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Blog 27 Operation Centaur & Friends Reaches 700 Members

Blog 27 Operation Centaur & Friends Reaches 700 Members

This exotic name isn’t the title of a new Ben Macintyre book. Regular visitors to both Parks may well have seen this project in action.

At about mid-morning you may see a large horsebox rumbling along Policeman’s Path towards the Old Police House in Hyde Park. As it passes you may also notice, through its tiny windows, pairs of pricked up ears.

Giant Shire horses leisurely disembark and are ready for their days work. Roughly three times a year they visit each of the rough meadow areas at Buck Hill (Kensington Gardens) and in the north of Hyde Park.

They Spring harrow, seed and roll and towards the end of the year do a rough harrow, this last to take out the matted thatch.

We were lucky to see William and Joey on a glorious Autumn day go about their work in Hyde Park. Their size is deceiving as their hooves are very light on the ground and cause far less damage than any mechanised piece of equipment. William is a youngster who came from a rescue centre where he was born, he did not experience neglect or ill-treatment. Joey is the senior partner.

They are horse members of a group which live in Richmond Park and sadly are the last working horses in London. The Shires are becoming rather a rare breed.

They work in blinkers and go at quite a brisk pace, their handler walking behind, chatting and encouraging them. If they get mixed up in low-hanging branches they stand patiently while their helpers sort out the upended harrowing equipment (it is quite light) before setting off again.

They find the harrowing equipment easy to work with. “If they stay in the fields all day and don’t work”, we were told by one of their attendants “they get depressed and lose muscle tone”.

While we were admiring them, they were being filmed for Alan Titchmarsh’s “Love your Weekend” Sunday morning show on ITV. It’s due, we gathered, to be screened in mid to late November.


For some time, we have been hovering just below having 700 members of the Friends.

Our hardworking membership secretary, Lynden Easton, (who is also responsible for sending out the weekly blogs) has been keeping an eye on our membership levels and last week she gave us the good news. In happier times we would have raised a glass together to celebrate the achievement.

I have been able to talk to Victoria Hobday, our member number 700, and she told me what she loves about the Parks.

Victoria tells us:

- she has meant to join for some time and then buying a little Brompton Bike for exercise was the trigger.

- she says it’s a beautiful pair of Parks to cycle in for her as she is not a Lycra sort of cyclist and she finds the cycle routes just right with enough hills and slopes to challenge. Always being in amongst trees and with views is wonderful.
- she says the best coffee house in London is at the Lido. Meeting a friend here is favourite and being able to sip the excellent coffee while watching the endlessly interesting birds all around you is really special.
- the birds in particular are wonderful with their “fabulous feet” and different characteristics.

Altogether she says we are so lucky to have these beautiful spaces to enjoy, and we are pleased to have her as our latest member.

Sue Price

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