Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 83

Annual General Meeting

Thursday 23 April 2015 at St John’s Wood Church Hall, Lords Roundabout, London NW8 7NE 6.30 for 7.00 pm

Quadrennial or Quinquennial

Chester Terrace
Chester Terrace in its "Bath stone" glory

For those Friends who live in a Crown Estate property, 2015 is another year of suffering the indignity of scaffolding and repainting to spruce themselves up for the next five years. And thank goodness it is now a quinquennial review rather than the quadrennial. But it was ever thus! The British Calendar or Almanac for the year 1835 in the section, Public Improvements, states that:

‘Among the improvements of the year may be included the lustration and renovation of all the palace-like buildings or terraces and places in the Regent‘s Park. By a well-intended clause in the building leases of the Regent’s Park houses, the lessees covenant to renew the colouring on the stuccoed exteriors within the month of August in every fourth year, the period being the same for them all. By the covenant, too, the tint is to be that of Bath-stone, the object being to produce the agreeable tone of colour which that material exhibits, together with uniformity of appearance.

It was defeated, however, by want of concert among the owners and occupiers of the various houses, some employing one tradesman and some another; some choosing to paint in oil colours, and some to use distemper merely, while others, again, wilfully counteracted the design of the authorities, by painting or colouring at irregular periods, and according to their own fancy; and thus, at the same time, destroyed uniformity of appearance altogether and vitiated their own leases. The general result has been that the terraces are chequered so as to be offensive alike to good taste and propriety. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests might certainly have punished the last class of offenders, by ejecting them for breach of covenant, and they might have done so with great propriety; indeed, justice to the great body of proprietors of leases there almost made it imperative upon them to do so; but to meet and obviate the difficulty they had recourse to a milder mode, and obtained power to do the colouring themselves and charge the proprietary with the cost.

Unfortunately, however, they have not yet gone far enough, since, for the exercise of this power, it is made necessary that a certain proportion of the occupiers or owners of the houses, in every distinct square, terrace or place, shall consent to it, and this the jobbing disposition of some parties has thwarted, by hawking private papers from house to house for the purpose of getting so much work into the hands of the individuals themselves, or into those of their dependants. In this manner Park Square is painted as before, but generally the terraces have been done by a contractor under the commissioners, and for the most part they exhibit a uniform and pleasing appearance. Perhaps, upon the whole, there is not quite enough colour in some places, so that the effect is too pale and chalky, but some of the terraces look remarkably well, the tone of colour being rich and warm without being overdone, as was too frequently the case before.’

Intriguing that all tenants are very well-behaved now and adhere strictly to the regulations!

Anne-Marie Craven

Murder(?) on Primrose Hill

Should you have around £220 to spare you could do no worse than buy this medal to commemorate the cruel murder in 1678 of the Protestant magistrate and timber merchant, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey. His body was discovered on 17 October by William Bromwell, a baker, and John Walters, a farrier, in a ditch on the south side of Primrose Hill. The inquest held at the nearby White House alehouse concluded that Godfrey had not been killed by the sword which had been found near his body but that he had been killed elsewhere. The killer was never found but word went around that this was all a papist plot and the murder was actually committed by Roman Catholics. Hence this silver medal struck in 1678 showing Godfrey being strangled on the obverse and the Pope blessing the murderer on the reverse.

Godfrey medal
Godfrey medal courtesy of the British Museum

(Read the whole gory story in Martin Sheppard’s Primrose Hill, a History)

Zoo news

2014 was the best year at ZSL London zoo for 21 years with just under 1.3 million visitors.

It is a girl!.

The beautiful Alika with her mum

Alika, meaning most beautiful, was born at the Zoo on 10 December, following an eightand-a-half month gestation period. She is the first offspring of resident silverback gorilla, Kumbuka, and is being cared for by her mother, Mjukuu, a 15-yearold gorilla who caught Kumbuka’s eye on his arrival in 2013.

The Butterfly Paradise

A butterfly in paradise

This has undergone a transformation not unlike that of its inhabitants, emerging with updated features including a puparium where visitors can witness the fascinating lifecycle of butterflies and moths, right in front of their eyes. Designed to resemble a giant caterpillar, the paradise is a walk-through tropical haven, carefully planted and heated to 27 degrees to provide the perfect habitat for the beautiful invertebrates, which fly freely overhead in the exotic environment.

