During a visit to London’s Hyde Park, the Prince formally launched The Royal Parks charity, which supports and manages 5,000 acres of Royal Parks stretching from Greenwich Park in the east to Bushy Park in the west.
As part of his visit to the iconic central London park, the Prince saw the charity’s £5million flagship nursery project. The football pitch-sized glasshouse - currently under construction - will provide about 98 per cent of the 500,000 plants and shrubs needed across the capital’s eight Royal Parks. It also boasts a Wimbledon-style, climate controlled roof - the largest production greenhouse in the UK to use this innovative technology.
The Prince also got to learn more about efforts by The Royal Parks to tackle diseases among its 170,000 trees, visit a giant story-telling snail as part of its £600,000 Mission: Invertebrate programme and ride a carriage pulled by two of the parks’ oldest shire horses, which usually provide education courses and manage grass and bracken.
During a launch reception with staff, volunteers and apprentices, the Prince shared fond memories of visiting Richmond Park with his great grandmother, Queen Mary, and paid tribute to the “unsung and unseen” staff who look after London’s parks.
He said: “The parks I remember as a very small child, being taken around Richmond Park with my great grandmother Queen Mary in her wonderful old, upright green Daimler. As a result, those parks, in particular Richmond Park, are imprinted on my childhood memory in a very special way, which is why I have always felt that children should have the opportunity to experience parks at a young age.
“Today I want to pay special tribute to all those who make these parks what they are. To all the marvellous staff who do all the hard work; grow all the plants; look after this new, swish, all singing, all dancing nursery, and of course all the volunteers and special people who give up their precious time to do so many of the tasks that are absolutely essential. All these people are so often unsung and unseen, and they do matter hugely. A huge thank you, also, to the police who help keep the show on the road.”
The new charity’s Chairman, lifelong arts and heritage enthusiast Loyd Grossman CBE, described how he was committed to ensuring the Royal Parks remain the finest parks in the world.
He also welcomed HRH The Prince of Wales as the charity’s patron, saying:
"We are absolutely determined that these parks will always remain the best parks in the world for future generations. We are extraordinarily grateful to the Prince of Wales for becoming our first patron, and also for his tremendous knowledge and understanding of what we do, and we are thrilled, delighted and honoured that he is today launching our new charity.
“Nearly 600 years worth of history inspires us, and brings us so much joy; so much pleasure; such an enrichment of life for the 77 million people who visit these parks every year. They are also one of the things which contribute immeasurable to the distinctiveness of London, which is the greatest city in the world, and to the attractiveness of life in our wonderful country."
Previously the parks had been managed by an agency of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (The Royal Parks Agency) with fundraising and some education undertaken by the Royal Parks Foundation (RPF). Now, the two organisations have joined forces to bring together the best of fundraising, education and park management.
Becoming a new charity will allow the parks to be managed more efficiently, and allow the charity to plan further into the future rather than on a year-by-year basis. It will also put the parks in a stronger position to attract corporate sponsors, private donors, charitable trusts and volunteers.