autumn-colours

Autumnal colour on display in Bushy Park, south-west London. For more on the history of the park, see our earlier post here.

PICTURE: David Adams

• This weekend London host’s the 10th Liberty Festival, a showcase of deaf and disabled artists. Free events – including live music, dance, street theatre, film and cabaret – are being held at several locations across the city over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, including in Trafalgar Square, the National Theatre, South Bank Centre, BFI Southbank and Picture, the Mayor of London’s Live Site at Potters Fields Park next to City Hall on the south bank of The Thames. Highlights of the event – a centrepiece of the Paralympic celebrations – include a “cabaret showcase of comedy, film and music” at Royal Festival Hall on Saturday, and a “jazz, blues and R&B spectacular” at BT London Live Trafalgar Square on Sunday. This year’s event, produced by the Mayor of London with Greenwich+Docklands Festivals, coincides with Unlimited, the London 2012 Festival’s showcase of disabled artists. For more details, see www.molpresents.com/liberty. For more on BT London Live Trafalgar Square, see www.btlondonlive.com.

• If you go down the woods (read Royal Parks) today…you will find a Teddy Bear’s picnic! Royal Parks is inviting children up to the age of 12 to attend three Teddy Bear’s picnics it’s holding in Richmond Park and Bushy Park this week. While one event has already gone (it was held yesterday), there’s still two to go – one at the Kingston Gate Playground in Richmond Park from 11.30am to 3.30pm today, and another at the Bushy Park Playground between 11.30am and 3.30pm tomorrow (Friday). Both afternoons feature free craft activities, games and a “best dressed ted” competition. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

Tragedy on the Thames: Princess Alice Disaster. This talk at the London Metropolitan Archives looks at an event which took place on 3rd September, 1878 when a day trip to Rosherville Pleasure Gardens in Gravesend turned to tragedy with more than 650 people dead after a collision on the Thames. The talk will discuss the coroner’s inquests and witness accounts before looking at some original documents held at the LMA. The free event is held on Monday from 2pm to 3pm. Booking essential (020 7332 3851). For more on the LMA, follow this link.

Westminster Abbey has unveiled a new website showing how the spectacular Cosmati pavement was brought back to life in a two year restoration project. The 13th century floor mosaic, which covers the floor in front of the High Altar, was hidden under carpets for more than 100 years before the restoration work was carried out. The new website features more than 40 films showing all elements of the restoration and interviews with experts about the pavement as well as an interactive map of the pavement. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org/conservation. You can also see our Treasures of London article on the pavement here.

• On Now: Animal Crackers – A Cartoon and Comic Bestiary. This exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury features characters including Mickey Mouse, Wallace and Gromit, Fred Basset and Rupert Bear as well as icons like the American Eagle, Russian Bear and financial Fat Cat and joke cartoons from publications including Punch, Private Eye, The Spectator and many national newspapers. More than 140 cartoons, caricatures, comics and graphic novels, created by more than 60 artists, are included in the display. Runs until 21st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

And so we come to the final entry in our special series on Royal Parks – Bushy Park (Royal Parks also look after Brompton Cemetery, but given it’s not strictly a park, we’ll deal with that in an upcoming post).

Lying off the beaten track near Hampton Court in south-west London, Bushy Park’s location means it’s perhaps the least glamourous of the Royal Parks we have looked at. Yet, like the other parks, its connection with royalty goes back a long way – in this case to the time of King Henry VIII.

The park was included as part of the Hampton Court estate given to the king by Cardinal Wolsey. Henry immediately transformed what had been farmland (complete with artifical medieval rabbit warrens, the remains of which can still be seen) into a deer chase and enclosed the park with a brick wall (a section of the original wall lies on the north side of Hampton Court Road).

The character of the park was altered again in 1610 when King Charles I ordered the creation of the Longford River, a 12 mile ornamental canal designed to bring water from the River Colne in Hertfordshire to the park’s water features.

Christopher Wren had a hand in the park’s design in 1699 when he designed Chestnut Avenue – a mile long formal roadway which runs through the centre of the park. He also added the round pond at its end and placed a fountain topped with a statue in its midst.

Known as the Diana Fountain after the Roman goddess of hunting, the statue (pictured above with Chestnut Avenue behind) actually represents one of Diana’s nymphs Arethusa. It was commissioned by King Charles I for his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, and originally stood at Somerset House before Oliver Cromwell moved it to the Privy Garden at Hampton Court and Wren then moved it to its current location.

The 17th and 18th century also saw the appearance of houses at the park to be used as hunting lodges (and the ranger’s home), and gardens were added.

Worth noting here is the story of shoemaker Timothy Bennet. A resident of nearby Hampton Wick, in 1752, when an old man, he successfully fought to ensure a public right-of-way through the park after the then ranger, Lord Halifax, ordered it closed to the public. There’s a monument to him outside Hampton Wick Gate and a walking path which runs across the park at perpendicular to Chestnut Avenue is still known as Cobbler’s Walk.

More gardens were added in the 20th century including the Waterhouse and Pheasantry Plantations. Other areas include the tranquil Woodland Gardens and the Water Gardens which are comprised of a Baroque-style collection of pools, cascades, basins and the canal. There are also a series of ponds – including a pond for model boats – to the east of Chestnut Avenue.

The park saw service in both World Wars. During the first, Canadian troops were stationed there (there’s a totem pole in the Woodland Garden marking this) and other areas within the park were used for growing produce as part of the “Dig for Victory” campaign.

During the second, it was used again for food production and in 1942 became a US base and later Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces – the location where General Dwight Eisenhower planned Operation Overland, the reinvasion of Europe which kicked off with the D-Day landings. There are memorials concerning this connection in the park’s north-east corner.

Facilities today include the Pheasantry Welcome Centre, which opened in 2009, and includes a cafe, toilets and information. There are also sporting facilities, a small cafe near the carpark and a children’s playground.

WHERE: The park lies north of Hampton Court Palace, just west of Kingston and Hampton Wick and south of Teddington (nearest train station is Hampton Wick or Hampton Court). WHEN: 24 hours except in September and November when it’s open between 8am and 10.30pm; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/Bushy-Park.aspx