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Site of Special Scientific Interest status for London parks is confirmed

Two of London’s much-loved parks are recognised as being among the most important places for wildlife in England.

Natural England has confirmed the designation of Bushy Park and Home Park in the London Borough of Richmond as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Bushy Park and Home Park were first notified as of SSSI quality last September and following a consultation period Natural England has now formally confirmed the designation of the site.

SSSIs are the country’s best sites for wildlife and geology - there are more than 4,100 SSSIs in England, covering around 8 per cent of England.

The Bushy Park and Home Park SSSI has been designated because of its internationally significant populations of rare insects, the exceptionally large numbers of ancient and veteran trees growing on the site, and the presence of extensive areas of special grassland habitat.

The trees at Bushy Park and Home Park are survivors of a wood-pasture management that dates back to the 15th century. More than 200 veteran trees have been identified at the site of which 94 are classed as ancient. The site is one of only 44 sites nationally known to support more than 100 veteran trees and is the highest ranking of 10 comparable sites in the Greater London area.

The trees include oak and lime with some horse chestnut and sweet chestnut and around 16 other species of tree. A notable feature is the occurrence of a large number of very old hawthorn trees, many of which are festooned with mistletoe.

The great age of many of the trees also provides habitat for many rare species of wood feeding invertebrates and the site ranks amongst the top 5 in Britain for this highly specialised group of creatures, for which Britain has international importance.

Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells, said:

Natural England is delighted to confirm Bushy Park and Home Park as one of London’s newest Sites of Special Scientific Interest. This is a very important site in the heart of London for its special natural habitats and rare species of wildlife.

This accolade provides a great opportunity to enhance both the wildlife and people’s enjoyment of nature in one of London’s historic green spaces and to protect it for future generations. We’re pleased that the new designation has been supported by both the Royal Parks and Historic Royal Palaces and we looking forward to working with them over the future sympathetic management requirements of the special features of the site.

The majority of the 540ha site is held in trust by the Crown Estate. Bushy Park is managed by The Royal Parks and Home Park by Historic Royal Palaces who have both welcomed the SSSI designation.

Nicholas Mallory Garbutt, Tree and Wildlife Conservation Manager, Historic Royal Palaces, added:

We are delighted that Home Park has received this recognition of its national significance for wildlife conservation. This historic deer park is a vital part of Hampton Court Palace’s history, which has been enjoyed by everyone from King Henry VIII, to the many visitors who flock to the Hampton Court Flower Show every year.

The results of recent wildlife surveys show that the historic trees and acid grassland of the park provide an important habitat for wildlife conservation, and we look forward to working with Natural England to continue to preserve this environment for future generations.

Ray Brodie, Manager of Bushy Park, Royal Parks, said:

This is a great accolade for Bushy Park and confirms what we have long-known to be true; that Bushy Park is one of the finest sites in England for wildlife and ecology. Bushy Park contains many rare and important species and habitats including rare stag beetles and around 10 different species of bat.

The Royal Parks works hard to conserve and protect this unique environment, while also ensuring that Bushy Park is a peaceful haven for the many thousands of visitors who come each year to relax, unwind and enjoy the natural surroundings.

The confirmation of the SSSI designation comes during London Tree Week 2015 which runs from 23 to 31 May and celebrates and explores London’s trees and woodlands with a series of special activities.

About SSSIs

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is one of the country’s very best wildlife and/or geological sites. SSSIs include some of the most spectacular and beautiful habitats: wetlands teeming with wading birds, winding chalk rivers, flower-rich meadows, windswept shingle beaches and remote upland peat bogs. There are more than 4,100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in England, covering around 8% of the country’s land area. More than 70% of these sites (by area) are internationally important for their wildlife and designated as Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas or Ramsar sites. SSSI status gives legal protection that ensures that the nationally important wildlife and geology of a site is recognised in its management and future use.

Additional notes:

A ‘veteran tree’ is usually in the second or mature stage of its life and has important wildlife and habitat features including; hollowing or associated decay fungi, holes, wounds and large dead branches. It will generally include old trees but also younger, middle aged trees where premature aging characteristics are present.

The term ‘ancient tree’ refers to trees of interest biologically, aesthetically or culturally because of their great age; trees in the ancient or third and final stage of their life; and, trees that are the old relative to others of the same species.

The site provides an abundance of dead and fallen timber and inside these trees there is a succession of fungi which actively break down the heartwood to produce a rich internal wood mould. This habitat, often deep within a large living tree, provides the perfect environment for specialised saproxylic (wood feeding) creatures.

Saproxylic invertebrates are dependent on dead or decaying wood (or dependent on other organisms that are themselves dependent on dead wood). These invertebrates may not be dependent on the wood for their entire life cycle but at least some stage is dependent on wood. A good example of this are the larvae of some beetles that feed on decaying wood. The adults may feed on other things (such as nectar). Possibly the most well-known of Britain’s beetles is the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) and the larvae of this impressive beetle are saproxylic.

Bushy Park and Home Park SSSI, London Borough of Richmond was notified as an SSSI by Natural England on 5 September 2014. The site is located to the south west of London in the Borough of Richmond within the Thames Valley National Character Area: national grid reference TQ159692.


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