for the London Underground. Celebrated as having done more illustrations for the company than any other female artist, she also worked for Poole Potteries and taught textiles at Central School of Art.

"There can be no doubt that unless the Colosseum in the Regent's Park continues to stand, London, which is exhibited inside, must inevitably perish" so reported Punch in 1845.

Regents Park Colosseum
Regents Park Colosseum

The Colosseum, named after its size rather than an allusion to the one in Rome, was started in 1824 to house the panorama, with attractions added such as Hall of mirrors (1835)

Hall of Mirrors
Hall of Mirrors. Picture Courtesy Stephen Crisp

and this splendid fountain within one of the conservatories.

Colosseum Fountain
Colosseum Fountain

Thirty years after Punch's warnings, the complex was demolished and ordinary houses built in its place, now Colosseum Terrace.

top of page

In the gardens

Acid grassland restoration at Primrose Hill

A project to kick-start the restoration of over one and half hectares of lowland acid grassland on Primrose Hill started last year and is due to finish in 2015. Management should get much easier as the sward becomes less dense, and the costs should decrease; this is important as the external funding will cease in 2015.

What is it and why is it so important?

Acid grassland is a meadow habitat which is very rare in London associated as it is with open areas on acidic sandy soil. Traditionally it has developed through grazing or mowing and in London is often dominated by red fescue or wavy hair grass, sheep’s sorrel, heath speedwell and other species. Grazing, sadly, is the not the most effective way of maintaining the land at Primrose Hill, hence the solution is mowing. The wildflowers and grasses attract a large variety of specialist invertebrates such as solitary bees and ground beetles, as well as reptiles such as adder, common lizard and slow worm. In the autumn it is a great habitat for fungi species. The project is being supported by London Borough of Camden, the Royal Parks and SITA, an organisation which provides recycling and resource management to businesses and local authorities throughout the UK.

Volunteers at work on Primrose Hill
Volunteers at work on Primrose Hill

Mowing takes place in the spring and autumn and all material is taken off site to be composted at Regent’s leaf yard for recycling. Twenty British Trust for Conservation volunteers will rake up the cuttings by hand and the Veolia grounds maintenance staff will take it away. Wild flower seeds were sown last year by the volunteers and plug plants will be planted by hand in the autumn of 2013, using native species. Mowing will be on a three year cycle in rotation, with two-thirds of the total area to be cut at any one time and the remaining one third left as overwintering habitat for invertebrates. Four different volunteers are monitoring species presence of wildflowers and the results will be monitored twice annually with the survey data made available to the Greenspace Information for Greater London (GIGL).

A third plantation has been constructed on the north side of Primrose Hill. Funded by a member of the Meyer family, a local resident, it is composed of British native plant species, including spindle, crab apple, blackthorn, wild rose, privet, gulder rose and hawthorn and will provide a valuable habitat for wildlife such as small mammals, birds and insects as well as being a vital food source for butterflies and bees. Field maple and mountain ash trees have been planted to create a low canopy over the shrubs.

Mark Bridger, Assistant Park Manager

Sponsorship needed

As a result of the severe cuts imposed by the comprehensive spending review and the reduction in the Wildlife Officer service, financial help will be needed to manage the collection of exotic wildfowl. The potential costs are being explored for a five-year commitment to the project.

Queen Mary’s gardens’ bow top fencing has been replaced and the fencing at Charlbert Gate Winter gardens has been repaired and repainted.

Many of the aquatic plants in QMG have been replaced as there had been considerable grazing by waterfowl. The crate-like structures around them will protect the plants until they are fully established.

At last the path running along the northern edge of the southern boundary of the zoo has been reconstructed. It was a considerable investment.

Dog walking

Professional dog walkers now need a licence to operate commercially. They need to produce evidence of insurance and risk assessment and guidelines and a code of conduct has been issued. A maximum of four dogs per walker in permitted locations is allowed. An arm band will be issued for easy identification.

Fitness trainers

One to one fitness trainers (as well as those with three or more clients) will now be required to operate under licence in the Royal Parks. Requirements are an appropriate qualification (REPS level 3), public liability insurance and risk assessments. A code of conduct has been issued and is enforceable by termination of licence. It includes: operating in approved areas and times, not attaching material to trees or structures and no music. Licence holders will be issued with an arm band for identification.

Contracts out to tender

The Royal Park’s largest contract is for landscape maintenance which is due to be renewed across all parks from 1 April 2014. Andy Williams, Assistant Park Manager is the project manager.

Refurbishment of the toilets is nearly completed. The contract to operate and manage them is out to tender and it may result in a small charge for their use, although this would not happen immediately.

The other contracts out for tender are for car parking (Regent’s Hyde and Greenwich), catering (Regent’s, (excluding the Boathouse Café) and Greenwich as separate contracts) to start from 1 November 2013.

NB from Ed – I hope Company of Cooks continues) and locking the gates (all Parks), with the new contract to commence 1 April 2014)

The Community Wildlife Garden

Do visit soon – The Newt, the turf sculpture, has been renovated and is looking terrific thanks to the efforts of the staff at Veolia, the grounds maintenance contractor!

