Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 80

Initiatives by the Crown Estate Paving Commission

The CEPC has been re-examining the design concepts originally used by Nash at Regent’s Park in an attempt to reunify its public areas with their surrounding terraces and restore an understanding ofwhy this park is such an important heritage asset for London.

In order to recreate some of the lost vistas that are such important features of the park the CEPC commissioned Todd Longstaffe-Gowan to produce an analysis of the communal gardens and their visual links to and from the park. His report should be available later this summer. Todd is an historic landscape architect who has worked extensively with Historic Royal Palaces and others on numerous high profile projects. Todd presented some of his initial ideas to the local conservation area committee in April, formulated after consultation with Royal Parks.

Nash never envisaged the size of some of the current tree specimens or the extent of the planting, many randomly positioned during the park’s long history, and often obscuring the all-important vistas that he carefully created. Those visiting the park should be able to enjoy its rural amenities and experience the sweep of the surrounding terraces with their classical facades. Equally, residents should be able to enjoy views over the communal gardens into the park beyond. Todd has been anxious to stress that the recreation of the vistas would he a long term goal, implemented after extensive consultion and forming part of the on-going tree management strategies of the royal parks and the CEPC. We await his final report with interest.

A second initiative, motivated by the desire to return Regent’s Park to being a destination for pleasure and relaxation, aims to reduce the volume of traffic now using the Outer Circle as a cut-through. Working in partnership with both boroughs, Royal Parks, ZSL and Transport for London (TfL), the CEPC is looking at traffic reduction measures and new junction designs which will improve the park environment for cyclists, residents and visitors on foot. The measures could include adjusting the gate opening times to discourage rush hour vehicles from using the park, and redesigning the Outer Circle junctions to make them slower and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. A key feature of the proposals, to be based on the results of recent traffic studies, will be to generate safer park roads to cycle on, without damaging its historic environment with new signage and street furniture. The possible disruption caused by HS2 lorry traffic will also be factored in.

Conall Macfarlane, Chairman

Zoo news

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) hosted its first-ever fundraising gala in the heart of ZSL London Zoo on 21st May and raised £135,000 for endangered Asian lions.

Another first for ZSL is the pop-up-shop at number 15 Carnaby Street, just feet away from the 'Welcome to Carnaby Street' arch, which aims to encourage fashion-savvy Londoners and visitors to the world-famous shopping destination to help save Asian lions and animals around the world while they browse. On ]uly 20 at the Carnaby Street East festival children can have their faces painted and there will be a pop-up shop stocked with exclusive products by fashion designer Elizabeth Emmanuel and up and coming pop artist Rose Hill, as well as ZSL's Wild Things! children's books including 'The Lion who came to Lunch'. Funds raised from the shop will support the Lions400 campaign - an ambitious public fundraising project designed to raise £5.7m for the endangered Asian lion. The campaign includes the building of a new state-of-the-art lion breeding centre and visitor experience at the Zoo, as well as the extension of vital conservation work in the wild where only 400 Asian lions are left.

A new baby

Zookeepers were dealt a huge surprise in the Rainforest Life exhibit when female sloth Marilyn was found to be pregnant - as they did not know the male and female had mated.

Marilyn Sloth and baby
Marilyn Sloth and baby

Male Leander arrived from Germany at the end of 2012 to be paired with the zoo’s resident female Marilyn, but despite their ploys to get the pair together, keepers had no idea that the sloths had even acknowledged one another, let alone successfully mated. However, it would appear that after hours, when away from the watchful eye of zoo staff, the pair had, quite obviously, hit it off. Two-toed sloths have been known to take almost a decade to form a pair bond and mate, but factoring in Marilyn ‘s estimated 11-month gestation period, it took the Zoo’s frisky pair just six months.

Zookeeper Tegan McPhail said: "To say we were surprised when Marilyn fell pregnant is something of an understatement - we weren't aware that she'd even been near the male. When Leander arrived at the Zoo at the end of 2012, he and Marilyn just didn’t appear particularly interested in each other, but we knew that with sloths these things can take some time. However, with the arrival of the first sloth to be born at ZSL London Zoo, it appears that it was all an act on their behalf and our two very sneaky sloths were getting amorous behind our backs!"

The new arrival is spending its days clinging tightly on to mum, who is taking motherhood in her stride and proudly showing off her bundle of joy to visitors in the Amazonian rainforest exhibit.