Smelts in the city

ZSL is calling for volunteers to help scientists find out more about a rare species of British fish, the smelt (Osmersus eperlanus) found in central London. The project which is being funded with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund launched in March and aims to discover where this fish breeds in the river Thames. Smelt is an important fish species, not only as a potential food source for other animals but their presence also indicates good estuary health. There is a small but significant breeding population in the Thames. One of the few remaining in the country. They have a curious smell of cucumber. Once common in the Thames and beyond, pollution and habitat destruction caused the smelt to disappear from south east estuaries in the early 1800s but improvements in water quality in the latter half of the 1900s led to a gradual return of the smelt to a number of rivers in England, including the Thames, but even now it is considered significantly threatened and still relatively rare, hence this project.

James Wren ZSL Development Manager

Smokehouse sampling

At the invitation of Alice Veroni and Stuart Jenkyns from Benugo, the Friends’ “Tasting Team” comprising our patron, Judy Hillman, accompanied by Angela and Conall Macfarlane, visited the Smokehouse in Regent’s Park for lunch, and were delightfully surprised by the fresh menu produced by Richard, the newly appointed chef. Although there were various burgers on offer which would make a hearty meal for young footballers, the more slothful tasting team were in search of something less “bready”, and I am pleased to report that we found them. The two soups, Hearty lamb and barley and Tuscan bean, both proved to be delicious. The Salt beef sandwich equally won the approval of all. There were also some unexpectedly pleasing salads, including one of roasted cauliflower, apricot, coriander and bulgur wheat, and another, Winter slaw, of fennel, celeriac and onion with whole grain mustard. As you can imagine, by the time we reached the desserts, we could hardly move, but the charming and redoubtable Richard then produced a plate of waffles with black cherry and chocolate ice cream, which, to our own amazement, we managed to finish. We staggered home replete. Many thanks to our charming and generous hosts for entertaining us so royally.

Conall Macfarlane, Chair

In the gardens

Chester Road Cherries

This year the park is embarking on the restoration of the historic avenue on both sides of Chester Road, replacing eighty-two old and dying Kanzan cherries planted in the late 1970s with one hundred Sunset Boulevard flowering cherries to maintain and improve the Nash historic viewpoint made up of these trees. The work is planned in two phases: the first to remove the Kanzan cherries in February and to make good the ground, and the second is to plant in November. Funding is being sought by The Royal Parks Foundation to which some of the Friends have already made pledges.

For further information to help raise the funds please contact the Foundation. Nick Biddle (Park Manager) is also helping the Foundation’s fundraising efforts by running the London Marathon this year. Contributions can be made via his on-line page at: Biddle)

Improvement in the aisles

In the Avenue Gardens we have decided to ‘bite the bullet’. For some years the Viburnum tinus small hedges have not smelt as a scented viburnum should. This was caused by putrefying juices from the Viburnum beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) attacking the plants, not as I had imagined the results of thoughtless dog owners. These hedges will be replaced with Osmanthus x burkwoodii which are evergreen, highly fragrant and will respond well to being grown as hedges.

Mark Bridger, Assistant Park Manager

Water fowl and Interpretation Board

Our resident wildlife officer Dave Johnson has been working with ‘the carpenters’ John and Dennis (two brothers who have been looking after the wooden benches, bins and signs in the park, amongst other things for the last thirty-five years), on a new waterfowl interpretation board for the collection. The old interpretation panel was destroyed by a falling tree in the storm of October 2013 but Dave had the good sense to stash the hand-painted identification plates in a safe place. The carpenters have put together a design for a new board which will have the original identification plates. The cost of construction and installation of the interpretation board is being met by the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill, thank you! This will be in place in the spring when we will be re-introducing twenty species of waterfowl, marking a new chapter in what is possibly one of the best free-to-view waterfowl collections in the country.

Mark Rowe, Assistant Park Manager


In early January I met with Michael Marriot from David Austin Roses, one of the world‘s foremost experts on roses. He commented that the rose garden in Queen Mary’s Garden (QMG) is one of the top ten in the world. Which was a bit of a shock to me, being faced with that responsibility and never really having been a great lover of roses! As with all living things, roses have a finite life span, so to maintain the garden’s world standing we have had to replace some of the roses that were past their best. This winter we replaced the roses in nineteen of the beds. Thus Tom, the lead gardener for QMG, and his team took out the roses and soil down to a depth of 400mm. The hole was then filled with over 300 tonnes of a rose-bed soil mix and manure and planted with over 3,000 new roses. A nasty sickness called rose replant disease can occur unless the new roses are planted in new soil. So this summer the rose garden should look its world-class best, with some new, colourful and scented varieties.

Mark Rowe, Assistant Park Manager

Birding Update

The herons have been incubating, as well as the tawny owls. We have good numbers of ducks including shovelers, gadwall, tufted duck and pochards. The winter flocks of long-tailed tits have been splitting up and the birds pairing up. Song thrush have been singing and on sunny mornings the sparrow hawks could be seen displaying over the lake. Stock doves have also been displaying. Great crested grebes will soon be arriving on the lake and the three hundred or so black-headed gulls departed around the middle of March, heading back to their breeding grounds in Belgium, Germany and Holland.