If you remember ‘apical dominance’ (When the top bud prevents lateral growth) from your biology lessons you will understand why the Outer Circle hedge received a hard prune to remove the woody knuckle at the top. This should result in the hedge being ‘less leggy’ and with better coverage at the base.

Marylebone Green playground

Mark Bridger and Nick Biddle are working with Ruth Holmes, Head of Landscape for The Royal Parks and Noel Farrer, a specialist landscape architect, to complete this project. It is running a bit behind but is impressive in its design and quality of workmanship.

Nick Biddle, Park Manager

In the allotment

Growing a million meals

Julie Riehl, the garden manager, is taking part in this Capital Growth pilot whereby the weight of each harvest is recorded online on the Harvestometer and the results show the value or number of meals grown.

Twice a month, a group supported by Westminster Mind, which helps people recover from mental health issues, work in the garden. It is hoped that this experience will benefit their overall health. Three local schools are working with the garden and their sessions have been incorporated into their curriculum.

Inspect the hops growing in the garden thanks to their donation by the Meantime Brewing Company.

See the diary section for the Open days and Harvest festival

Julie Riehl, Allotment garden volunteer co-ordinator

top of page

From the Hub

The Hub in Regents Park
The Hub in Regents Park

Park Fitness

A new running club course for beginners who wish to improve their fitness and manage their weight, and/or would like to build up to their first 10km race starts Monday 10 June for eight weeks. Meet at the Hub at 6.30pm. It costs £10 per session or £64 for the whole course which also includes a fee place in the Regent’s Park 10km race.

The group outdoor fitness sessions have returned. Meet on Wednesdays at 6.30pm and Saturdays at 10.30am for intermediate/advanced fitness levels, and get fit in the beautiful surroundings in a fun and safe environment.


Regent’s Park Cricket club caters for girls and boys from six to seventeen years old and this is in full swing! Training is on Mondays to Wednesdays based at the Hub at 5pm. Visit their website for details .

Summer sports

There is some availability for softball and cricket bookings, mainly on Fridays and weekends. Call the Hub for further details and availability 0300 061 2323.

The Hub as a venue for hire is available for a range of activities including children’s parties, BBQ’s, corporate events and even wedding receptions! For further details:

Jill Osleger, Active Sports Manager

top of page

Zoo News

Authors celebrate wonders of the natural world at ZSL London Zoo.

This summer, for the first time ever, award-winning authors and world-leading conservationists will be uniting for a series of Writers’ Talks at ZSL London Zoo to raise funds for ZSL’s conservation projects around the world.

Chaired by ZSL Council Member Ruth Padel, author of Mara Crossing and Where the Serpent Lives, the events will include talks from Jo Shapcott in the Zoo’s Rainforest Life exhibit, Mark Haddon in Giants of the Galapagos and Helen Dunmore in Tiger Territory - as well as a talk on each species from one of ZSL’s dedicated zoologists.

Author Glyn Maxwell who will be speaking about Mallorcan midwife toads on 20 June said: “‘The Mallorcan midwife toad is beautiful and vulnerable, as well as being one of those rare animal species where the male does something surprisingly helpful - carries the eggs around for the female.

“But most of all I thought about it because until 1979 its story was thought to be over; and it isn’t. So now I can help to tell it.”

With limited places available for each talk, tickets are available to purchase online now from and cost £12 per person.

The Great British summer is finally on the way…according to the penguins.

Keepers have noticed that the 50-strong colony at the Zoo’s Penguin Beach exhibit have started piling on the pounds ready for their annual moult, which takes place every summer. Each penguin is weighed weekly so that their keepers can monitor their health and predict when the penguins will begin their moult. Penguins’ feathers go through quite a bit of wear and tear. They rub against each other, scramble over rocks and spend lots of time in the water, so every year they lose all of their feathers and grow a completely new set. Head of Birds at ZSL London Zoo, Adrian Walls, said: “While most people put themselves on a strict diet in preparation for a summer on the beach, penguins are the exact opposite and do everything they can to fatten themselves up. We trained them to jump on the scales for us, so that we can estimate when the moult will begin, and we’ve noticed that Ricky the Rockhopper and co. are all looking more rotund, a sure sign that summer is on the way.”

The old feathers stay in place until the new ones start coming through, so the usually-pristine penguins can look quite scruffy during the moulting process. Adrian added: “Some of our penguins are really vain characters and hide behind their flippers when they’re looking a bit bald.” The penguins spend more time on land while they lose their waterproof layer, but as they all moult at slightly different stages, visitors to ZSL London Zoo are guaranteed to see those with their brand new feathers showing off in the two-metre deep pool during the daily Penguin Beach Live! talks.

New silverback gorilla joins the ladies at ZSL London Zoo

Kambuka happily at home at ZSL
Kambuka happily at home at ZSL. Courtesy ZSL.