Yet to be sexed, keepers will not know if the baby is a boy or girl until it is scanned by vets as there are no external differences between males and females. Once confirmed the youngster's details will be added to the studbook for the European breeding programme of two-toed sloths.

Visitors can see the baby with mum and dad in ZSL London Zoo's Rainforest Life exhibit.

James Wren, Development Director, ZSL

World War One in the Park (Part Two)

St Dunstan's Hostel

Promoting St Dunstans

When Arthur Pearson (1866-1921) was told in 1913 that he would be blind in less than a year from glaucoma, he was determined not to treat it as an affliction but as a handicap to be overcome. Founder of the publishing company Pearson, which later owned the Daily Mirror and the Evening Standard, hejoined the National Institute for the Blind in 1913 and became treasurer in January 1914. Early in the war he heard of three British soldiers and one Belgian who had been blinded in action. Hence his concept of a hostel to teach blinded servicemen to ‘learn to be blind’.

St Dunstans Training Workshops (1)
St Dunstans Training Workshops (1)

St Dunstans Training Workshops (2)
St Dunstans Training Workshops (2)

St Dunstan's Lodge was offered by the American financier Otto Kahn (1867-l934) and The National Institute for the Blind opened the hostel there on 26 March 1915 renaming it St Dunstan's Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors. The ballroom was used as a lounge and the conservatory became a workshop. In less than two months there were 30 residents looked after by a matron and a trained nurse with several orderlies and eight members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments who did the housework. An orderly slept in each of the dormitories, and the nurses’ room was on the same floor. A year later there were 150 residents and emergency accommodation was found for the patients in Holford House (destroyed in the second world war). An important element after their injuries had healed was training. They learnt boot-repairing, mat-making, net-making, basket-making, joinery, poultry farming and market gardening. One qualified as a masseur (physiotherapist).

Dancing at St Dunstans
Dancing at St Dunstans

The men were also given training in Braille and typewriting, telephony and Braille shorthand. Many of the instructors were themselves blind. All kinds of sport were encouraged - athletics, tug-of-war, rowing (an arm of the lake in Regent's Park ran into the grounds), swimming, calisthenics and even goal-shooting against professional goalkeepers from famous football clubs, such as Arsenal. Entertainments, concerts and twice-weekly dances were held.

Anatomy Lessons at St Dunstans by J H Lobley 1919
Anatomy Lessons at St Dunstans by J H Lobley 1919

Residents were encouraged to learn a musical instrument, and the hostel had its own band. Hence, by the time they were re-settled in their own homes, most of the soldiers were equipped with a trade or occupation.

Needless to say in 1920 Otto Kahn requested the return of St Dunstan's Lodge and the National Institute for the Blind obtained a lease for St John’s Lodge which remained as headquarters for the Institute until 1948 when it moved to l9l Old Marylebone Road. Sadly, St Dunstans was destroyed by a fire in the 1930s, demolished in 1937 and Winfield House was built on the site for Barbara Hutton. As Friends will know well, it was presented to the United States government in 1946 and has been in use as the American ambassador's residence ever since. Arthur Pearson meanwhile was created a baronet in 1916 for his services and took the title, Pearson, 1st Baronet of St Dunstan’s. He died in 1921 when he drowned hitting his head on a bath tap. He was popularly mourned.

Meet your committee

Linda Johnson Linda Johnson has been the official secretary of the Friends of Regent's Park and Primrose Hill only since her election to the post at the last AGM. However her involvement with the committee began earlier when she attended a meeting to find out whether or not she would he interested in joining the Friends‘ There, as she had pencil and paper with her, she was asked if she would mind taking the minutes, and this led to a request that she assume the role of secretary! Linda has lived in Primrose Hill since 1976, when she shared a rented flat with a friend while she studied for a post-graduate degree in Social and Economic Geography. Just imagine, one could live then in Primrose Hill on a student grant! Later her husband Peterjoined her there, and they were able to buy their flat, and then the entire house, in which they still live. She took part with the Friends in their protest against the zoo extension, but working full time, and raising three children, meant that she was too busy to become involved with the group at this time. For 15 years Linda worked in various roles involving policy development for Islington Council, but for the last 20 years she has worked with her husband in property management.

While not claiming any special knowledge or expertise regarding the royal parks, Linda has used Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill in different ways for over thirty five years since she took her children into the playgrounds, and to feed the ducks. She appreciated having the fantastic open space on her doorstep, but described herself as a typical user, who took it all for granted until it was threatened.

