diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I walked across Richmond Park in search of something to blog about. I found ten things. So here are posts about all ten, but only the first 100 words of each...

1) The Tamsin Trail is a 7½ mile all-weather circuit of Richmond Park. It runs around the edge of the park, nearly, apart from missing the foot of the hill beneath King Henry's Mound. You can walk it or you can cycle it, indeed it's the only officially sanctioned mountain biking trail within the park. It's described as almost car-free, which is true and therefore ideal for the less confident who'd rather not bump into anything. Yesterday the men in lycra were more likely to be on the roads rather than the trail, zipping round with helmets bowed and legs pistoning...

2) One of the joys of early spring, I always think, is the spectrum of greens displayed in our trees' foliage. Newly-unfurled leaves are usually a bright, lime green, creating a dazzling canopy that gradually darkens as summer approaches. April's the best month for light greens, indeed by mid-May the shades are usually darker and less vibrant, and by June/July everything's that dark green colour that exemplifies our parks and woodland until the autumn. One reason is that chloroplasts are still developing so leaves tend to be lighter, as well as thinner with fewer waxy layers to darken the green colour...

3) Damned be the oak processionary moth, a non-native species accidentally imported into SW London in 2005 and inexorably spreading. In high numbers the caterpillars cause defoliation of oak trees, and their hairs carry a toxin which can be a threat to human and animal health, causing rashes, eye irritation and respiratory problems. In southern Europe they have natural predators, but here they have none and all 33 London boroughs have now seen infestations. Spraying pesticides helps - the western edge of Richmond Park was done on May 2nd - but long-term this is a battle London is doomed to lose...

4) The Isabella Plantation is London's prettiest enclave, especially so at this time of year. The rhododendrons and azaleas are now at their peak, bursting out in pinks, reds, yellows and oranges across copious interlocked glades. It's very much a magnet for the retired, wandering round in awe of all these plants they haven't grown, and also for Asian tourists who knew it was worth their while crossing London to grab a photo that'll wow everyone at home. I could sense the muted anger when two ducks sent ripples across the Still Pond, destroying reflections folk had come miles to capture...

5) Not quite every minute, but with roaring regularity, Heathrow's planes spew out across Richmond Park. When easterly operations are in place, which is 30% of the time, aircraft heading for the continent make a beeline for the Isabella Plantation as they climb. This is underneath one of six Standard Instrument Departures routes, or SIDs, following corridors set in the 1960s known as Noise Preferential Routes, or NPRs. The northern half of Richmond Park gets away scot free. You could argue it's terrible and unnecessary, or you could argue it's best that noisy Airbuses cross swathes of green where nobody lives...

6) May kicks off the birthing season for the deer in Richmond Park, so keep your distance. And yet anyone can wander freely across the Park, as close as they like, because life in the UK isn't yet a nannying set of directives written by risk averse bureaucrats. This may be because deer don't attack and kill many Britons each year - on average only one. Bees and wasps kill three, dogs four and cattle five, which puts cigarettes, knives and air pollution into some kind of proportion. The UK's top wildlife killer, with ten deaths annually, is of course the...

7) The notices are clear enough, or at least I thought they were. "Dogs must be kept on leads at all times." The area around the perimeter of the Pen Ponds is permanently DMBKOLAAT, whereas the skylark breeding area in the long grass to the east is March to August only. And yet along she breezed, her hound defiantly off-leash, striding past the first sign and along the lakeside as if the rules didn't apply. Admittedly she veered off before she reached the swans nesting with their cygnets, but what use are unpoliced byelaws if they're only going to be ignored...

8) The Alton East and Alton West Estates, constructed along the Roehampton fringe of Richmond Park in the late 1950s, consist of Brutalist slab blocks, point blocks and low-level housing. Some see this as postwar social housing's architectural crowning glory. Wandsworth council, one suspects, are less keen. They've engineered an eight year redevelopment plan to cram in 1100 new homes, based on the idea that the low-level housing could have been higher, and by 2027 additional towers will poke above the park's tree-lined rim. Councils are limited to building on their own land when devising masterplans, so Alton's a no-brainer, and yet...

9) Near Barn Wood Pond I spotted a man flying a drone. That's naughty, I thought, because no-fly zones for drones have recently been extended. But it pays to check. In fact Heathrow's zone stops miles away and Battersea's is closer, but even the heliport's zone doesn't scrape the edge of Richmond Park. But it pays to check again. All eight of London's Royal Parks are officially no-drone zones, so this man was surely being very naughty. Except Richmond Park has a "Designated Flying Field", and that's where he was, so in fact all was fine. Always think before you tut...

10) The RV1 bus won't see out the summer but the RP1 bus is still going strong in Richmond Park, at least until the end of October. An accessible 16-seater minibus circles the Park three times every Wednesday morning, pauses for half an hour while the driver has lunch, then does two more circuits in the afternoon. Each loop takes over an hour so it's not fast, but it is an ideal way for the less mobile to reach the Isabella Plantation from a distant car park, entrance gate or TfL bus stop. I've never seen it in the flesh but...

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