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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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Bushy passes Olympic test with flying colours

Bushy passes Olympic test with flying colours

The world-class cyclists top 40mph along Chestnut Avenue

Report by Andrew Robbins

Sunday 14th August saw the biggest trial event for the Olympics so far, as world-class cyclists tested out the route for next year’s road race – straight through the heart of Bushy Park.

It was a relaxed day, and a relaxed build-up to the big event. On an overcast, but warm Sunday morning, the spectators began to arrive, on foot and by bicycle; families and children, couples and the idly curious, spreading themselves along the metal barriers lining Chestnut Avenue.

They were greeted at the Teddington Gate by a welcoming committee of police on their own bicycles, organisers coddling walkie-talkies, and volunteer stewards from the ‘London Prepares’ team.

As well as directing the public, the stewards manned various crossing points along the roads closed for the event.

“It’s quiet at the moment, but you still have to jump out of the way of police motorcycles every now and then,” said one, an hour before the racers reached Teddington.

He was one of 4,000 London Prepares volunteers, marshalled and dropped off with military precision all along the route, from their mysterious and unnameable ‘HQ’.

Outriders were approaching

Back in the park, spectators were beginning to accumulate. By 9.10am, with the race well underway, they saw ever-increasing numbers of support vehicles flash past: judges’ cars, police outriders, and the odd team van sporting roofracks of lean, mean racing machines.

Near the gate, Friends of Bushy & Home Parks member Norman Simmonds waited patiently as people trailed past, towards the Diana Fountain.

“It’s quite an occasion for Teddington – a one-off event,” he said.

Most people, it seemed, had turned out for the spectacle: “It’s nice to see the cyclists, and it’s a free event, so why not come?” said one.

Flying visit

As 9.30 approached, a tannoy announced the imminent arrival of the first racers: “Four riders are ahead of the pack by 20 seconds”. It was becoming harder to find a gap along the crowd control barriers, as necks craned to see what was going on.

Hampton resident John Latham was on station with the Evison family, including his grandchildren. Turning round to them, he announced: “They’re coming!”

All at once, the sporadic passage of support vehicles became a continuous stream, as spectators raised their arms and began to clap. Under the engine roars came the grasshopper hissing of bicycles hitting 40mph on the straight. In a blur of metal and colour, the four leaders were past and gone.

The Evisons were impressed: “It’s an iconic event,” declared Mr Latham. “We’re excited about Teddington being part of the Olympics, and it’s bringing people out to our lovely local park.”

The clapping intensified as the main pack arrived; whipping through Chestnut Avenue and curving round the Diana Fountain as sinuously as the fish in its waters.

Applauding the cyclists

Normal service resumed

Within minutes of their passing, the hard-working park staff immediately sprang into action – stacking barriers onto forklifts and removing cones. Normal traffic and mere mortal cyclists began to flow once more.

The Bushy Park team had been at work since 6am – as they are every day – emptying bins and litter picking.

Said one: “If you divide the amount spent on this test event, about £2m, by the number of people who turned up to see it. all along the route, it works out at about 10p per person.

“For that, people have been very entertained, on a lovely Sunday morning, and it’s even attracted people to the park who never knew it existed before.”

Safeguarding wildlife

Royal Parks Manager Ray Brodie and his team began planning for the Olympic test event six months ago.

“We’ve been talking to stakeholders such as the local authority; the Friends of Bushy Park; the sports clubs; the London 2012 organising committee, LOCOG; Transport for London and so on, working out all the details, including a health and safety plan,” he said.

“For example, we’ve given advice to LOCOG on the deer and their behaviour. On the day itself, we had two wildlife officers stationed on either side of the park, to keep an eye on the herds.

Spectators applaud the Olympic test event cyclists in Bushy Park

“The deer are wild animals and the park is their home. They’ve got nowhere else to go, so we had to err on the side of caution, and ask dog owners to keep their pets on leads.”

The team expected numbers in the park to match the popular Chestnut Sundays, when thousands visit. Ray expects the event to be a great advert for the park.

“It’s a spectacle, and it’s great that we’ve been included, and that the Olympics isn’t just in the East,” he said. “We’re helping to showcase London.”

Countdown to 2012

Pieter Morpurgo, Chairman of The Friends of Bushy & Home Parks, watched the race from just south of the Diana Pond.

“It was over very quickly, but everyone seemed to enjoy it,” he said. “One of the concerns had been that loose dogs might panic the deer into charging across the road, but they were all kept on leads, as requested.”

He is already looking forward to the real race – one of the first medals of the London 2012 Olympics.

“ Next year’s event should be even more enjoyable,” he said.

A big thank you to Andrew Robbins for writing this special article for the Friends of Bushy & Home Parks. www.robbinscopywriting.co.uk

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