Like all our members Linda is concerned that less and less government funding is being allocated to the royal parks. She accepts that 'one off' projects such as the replacement of the York Gate may need to be funded by private subscription, but is a firm believer in the principal of government funded parks. The royal parks are a natural resource, used notjust by local people, but by many tourists who contribute to the British economy, so should be funded and run by the government. She is cautiously optimistic that eventually the government of the day will, of necessity, be forced to engage in ‘joined-up’ thinking and to realise the value of properly funded parks and open spaces in terms of environmental protection, preventive health opportunities, leisure facilities and the provision of ‘green lungs’ for large cities. Meanwhile she accepts that Regent's Park and Primrose Hill will need to ‘earn their keep’, but says that this must be done in a sensitive way that neither compromises their integrity nor threatens the parks we love.

Linda would like the Friends to have a more formal and official role, but still believes that they can act effectively as unofficial scrutineers, probing and asking ‘awkward’ questions when issues arise in the park. The Friends ‘comes into its own’ when campaigning on park issues, and one of these currently concerning Linda is the threat posed to Regentls Park and Primrose Hill by HS2. She says that only now are people becoming aware of the impact on the eastern side of the park if the Euston terminal goes ahead, and of the noise and disruption there will be during the decade-long building work. As smaller issues arise she hopes that a committee member, or an individual within the Friends, will take the lead on a particular concern, raising awareness, recruiting knowledgeable people, and seeing it through to a suitable conclusion. A problem that the Friends face is that so many members now tend to be older, and younger people do not have the free time to become actively involved.

Margaret Elliott

In the Gardens

There has been a lot of wildlife activity in the park during the last few months. Dave Johnson, the wildlife officer has spotted two breeding pairs of kestrels, tawny owls and little owls, five or six pairs of breeding great crested grebes and four breeding pairs of little grebes. There are l8 heron nests with young and many spring migrants including swifts, swallows, a yellow wagtail, common tern, lesser whitethroat, osprey, a hobby and a buzzard. Dave reports that a recording has been played to the visiting house martins to encourage them to nest. Other migrants include whitethroat, lots of blackcap, chiffchaff, reed Warbler and reed bunting. And there have been butterflies as well including brimstone, orange-tip, peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, comma, speckled wood, small and large white and red admiral.

Food glorious food

The Espresso Bar (formerly the Cow and Coffee Bean) has been open since the end of last year following improvements. The counter was moved to the back to give more seating for customers. The changes made to the Counter and service style at The Garden Cafe have enabled Benugo to cater more efficiently on busy days and avoid the large queues which used to form. Further improvements planned for the quiet winter period include a wood-fired pizza oven, new toilets and an improved “grab and go" offer. The park is working in partnership with Benugo to improve the glazing, heating and ventilation system which will help regulate the internal temperature all year round. Detailed proposals are being prepared for planning permission.

The cafe formerly known as The Honest Sausage is to reopen as The Smokehouse. The interior has been opened up to create a central island grill and servery and a new heating and ventilation system has gone for planning permission so that the cafe should be open by the end of July.

Green Flag and Green Heritage Awards

Two Green Flag Judges paid their first visit for some time to Regent's Park and Primrose Hill on 2lst May. The chairman of the Friends, Conall Macfarlane, was also present. This year for the first time an application was submitted for the Green Heritage Award which is a specific accreditation within the Green Flag Award scheme. It focuses on how the history and heritage of a green space is understood, conserved and made accessible to its users. The Conservation Management Plan, which Stephen Crisp and Judy Hillman, among others, have contributed to by reviewing the first draft, is a cornerstone of this process. A second draft will go to wider consultation shortly.

Landscape Maintenance

The delivery of The Royal Parks’ landscape maintenance services was privatised in 1992, and for the first time since then the contract has gone to a company other than the incumbent. Veolia handed over to The Landscape Group on 9th July and the staff currently employed transferred over to the new company on their current terms and conditions.