Dave Johnson, Wildlife Officer

A New Member of the Team

Mark Rowe joined us in the park management team in mid November last year. He fills the post previously held by Andy Williams who is now Park Manager for Kensington Gardens. Mark has worked for the London Borough of Islington for the past twenty years, leading for them on London in Bloom, managing some fabulous urban habitat and is a lifelong horticulturalist with a passion for parks and high quality urban green space. We are delighted to have him in the post.

Nick Biddle, Park Manager

Queen Mary’s former Garden Café

This café has undergone a major refurbishment including double-glazing, a new heating system, new toilets, a wood-fired pizza oven, in fact a complete refit throughout. Benugo had hoped to complete this work last year as soon as possible after winning the tender, but the time required for the planning process meant that the café was unable to close until winter 2014/15 for two months to complete the work. It opened at the end of February as The Regent’s Bar and Kitchen. Thank you to those who have provided feedback on the catering service, we can confirm that chairs with arms will be available.


Following on from the information in the last newsletter, the final report on the survey work in May and September last year is close to completion and will include recommendations for further research and for improvements to the way we manage habitat. Over sixty volunteers spent over one thousand hours gathering and analysing data. This is a robust piece of scientific research into the last remaining population of hedgehogs in central London. The population is estimated at around fifty which is in the lower range of a minimum viable population size for a site of this size. One piece of good news is that the adults tend to be above average body weight, indicating plentiful food supplies.


A 20p charge for using The Royal Parks’ toilets will be introduced by the end of March 2015, although it may take a little longer to get the infrastructure operation in all of the facilities. There will be no charge for children’s toilets, disabled toilets and those at catering outlets and The Hub. The charge will help to support the provision of this service which cost the parks £1.5 million a year.

Nick Biddle, Park Manager

The Hub, Regent’s Park Sports Pitches

For the 2014/15 winter season, London’s largest award-winning outdoor sports facility, The Hub, has seen a slight change in its sports pitch provision. A third adult rugby pitch has been installed on a newly renovated sports turf area, formerly occupied by an adult football pitch. With the Six Nations Championship currently taking place and a Rugby World Cup in England this year, we took the opportunity to engage and inspire more people to participate in rugby here in Regent’s Park. Analysing participation figures and booking trends, we have seen an increase in demand across all user groups. Universities, schools and clubs are now making 350+ pitch booking per term and we expect total throughput on the rugby pitches for the season to be over 22,000.

Regent’s Park Royals RFC,

Central London’s only junior specific rugby club, has also benefited from the additional rugby pitch. We have seen an incredible surge in demand for junior rugby, with the club currently having 180 juniors members registered who train every Sunday morning in the park.

The Hub’s Exercise Classes

The Hub continues to offer a variety of different classes to suit all ages, abilities and fitness levels. The facility is a unique ‘drop in & pay as you go’ centre, ideal for those who wish to keep fit but without the expense of a monthly gym membership. Classes include Pilates, Yoga, Power Stretch, Park Fitness and Learning Disabilities Get Active, All our classes are taught by highly qualified and professional instructors who will make the class a safe and fun environment for all. Concessions are available for over 60s, people who are on jobseekers allowance, or registered disabled.

Phil Kemp, Sport Development Officer

The Park Wildfowl Collection

From the early 1970s until 2012 Regent’s Park held arguably one of the best collections of exotic waterfowl in the UK. The collection was managed by two wildfowl officers who were based at the park; however, the sudden and significant reduction in government funding in 2010 resulted in one of these posts being suppressed and the breeding of exotic waterfowl had to be suspended. Since then, various options have been considered and a decision was made to rationalise the size and variety of the collection. The current dedicated wildfowl officer, Dave Johnson, has a wealth of experience having been involved with the collection since 1991. In his spare time, he is also involved with the London Peregrine Partnership, which was set up to help protect these wonderful falcons in the capital and ensure their survival.

Apart from the effects of the reduction in the government subsidy, the breeding of waterfowl in the park has always been a problem. Eggs are stolen by magpies and crows and by the ever-prevalent rats and grey squirrels. The wooden breeding boxes, which have to be placed on the ground, rot quickly and have to be replaced constantly. The ducklings are often attacked by herons and gulls. With only one wildfowl officer, it is not practicable or realistic to continue the breeding programme.

However, in order to maintain and re-stock the flocks, it was decided to use specialist breeders to supply new ducks. In February, three pairs each of some fourteen ‘northern hemisphere’ species of ducks were brought from Norfolk, including beautiful eider ducks.

