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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

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Chairman’s Annual Report - 2011

This time last year we were still awaiting news of our charity status and we were about to have the car parking charges imposed.

We won on both counts. Tribute must be paid to Dr. Tom Blaney for his hard work and perseverance in gaining the charity status. We have created a range of merchandise which is on sale both at events and at the Information Point in the Pheasantry. All the profits go to our annual appeal, which this year we are proposing to buy 20 Bay trees to replace the invasive rhododendron ponticum along one of the boundary fences. By law they have to be removed. The Pheasantry continues to grow in popularity and the Friends’ contribution when manning the desk at the weekends helps to keep the profile of the Friends in the public eye. The public seem to appreciate having some advice about what to see and do while they visit the park. The trustees and committee are most grateful to all the volunteers who give a couple of hours every now and again to help. If anyone else is interested in helping out please contact Rosemary MacColl. We are preparing park maps with information about the Friends to be on sale there at 20p. This is to replace the very popular maps which the Royal Parks are no longer supplying.

We have had a very good series of walks and talks again throughout the year. We are most grateful to all the speakers and walk leaders for giving us such entertaining events and thanks to Jane for organising them.

As always the chestnut trees are being watched very carefully to determine how much damage the leaf miner and the bleeding canker are doing. The park team cleared all the fallen leaves in the autumn to try to deter the leaf miner. The other problem is the Oak Processionary Moth. These, so far are only on the perimeters of the park, although it has been found in Home Park. The caterpillars form large clusters on the bark of the trees. If anyone sees what they suspect is an infestation, please inform the park office immediately. Do not go near them. The hairs are poisonous and can cause serious skin irritation and asthma.

In late February I had a meeting with the organising committee of the Olympics to discuss arrangements for the cycle races on 28th & 29th July next year. The route will go through Bushy Park from Teddington Gate to Lion Gate at about 10.30 on both days. Chestnut Avenue will be closed to traffic, of course, but the organisers will keep the closure to a minimum. There will be barricades but no other structures will be erected. There is a slight risk with respect to the deer. As on Chestnut Sunday there will probably just disappear, but there is always the possibility they might get spooked and set off at a gallop, but the organisers are very well aware of that slight chance. I suggested that all dogs should be kept on leads throughout the park while the races are on. There will be a test event on August 14th.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport who currently manage the Royal Parks are proposing to hand over management duties to the Mayor of London’s office. At the moment the Localism Bill is going through Parliament and the chairman of The Friends of Richmond Park and I have set up the Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum which has the support of 26 other local groups to attempt to safeguard all the Royal Parks. You will have seen in the last newsletter our 7 point plan, much of which follows the idea of The Big Society so that local groups can have some influence over how decisions are made in the running of the parks. The idea is to provide protection of the environment, and to make sure that the parks are not over exploited.

Our web site continues to work very well and has many visitors. Do please join in and let us know what you have seen in the parks with photos as well, or anything else you’d like to say about the parks. Mark updates it regularly so it’s a good way to keep in touch with what’s going on. The web site address is fbhp.org.uk and it’s also on your membership card. We hold photographic competitions on the web site throughout the year. Thanks to Mark Buckley for organising all that.

I’d like once again to thank all the trustees and members of the committee for their work and enthusiasm throughout the year. If anyone else is interested in giving the Friends a little more support in protecting our parks, we really could do with some help on the committee with maybe – leading walks or writing reports of them for the newsletter and web site or volunteering at the Welcome Centre.

The spending review will hit the Royal Parks. Overall there are to be cuts of over 30%. Head Office has decided to cut the Education team completely from Bushy, which means that Hannah Pritchard, who has done such a marvellous job not only with local schools but who, in collaboration with the Friends has been instrumental in setting up the Information Point at the Pheasantry, is to leave later in the year. Another of the things we will all notice is that the litter collection around the park will be severely reduced. It is very expensive – it costs £130,000 a year, and is one of the “front line services” that we will see affected. There will be more use of the park for things like film shoots. It’s a way of increasing revenue and goes some way to alleviate the budget cuts. As far as the Friends are concerned, I think we all agree that any damage to the Parks of any of these extra activities must be kept to an absolute minimum and we will continue to work with the management to help them achieve that goal.

English Heritage and DCMS have promoted the Diana Fountain from a Grade II listed structure to Grade I status. This is excellent news as it recognises Bushy Park as an ever more important site. Now we need to gain our SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status.

Finally I must record the death of Ken Lovell, for many years our newsletter editor. He died after a long illness just after Christmas.

Pieter Morpurgo, Chairman. February 2011.

Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Thursday, 22nd Nov 8:00 pm

TALK by John Sheaf, “Bushy Park and the surrounding area in old photographs”

Latest report

On the morning of Saturday 3 November a group of members of the Friends assisted Sharon Evans, the Bushy Park Head Gardener, in planting an area of the Woodland Gardens.

Full report...