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Chair Sits Back

Chair Sits Back

Welcome to our combined April /May newsletter. I am in the lucky position of being able to introduce our guest editor.
Paul Shelley, our accredited photographer, has been in and out of both Parks these last few weeks and has taken masses of wonderful new photos.
Dr Livingstone I presume?

It turned out that “April is the cruellest month“(T S Eliot, a local resident) as it was mostly very cold and miserable.

We started with daffodils looking amazing all over Hyde Park and against wild skies beside the Serpentine, and were stunning. By the end of the month we crept into May and Paul takes over……….

The blossom was magnificent this year – until the wind and rain came. The North Flower Walk in Kensington Gardens has been a particularly spectacular spot for cherry blossom. The walk is a little known gem in the parks which has been much improved in the last year or two.

Take a stroll along it and you will see the intricate wooden sculptures, one of which makes an intriguing bench. There is some fascinating planting designed to be friendly to insects whilst also being colourful and attractive. And of course there is the blossom and soon, the summer flowers provide a stunning backdrop.

It has been interesting to note that this spring the cherry blossom has been an attraction to young Japanese. It was a delight to see this elegant young woman and her friends taking in the beauty of one of the trees along the walk.

This was a rare chance to see inside the vast nursery, where the bedding plants for the Royal Parks and Buckingham Palace are grown. It is a secret hiding in plain sight in the middle of Hyde Park, but unknown to most because it is low down in an old gravel pit and surrounded by a belt of woodland

The nursery is not open to the public but thanks to the kindness of Rob Dowling, the Manager, a group of 30 members and guests were given an insight into the workings of this important part of the Royal Parks machine.

Rob introduced the evening by explaining the background, to the recent construction of the present nursery complex. He took us from room to room, each with a different temperature, humidity, and scents. We saw tiny seedlings and large rubber plants. Tall geraniums destined for the Palace and tree ferns. We were shown the scientific approach to benign pest control, unnoticed until it was pointed out to us.

Guests were invited to choose a “Going home present” from a large selection of the giant bright red Buckingham Palace geraniums. A difficult decision.

We all enjoyed a cool Pimms and some delicious nibbles and, after thanking Rob for his generous help, contentedly strolled back across the park to our tube stations, comparing notes along the way.

Chairs note: A few geranium flower heads were spotted along the route home …

    Weds 28th June 10am to 3pm

After all the plants have gone out to the Royal Parks and Buckingham Palace and some spares have been kept, there are usually some left overs. These are really high quality plants in a wide range of varieties and colours.

Our members are lucky enough to be invited to this private sale for the ‘Friends’ and all takings go the The Royal Parks charity.

Members are invited to bring friends, family and neighbours with them. Help will be arranged to get plants to the nearest car park for those who wish to buy a quantity. Lots of planting advice will be available.

The nearest car park is at the Triangle Car Park and along the West Carriage Drive, both just north of the Serpentine Bridge.

The nursery entrance is about 200 meters east along the private park road, heading towards the Old Police House. It is marked on maps.

There is a secure gate which will be attended and it will open at:
10am prompt.

Our thanks to Manager Rob Dowling and his team of experts.


If you drop into the Italian Gardens café in Kensington Gardens you will notice a new rock garden that is being created by Russell Stevens and his team. It’s a fascinating project which reflects the trend towards landscaping which can survive in semi arid conditions.

Bumping into Russell who was hard at work, he took time to explain to us the concept of the garden. The initial prompt to create the change to the planted apron round the front of the café from the seating deck was that the slope down to the pathway was too steep. Soil was gradually encroaching onto the drive. Furthermore, the angle of the slope only enabled grasses to grow. Dogs were running over it and the bank was becoming a rather sad sight.

Thinking laterally, Russell decided that the best solution was to create something completely different. First of all a low fence was installed along the front of the area to keep animals and pedestrians out. This has not resulted in any inconvenience because there are gentle access ramps at either end of the café.

Rocks were implanted to stabilise the ground and a soil material of deliberately poor quality was imported from nearby in the parks. Russell explained that the planting medium should not be too nutrient rich. In fact the plants to be used thrive in conditions where they are put under a degree of stress. It is impressive to think that the materials are largely moved from nearby locations.

Finally a group of olive trees complete the garden which promises to be an attraction to passers by as they look at its progress through the summer. One of our members who lives in Bristol loves dropping into the café for a coffee whenever he is in London. It’s one of his favourite spots in the capital.

We can’t offer punts on the Cambridge Backs, but the next best thing must be the luxury of messing about in boats on the water in central London on a long, June evening.

Thanks to new manager, Tom Kiddey, we have been invited to the boat house on the edge of the Serpentine in Hyde Park, to enjoy a taster of either rowing or pedalling (pedalos). If either of these aren’t attractive, a drift on the water, in an electric boat driven by one of Tom’s master mariners, might appeal. We’ll help out with Pimms or a delicious non-alcoholic alternative and some small things to eat to keep the sailors steady.

Soft shoes are recommended and the ability only to climb in and out of boats (with plenty of help) or just sitting, and watching and sipping, is also an option.

While on the subject of water, although the government has relaxed the bird flu regulations, there is still a problem with birds (especially water fowl) dying in the parks. The managers are concerned that Avian Flu has not disappeared so please, still no feeding and signage will remain in place.

Some of our longer standing members will remember that there were buggies which gave rides in the parks, to those less able to get around on foot

These were owned and run by a separate charity and driven by volunteers. That charity was wound up a few years ago, and the buggies kept in store in Hyde Park. Our Friends group has campaigned for a long time for some of these to be resurrected and used for the same purpose. That was to help with accessibility to our hundreds of acres for those who are less physically able, and would really enjoy access to areas which they may well have visited and enjoyed in the past. Younger visitors too may need help in covering the large distances. A couple of the buggies have gone off to Greenwich and Bushy Parks, and are being driven by volunteers there and we have reports of them being much enjoyed and a great success.

We would like the ability to get them back into use in our two parks. The volunteer drivers are still ready and willing, and a good system for training them was in place and could easily be resurrected. We have a trustee who worked tirelessly in the past, and is happy to take on any new format or arrangements which might be needed to improve accessibility for all groups to enjoy visiting these two world famous parks.

Sue Price.
19th May

Paul Shelley
Rob Dowling
Anne Greenstock
John Foldes