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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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Walking the Mistletoe

With Tyrrell Marris and Graham Dillamore, Saturday 12th February 2011

The Friends’ first outside event of the year is always a good occasion. A large crowd gathered at our Lion Gate meeting place. The weather started off a little chilly but the sun came out later and 70 of us joined Tyrrell Marris who has led the first part of the walk for many years, as we came to admire the first examples of mistletoe in the Wilderness. They are low down on a small tree. It gave a very good view of a small bunch of mistletoe, with its white berries and tiny yellow flower heads, which when struck by the low winter sun might well have given mistletoe its “Golden Bough” reputation.

Mistletoe spreads by its sticky seed being deposited on a smoothish lateral branch by birds, mainly Mistlethrushes wiping their beaks clean after eating the berries. The seed starts to grow causing a slight swelling on the host branch. Mistletoe does no damage at all to a large tree as it only takes liquid from its host because the evergreen leaves of mistletoe produce all the chlorophyll it needs to grow. Smaller trees may suffer slower growth, but will not be damaged. The other side of the pathway Tyrrell showed us a huge tree with magnificent bunches of mistletoe.

We moved on to the avenue of Lime trees in the formal gardens of the palace. Planted in 1987 and miraculously surviving the hurricane, the avenue is now host to many bunches of mistletoe. The most recent survey has found mistletoe on more than half these trees. The corner or end trees of any avenue will often have more mistletoe than the other trees. This is probably because it is the first tree that the birds come to. At this point we had a Latin lesson, as well – and all this for free – Mistletoe is Viscum (sticky) Album (white); named after the berries.

We moved on to the Long Water, dug originally in Charles I’s time. William and Mary planted the original lime avenue. Over time many trees died and were replaced in a rather haphazard fashion, so between 2002 and 2004 the avenue was replanted. The trees were brought from Holland when they were about 10 years old and they are growing well. Surveys have been carried out to establish if and when mistletoe will be found there. This year for the first time there were tiny sprigs on tree number 17. Just two tiny leaves.

Nicholas Garbutt then took us to see some of the Yew trees. One or two have died and have had to be removed for safety, others pruned for the same reason. Compaction is a problem. This is caused by too many people walking over the root area of the tree; so much work has been done to improve the soil. Air has been injected at high pressure to loosen the soil below and a mulch placed around the tree to keep people off and help feed the tree. Eventually the Yews might have to be replaced, but there are no immediate plans at the moment.

Nicholas led us through the 20th Century Garden, closed now for restoration work, but a wonderful haven in a quiet area close to where the Longford River enters from Bushy Park. The garden is due to open in a few months and is well worth a visit. It used to be where the apprentice gardeners to the palace learned their trade. From there we went into Home Park and visited Nicholas’ favourite tree. It is a 300 year old Lime. So old that it is hollow and now home to all sorts of hole loving fauna; Jackdaws, Little Owls, Bats, and of course, the ubiquitous Ring-necked Parakeets. The tree is fenced off for safety reasons, but the deer don’t know that and frequently break the fence down.

We walked across a little of the acid grassland; so important to the two parks and through the gardens again to the huge False Acacia tree in the south west corner of the palace, where there are massive bunches of mistletoe. We had told Nicholas, whose first Mistletoe Walk with the Friends this was, that each year when we arrived at this tree a Mistlethrush would appear. No pressure then, but on cue a Mistlethrush flew into the tree. Nicholas had a recording of the song and played this. The bird was clearly puzzled and eventually, after posing on top of a nearby wall, flew off. What a great end to a fascinating morning.

Most grateful thanks from all of us to Tyrrell Marris and Nicholas Garbutt.

Pieter Morpurgo, February 2011

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Walks & Talks

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A perimeter walk of Home Park led by Nicholas Garbutt was enjoyed by over 45 people on 2nd September.

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