Oh to be in England now that April’s here!
If the weather’s being kind to us there should be plenty of blossom on the trees. Starting at the park café and walking anti-clockwise towards the multi use games area; look out for the cherry trees. Their bark is easy to identify as it has a pattern of horizontal lines all over it; looking like hundreds of smiles! You’ll see several of them along the path before you get to the Parks Department storage containers.
While you’re on this stretch of the path, the small area of woodland on your right was once Greenwich parks department tree nursery; gifted to the University in the 1980’s and now very much overgrown. Take a moment to look northwards along the path through the trees to your right; there is a lovely view of the Groom’s cottage at the end of the hedge avenue. Colonel North’s Stud stables are just to the left of the groom’s cottage; they are the last remaining agricultural buildings in the borough. When the University sell this land they are scheduled for demolition. In his hey-day Colonel North had 64 horses in training; the most famous was Nunthorpe who won the Jubilee stakes at Kempton Park in 1891. North would take his house guests over to Newmarket by special train and hold a private race meeting, all his horses taking part!
April is the month most of our birds will be nesting; make the most of it for it will be the only time of year the Ring Necked Parakeets won’t be screaming. They are amazingly silent when nesting! The hedges in the park are “des. res.” for nesting birds. As you walk down into the little valley formed by the Pippenhall stream keep your eyes open for nesting birds. One of the easiest to spot is the Magpie’s nest; it’s usually near the top of a tree and is roofed over with a dome of twigs. There are two other birds that build a domed nest; the Wren and the Long tailed Tit. You never know what you can spot if you’re observant! The perimeter hedges along Gray’s (the rugby) field and the southern boundary with the Uni. field and Southwood campus are great places to look.
As you wander back to the café via the path alongside the Mansion buildings, look to your right and see if you can spot the small pond just west of the Uni tower block. There is the base of a fountain in this pond; it was once the centre piece of the Winter Gardens. Walking past the Winter Gardens again, glance to your right; the clock tower you can see is on North’s riding and carriage horse stable block. Once this was the first stables to be centrally heated. There was even a Turkish Bath to cure any horse that caught a chill!
Back to the café, there’s always a hot cuppa to make sure you don’t catch a chill!!
All parks have a great history, created as public open, green spaces by visionary men and women for the people to enjoy.