Foxes are a constant menace to all the waterfowl and, in order to discourage the foxes from swimming to the islands and molesting the birds, a programme of spring pruning of the vegetation on the banks of the lakes and islands is carried out each year, thus restricting the foxes’ ability to use the shrubs and bushes to stalk the birds. Another major problem is the feeding of the birds by members of the public. The scattering of bread only encourages the rat population and does not benefit the birds, but it remains difficult to discourage.

New special nesting baskets will be erected in the heronry to encourage breeding; while these birds continue to thrive in the park, with some twenty pairs, there have been problems with the dominant egyptian geese taking over their nests. The collection currently also has two whooper swans, two bar-headed and three barnacle geese.

The great winter storms, at the end of 2013, destroyed the display board which showed details of all the water fowl in the collection and the locations in the world where they reside George Bukhari and Alistair Toovey as Piggy and Ralph in Lord of the Flies in their natural state. A new board has been designed, funded by the Friends and will be installed shortly. The other bird notice board, giving details of bird sightings, has been restored; it is updated weekly during the winter, but more frequently in the spring migratory season.

John Malpass, committee member.

Meet your committee

Peter Darley
Peter Darley

Peter Darley has been a member of the Friends for over fifteen years, and recently joined the committee. He says he is feeling his way as to what his main role on the committee should be while contributing his enthusiasm and time. He believes the Friends must defend the current structure of the parks, with both formal and wild areas, and also protect the Royal Parks from damage and overuse by, for example, exhibitions, fairs and other large gatherings. One suggestion he has for the Friends is to sponsor and help maintain a bird hide in one of the wild areas, which would give the public, and school parties, a chance to observe birds in a natural environment.

Like everyone, Peter is concerned about the reduction in public funding for the parks, and wants the Friends to keep pressure on the government to maintain adequate funding. He says that the government should recognise that the parks are a resource for all of London, not just local residents and Friends, and should tailor their funding to reflect how much they are used. Private donations and bequests could be targeted at specific projects. Those using the sports facilities should continue to make a contribution, but ultimately it is the government’s responsibility to provide adequate funds for the upkeep of the Royal Parks.

Peter has lived in Primrose Hill since 1975, when he bought the basement and ground floor of a house that had been converted into flats. From there he could walk across Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park each day to his office in Cavendish Square, and also enjoy walking his dog and running in the parks, and foraging for blackberries and mushrooms (now discouraged!). Later he purchased the top floor and, when finally the first floor became available, could create a home for his wife, son, two daughters, and a dog. Now he has separated the floors of the house again, to give his son and a daughter and their families their own flats. He is particularly proud of the garden with its number and variety of trees, including a very tall silver birch and a large paperbark maple he planted when he first moved in.

Camden Goods Station
Camden Goods Station Book

In 2007 Peter set up the Camden Railway Heritage Trust. In 2014 his book Camden Goods Station Through Time was published, which reproduces some very interesting prints, photographs and maps of local areas including Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park. The book costs £12 if purchased directly via Darleyp@aolcom). All proceeds from its sale go to the Trust.

Margaret Elliott

For the diary

Annual General Meeting St John’s Wood, Church Hall, Lords Roundabout, London NW8 7NE Thursday 23 April 2015. 6.30 for 7.00 pm
Big Fun Charity Walk for North London Hospice footpaths in Primrose Hill & Regent’s Park 22 March
King’s Troop calendar April
RSPB Heron Watch Lakeside April
Gorilla Circus Northwest corner of Regents Park 2 May- 6 September
Thames Bridges Charity Bike Ride Outer circle 10 May
St John’s Hospice Sponsored Walk footpaths in Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park 16 May
Metropolitan Police Dog and Community Day Primrose Hill 16 May
Walkathon St Joseph’s School 22 May
Race for Life Cumberland Green and footpaths 30 May
Taste of London Marylebone Green 17-21 June
Bach Cantata series starts Royal Academy of Music Kohn Foundation, Duke’s Hall 19 April, 12 noon

Open Air Theatre

Lord of the Flies
George Bukhari and Alistair Toovey as Piggy and Ralph in Lord of the Flies

15 May-14 June Peter Pan by J M Barrie.
(by arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity**)
The original play is rediscovered within the context of WW1.
19 June-11 July The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
16 July-29 August Seven Brides for Seven Brothers by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay
3 September-12 September Lord of the Flies

Book by telephone 0844 826 4242 or online. There will be a special rate for the Friends of £25 for the best available seats bookable in person at the Box Office from two days prior to the performance. There is a maximum of two seats per transaction and this excludes the Premium Seats and performances on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

** The Great Ormand Street Hospital connection is explained here...


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Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill

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Site created on Friday 25th February 2011, last edited Wednesday 18th March 2015.
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