The Trim Trail

There has been an outdoor gym at Primrose Hill since 1848, shortly after its acquisition by the Crown. The current facility is be refurbished courtesy of a grant from The London Marathon Trust. Following two phases of consultation with users a final scheme is being prepared by Farah Huxley, from the Landscape Architects, who worked with the Park on last year's Marylebone Green Playground refurbishment which was also assisted by a London Marathon Trust Grant. Although the facility is already well used feedback from users, who say that this is the best of its kind for many miles around, has been much appreciated. The equipment is very simple, with no moving parts, and works through users exercising against their own body weight. Suggestions for improvements have been very constructive, highlighting some kit which could usefully be duplicated and some which is rarely used. There is also a proposal to create a more welcoming entrance and a link to the petanque area.

Staff News

Many readers will know Tony Duckett who worked in Regent's Park for 34 years as a Wildlife Officer before losing his post following the very sudden cuts in government funding in 2011. You will be delighted to hear that after two years on a rolling temporary contract based at Bushy Park, Tony has secured a full time permanent post with The Royal Parks. Working within the Ecology Team he is now the parks' conservation officer, managing the oak processionary moth surveys in Bushy Park, working across all eight royal parks advising on habitat management and conservation, working up and managing habitat improvement projects, seeking third party funding and advising park management teams.

Many readers will also know Andy Williams, who worked as Assistant Park Manager at Regent's Park for around eight years. He took up the role of Park Manager at Kensington Gardens in April. We will miss him at Regent's Park, although his former role is being ably managed by Mike Turner.

Nick Biddle, Park Manager


There has been an upgrade in Queen Mary’s Garden and the waterside with grey water being supplied by the bore hole rather than metered Thames Water. The chestnut fencing around the matured british native plantation near Elsworthy Terrace on Primrose Hill has been removed and, provided there are no problcms, the fencing around the middle plantation will be removed in September 2014.

Dog Awareness Day

The Dog Awareness Day held on Primrose Hill on 3lst May was a great success not least because the local police brought in an old police car as an added attraction.

Mark Bridger, Assistant Park Manager

The Allotment Garden

This growing season has started well in the Allotment Garden with the help of new compost bins and sturdy new raised beds. It has been working with five local schools offering sessions the garden where the growing space is used as a classroom so the children can learn where their food comes from.

The Allotment garden has also been hosting various food growing training sessions, organised by Capital Growth and led by experienced trainers, on various topics from food growing from soil and wormeries to beekeeping.

The team has constructed a clay oven to offer fresh pizza to visitors on the open days on Saturday July 5th and 27th. The popular Harvest Festival will take place on Sunday 21st September - expect lovely food fresh from the garden, activities, and plants and seeds to take home.

Julie Riehl

For the diary

Coffee at the Hub The committee plan to arrange a coffee morning at the Hub for Friends first Wednesday of the month, starting on Wednesday 6 August from 11am. We hope to see many of you there
Walk for HS (The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust)
Registration fee £10.00 for adults, under 12s free HS is a debilitating skin disorder
Cumberland Green Pathways Sunday 17 August 11.00am — 4.30pm
To raise awareness of cruel puppy farming
Primrose Hill Saturday 6 September
Klezmer in the Park Holme Green, Bandstand Sunday 7 September
Royal College of Physicians Open House Royal College of Physicians 21 September Times to be confirmed
NSPCC London Hack Walk
Ticket price: 10 mile route - £10, 20 mile route - £20
10 or 20 mile walk from Hays Galleria, London Bridge Saturday 29 September
Frieze London and Frieze Modern and Old Masters Marylebone Green Thursday 16 October- Sunday 19 October
Gorilla Circus, Trapeze Grassed area between Charlbert Bridge and Macclesfield Bridge 3 May - 7 September
Harvest festival Allotment garden 21 September 11am - 5pm

Theatre time again

Once again the Friends will have a special discount for the Open Air Theatre productions. We can book best available seats for £22.50!* (normally up to £45). Bookings can be made in person at the box office in the Park, two weeks prior to the performance. Please bring your membership pin as identification.

*offer is available Mon-Fri and Sat matinees.

Tickets are sold subject to availability, and are subject to the theatre’s terms and conditions, including the weather policy, available at :

Porgy and Bess 17 July - 23 August
To Kill a Mockingbird 28 August - 13 September


Request for email addresses

Would all members with email addresses please send an email with their name, postal address and email address to Linda Johnson
We would like this information so that we can communicate more efficiently with our members.

Technical Help

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Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill

Contact Links

Conall Macfarlane -
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Richard E Portnoy -
Anne-Marie Craven -
Neil Manuel -

Site created on Friday 25th February 2011, last edited Monday 11th August 2014.
Errors & Omissions excepted