A new male gorilla has arrived at ZSL London Zoo, and he’s already proving to be a quite the personality. 15-year-old western lowland gorilla, Kumbuka, arrived in London just a few weeks ago from Paignton Zoo in Devon, and despite never having had a female mate before, has already been spotted flirting with females Mjukuu and Effie and it is hoped that he will mate with one of these females. He weighs a hefty 29-stone (185kg) and is seven feet tall and likes to show off his impressive agility skills climbing around the Gorilla Kingdom gymnasium. He fills the gap left by previous male Kesho who moved to Longleat Safari Park to be reunited with his brother Alf in a bachelor group, Kumbuka will act as leader of the troop at ZSL London Zoo, protecting the females and ensuring they’re all happy.


James Wren, Development Director, ZSL

top of page

Theatre in the Park

Full house for the Mockingbird

It may not have been the best of early summers for the open air theatre – too cold, too damp, if not wet. But Saturday, June 1, was fully booked even before the balmy evening was forecast. The grass (£20) was also completely sold out. However the production of To Kill a Mockingbird started with a number of actors scattered in the audience and I was lucky enough at the last minute to watch the beginning from the wings and then to settle for a gripping performance of the well known story.

The two children and young friend of a southern American state lawyer won hearts and minds in providing fun and common sense morality against the background of racial prejudice and potential mob rule. After all, who, hearing the evidence by Atticus Finch (Robert Sean Leonard), could truthfully condemn the young black man of the rape of the foolish white girl/woman who had been beaten up, in fact, for breaking the colour code by her father? Yet the jury – and the audience was addressed as such – delivered a guilty verdict. Gem, the older child, could not understand. But his very tolerant and wise father, who earlier had pointed out that a mob is made up of people you know, said the judge had tried his best by appointing him, a good lawyer, to the defence.

This production combined the acting of scenes and the delivery of memorable homilies, with short sections read from the book by members of the large cast with and without American accents. The set was simple – basically one tree with a tyre suspended by rope from a branch in the first half and a noose in the second. The town’s basic layout was chalked on the floor as was a game of hopscotch. But even loud music from a party beyond the park could not upset concentrated attention during the court scene.

Pride and Prejudice is the next production from June 20 combined with Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale reimagined for six year olds and upwards. Then The Sound of Music takes over from July 25.

Judy Hillman, Patron

top of page

For the Diary

What When Where/Info
The Gorilla circus flying trapeze school Opened 4 May until 2 September for details contact
Mariusz Kaldowski art exhibition 13 June - 7 July Holme Green
116 Hamilton Terrace NW8 Thursday 11 July 5-9pm £5 for evening. Garden open for the National Gardens Scheme
Open Day at the Royal College of Physicians Thursday 11 July 10am-4.30pm Garden tours throughout the day Admission: Adults £4, children free. Garden open for the National Gardens Scheme
Summer bike week event Thursday 20 June North end of the Broadwalk near Ready Money Fountain
Taste of London Thursday 20 - Sunday 23 June Regent's Park
National Gardens scheme Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 June 2.30-4.30pm The Holme, Inner Circle as part of the National Gardens Scheme
70 Gloucester Crescent, NW1 Sunday 30 June 2-5.30pm and Sunday 4 August 2-5.30pm Admission Adults £3.50, children free. Garden open for the National Gardens Scheme
Broadwalk Ballroom Saturdays 13 July and 10 August Broadwalk
Tango Al Fresco Sunday 14 Jul, Sunday 11 August Avenue Gardens
Summer Open Day In the allotment garden Saturday 3 August 11am-4pm Come and celebrate summer with us in the garden! Seed swap, plant sales, tours of the garden, competition and activities on all day!
National Gardens scheme Saturday 3 & Sunday 4 August 2.30-4.30pm The Holme, Inner Circle as part of the National Gardens Scheme
Urban Botany Saturday 10 August 10am-4pm Course run by the Field Studies Council (FSC) London with Dr Mark Spencer from the Natural History Museum. The course costs £35.00. Further details from the FSC site (Urban Botany).
Identifying non-native invasive plants. Saturday 7 September 10am-4pm A course run the Field Studies Council (FSC) London with Dr Mark Spencer from the Natural History Museum. The course costs £45.00. Further details from the FSC site (invasive plants).
Harvest festival In the allotment garden Sunday 15 September 11am-5pm To celebrate a year of food growing, come to sample lovely food cooked fresh from the garden! An expert from The Royal Parks Guild will also be on site to answer any question about food growing.
A better date for Woolwich Kings Troop Thursday 26 September 10.30am A new date for this visit where we shall be able to inspect the splendid new HQ of the King's Troop. I visited last year and was hugely impressed by their new facilities.
We shall arrange for a coach to take us there. Contact Anne-Marie Craven for further details
Autumn ramble Saturday 12 October 10am-4pm Explore the Regent's Park from the Rose Gardens to the views from Primrose Hill. A course led by the staff of the Field Studies Council (FSC) London with Dr Mark Spencer from the Natural History Museum. The course costs £15.00. Further details from the FSC site (Autumn ramble).

dog walkers
Photo: Dog walkers - Stewart Dorward

On June 1st dogs were educated on Primrose Hill and others joined the Race for Life in Regents Park

dog jumps
Photo: Dog jumps - Malcolm Kafetz

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

Site created on Friday 25th February 2011, last edited Wednesday 10th July 2013.
Errors & Omissions excepted