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Blog 15: Update of Past and Present Events

Blog 15: Update of Past and Present Events

EVENTS in the PARK – Past and Possible
Hyde Park’s events, throughout the ages, have characterised the space, and are arguably the defining feature for this particular Royal Park. From Pink Floyd to Taylor Swift, Rock and Pop concerts have attracted millions of fans to the famous Parade Ground. The BBC Proms provide an eclectic mix of live performances, while the bandstand has recently been revived by none other than the Friends Group for a selection of intimate concerts. And of course, there is Winter Wonderland, now a small city of lights, bars and arcades, as well as the Serpentine Swim and Royal Parks Half Marathon. A busy calendar that attracts people from all over the world.

This year, however, the majority of the park’s events have had to be cancelled. Over the past two weekends when BST was supposed to have taken place, music would have been blasting across the open parade ground to thousands of dancing revellers. To not have these iconic events is devastating, especially considering how much The Royal Parks as a Charity relies on them.

One event that has been able to take place, albeit much more low-key, was the 15th anniversary of the 7/7 London bombing. The morning was very appropriate and heartening with the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, among others, laying floral wreaths at the base of the memorial. With the summer sun rising in the sky the leaning shadows of the 52 metal pillars were projected across the ground, adding an ethereal feeling.

This week also saw the reopening of the Serpentine Swimming Club, which I am sure has been very much welcomed by the dedicated swimmers who take the cold plunge throughout the year. It was a pleasure to see people joyfully swimming in The Serpentine again.

If any of you have taken a wander in the parks this weekend you would have seen our new signs promoting the #summerofkindness campaign. A TRP wide campaign, we hope to engage people in three core principles; enjoy the park, be kind to others, and respect the environment. As the parks have been placed under huge amounts of pressure in the past couple months, especially from excessive waste, the charity aims to promote a kind and respectful attitude while visiting the parks.

NATURAL LIFE in the Parks – Present
Kensington lacks national memorials and events etched on to the national psyche, but we do have living national heritage.

The year is racing by faster than I could ever have imagined. When we went into lockdown, we had just experienced the Spring Equinox, and we were all looking forward to longer evenings. The longer days also make for an explosion of life in the natural world. The plant and animal kingdom have a mad dash to complete their lifecycles and reproduce, exploiting the additional light, warmth and residual ground moisture before the days shorten and next winter is upon us.

It has been nearly 3 weeks since the summer solstice, and our longest day, and although it may feel like summer it has yet to begin for many of us, in the natural world, much of the growth has hit is zenith.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the meadows of Buck Hill, where today you can see a large range of wildflowers on display at the moment.

A meadow in the city. The Knapweed seems to be particularly popular with the butterflies, a Meadow Brown and possibly a Common Skipper seen having their supper.

The most conspicuous colour at the moment comes from the low green-yellow froth of Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum) which drifts through upright purple clumps of Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra). Dotted between them are the flat white heads of Common Yarrow (Achillia millifolora), and Red Clovers (Trifolium pratense) making a welcome appearance low down in the thatch. Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolate) is just starting to go over to seed, and the Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is welcome here, with its delicate trumpet flowers painted with a touch of pink.

All this diversity, and much more was on display to me in a small 2m x 2m area, and it provides vital nectar, habitat and larval feed plants for so many of our native invertebrate species. Of the two most obvious at this time of year, one makes its presence known by sound rather than sight. The grasshoppers and crickets make a sound that even drown out the noise of the busying city in the background. The butterflies do not seem to be having as good a year as last, but there is still plenty fluttering about the meadow, gorging themselves on the plentiful nectar supplies.

Heard but not often seen, is it a Grass Hopper or a Cricket, even after asking an ecologist I still can’t tell the difference!

Soon enough though, the wildflower display will have passed, and the seeds will be ripening, ready to create the future generations.

The Buck Hill meadows are the most ecologically rich meadows in Kensington gardens, and as habitats a vital part of ensuring that they can continue to exist is to make sure that they are managed appropriately. Once the wildflowers have set their seeds in August, the meadows shall be systematically cut back hard. The ‘hay’ created will then be left for the seed to fall out for a short time before the hay is gathered in. It is important to do this as the thick bladed grasses compete for light, ground water. The think bladed grasses also thrive in soils richer nutrients – the purpose of removing the hay is to remove a source of nutrients (the decaying vegetation). Wildflowers thrive in nutrient poor soils, and this also prevents the regeneration of the ground back towards scrubby woodland. To help the wildflowers further, in the spring, we also undertake a harrow. This scarification process cuts into the thatch of the meadow, opening it up, beating back the thick grasses and encouraging the growth of the wildflower plants. These processes have been undertaken in recent years using a traditional low impact method using Shire Horses. We hope that they can return soon, as we have missed them during the Coronavirus mitigation measures.

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