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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday  7th April 2007
Listen to this programme in full
Stag in Richmond Park
Richmond Park is just twelve miles from central London and yet it has some of the richest and most diverse wildlife Britain has to offer. Helen Mark meets those who work there and some of the three million people who
visit each year.
Of all the wildlife in the Park it is the deer which have the strongest association with it. There are around 650 in total, some of which are the direct descendants of the deer which were hunted by Henry VIII. John Bartram has been working as a wildlife officer in Richmond Park for around forty years and explains the impact of the deer in creating the park landscape. The photograph above is used with kind permission of the Royal Parks.

The Park is used for all manner of activities, one of the most common of which is Nordic Walking. As Helen learns, it’s a fitness activity which is best described as cross-country skiing without skis. Properly done it utilises 90 per cent of the skeletal muscles. Francis Mitchell is a Nordic Walking instructor and gives Helen a lesson in how to do it.

David McDowell lives next to the Park and has written a book on the walks that can be taken through it. He shows Helen some of the park’s veteran oaks, but also voices his concern about the impact of human activity on the wildlife in the Park. He says the increase in the number of dogs being let of their leads has led to the loss of mammals including hare and bird species such as nightjar.

Deer may be the best known species in the Park but the Park has a plethora of unusual wildlife including stag beetles. Nigel Reeve is the Park Ecologist and takes Helen to one of the invertebrate piles they’ve built to encourage the beetles.

The Isabella Plantation is regarded as one of the best woodland gardens in the country. It’s famed for its azaleas which come into flower at the end of April. The Head Gardener Gary Scarffe takes Helen on a tour of Isabella.

There’s a true sense of community in Richmond Park, so much so that it even has its own police force. Helen meets Inspector Mark Foden, who after a career on the front line in inner city London has just taken up a post in the Park. He’s an RSPB member and after just six months in the post says he’s fallen in love with the place.
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