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Our Parks' Story Continues

Our Parks' Story Continues

“Fill Dike” February

Apologies to you all that our February newsletter has slipped into March.

Slipping and sliding are about right for both parks at the moment, but not on icy cold crisp winter mornings. February has lived up to its name, and I’ve never seen so much standing water and for so long in both Parks. Take a few steps away from a path’s hard surface in some areas, and you are quite likely to sink in over your ankles.

Our photo library of trees and plants, covered with a hard frost and even snow flurries and rows of snowmen, has not been replenished this year.

The compensation is the early blossom and masses of spring bulbs and flowers. There’s plenty to enjoy.

An Unforgettable Christmas Eve

Our story continues ….

A driver with passengers, who was probably racing along West Carriage Drive, lost control of his vehicle and ploughed along the Serpentine Bridge causing a massive amount of damage to the parapet and structure of the grade 1 listed bridge.

Jo, who was on duty that night, is The Hyde Park technical officer and was (Jason tells us) the star of the Royal Parks team. We visited the site with Jo to get an update.

Conservation architects and structural engineers have been appointed.

The bridge is constructed of solid Bath stone and brick work with thick Bath stone facings.

Repairing it is a complex job, and the bad news is that it has been shifted out of shape so realignment is needed.

Work will start in the Summer and go through to Spring 2025, followed by reopening in Summer 2025.

Jo and Hyde Park manager Jason Taylor have moved all the whole pieces of balustrade into safe storage. While we were taking our photos, I spotted another large piece high up the banks in a bush, and Jo pointed out large chunks in the water. The impact must have been like an explosion.

I bumped into one of Jo’s family who told me that she was a bit weary later on Christmas Day when she was joining in Christmas games ….. enough song and dance on Christmas Eve!

New Faces

Welcome to them all. We had the great pleasure recently to meet two newly appointed members of staff both with backgrounds outside the Royal Parks. There have been more appointments recently and, so, there will be further introductions before too long.

Pat Kelly:
is the new Assistant Manager in Kensington Gardens.

In the last few years, he has been running his own business and before that he worked with the NT at Ham House and Petersham meadows.

His experience working with volunteers at the National Trust will be very helpful, and his great love is horticulture. His passion is landscape photography (Paul looked nervous) and he studied photography at college.

Pat chose the little shingle beach by the Henry Moore statue for his photo. It is a safe place which has been created for all the waterfowl to rest and relax, away from dogs off leads and away from marauding foxes. A small gulley of water and a fine mesh fence separates it from the land.

Welcome to Pat and we look forward to meeting him again before too long.

Darren Share:
is our new Director of all the Royal Parks. His office is in the Old Police House.

He comes from Birmingham City Council where he looked after a comprehensive portfolio, including all parks and open spaces, and was one of the driving forces behind Birmingham’s annual entry at Chelsea Flower Show. This main pavilion stand always wins a gold medal, although Darren tells me I’m wrong and they missed a gold on a couple of occasions.

When we met Darren, his chosen backdrop was the nursery as plants are what he loves most.

He told us he had already visited all the parks for an overview and was now about to embark in more in-depth meetings and focus on managers’ wishes for particular plans and projects.

When we spoke, he was into his sixth week at the Royal Parks.
His answer to “What are your early thoughts?”
It’s wonderful.
I love it more every day”.

We wish him luck and hope that perhaps we can start on our own path to the Chelsea Flower Show?

Another new arrival who we are looking forward to meeting is Matt Pottage who comes from the RHS where he has been curator of Wisley for many years and created many fine growing attractions there.

What can you see down there?

Some enormous pots have been delivered to Hyde Park. They are earmarked for a space, perhaps at the Lido, where they will be stunning points of interest. They have The Royal Parks logo on them and are beautiful.

I actually think this photo is worth a best caption competition but haven’t the energy to organise it. Apart from thinking about planting these whoppers, we were discussing how to fix them to the ground, theft’s not likely but maybe some attempt to push one over is a grim possibility.

Magnificent Mimosa Dimity Spiller writes…..

How can something so fragile and exotic as ‘Mimosa’ flourish in a cold, grey, early spring, London? Coming round a street corner, you can smell the scent before you see the bright yellow blossoms. The tree’s origin is Australian, and the quotation marks are because it is not a member of the true mimosa family but an acacia, acacia dealbata. It is fast growing and though not very long-lived, it has colonised countries with a Mediterranean-type climate around the world, indeed it is deemed invasive in some, such as Spain and Portugal.

The vast specimen by the Old Police House has been so vandalised by thieves that it is not in flower this year. However, we can still enjoy the heady scent and joyous yellow flowers, as there is a small stand of trees by the north entrance to the Rose Garden, and several flourishing bushes in the plantation between the Bandstand and St George.

Restoration Drama

Paul Shelley writes…..

The restoration of the parade ground following Winter Wonderland continues apace. It’s impressive to see, twice a year, the coordinated operation to repair the area after the winter funfair and the summer concerts. Any of you walking through the north-eastern side of Hyde Park recently will have noticed the serried ranks of wheelbarrows and long temporary netting fences. Subsoil is levelled and turf carefully laid on top.

What I didn’t expect to see as part of the process was a fierce looking hawk being tended by its keeper. But there, within the fencing, stood a man wearing a gauntlet with a large bird on his wrist. What a magnificent sight. The bird, complete with a small bell attached by a chain to its leg, was resting and being fed with chunks of raw meat which it was tearing into with relish. Engaging with the falconer, I established that the bird is a Harris hawk. Originating from the south-west United States, it has the advantage of not being familiar to our crows. Apparently, the crows land on the new turf and upend it in search of worms and insects.

This would negate all the good work being done to create smooth new turf, so the hawk is an effective tool within the whole ground restoration plan. It’s a carefully thought-through process from start to finish. Keep flying over the parade ground, Harris the hawk!

AGM – Hold the date

Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Wednesday 3rd July, 6pm.

This will take place once again at the Look Out (now renamed The Hyde Park education and learning centre) this is at the kind invitation of Graham Alderton, the centre manager. Buggy transport can be arranged for those who would find the walking distances a problem. More detailed arrangements will be circulated nearer the time.

The meeting and presentations will be followed by a drinks reception.

And Finally…..

Although the snowdrops have melted away, the parks are now covered with narcissi, trees covered with early blossom and beautiful Camelias and magnolias.

Exotic hellebores are everywhere, and gardener James showed us his specimens in the beds close to the Cavalry Memorial. As the flowers fade, he told us, the markings become more prominent. Spot the striking strong yellow ones close to the Albert Memorial and….do enjoy a walk as the days grow noticeably longer.

Sue Price
Paul Shelley
Rob Dowling
June Mangan

Lynden Easton

Sue Price