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Families can uncover the vital role played by Richmond Park during wartime Britain through a programme of WW1-themed activities at this year's free Open Day.

Discover the little-known role of Richmond Park during WW1 at this year's free Open Day

Uncover the park's history and explore a WW1-themed heritage garden

Families can uncover the vital role played by Richmond Park during wartime Britain through a programme of WW1-themed activities at this year's free Open Day.

Holly Lodge will open its doors to the public for a jam-packed programme taking place on Sunday 23rd September, from 11am to 4pm.

Visitors can take part in flag-signalling and building model airplanes, and will have the chance to meet costumed soldiers from the 10th Essex Living History Group.

Families can plant peas in a WW1 garden - echoing the allotment gardens grown in the park 100 years ago. Visitors can also explore a nature trail and have a go at various WW1-linked crafts and activities.

A free exhibition and self-guided tours across the park, will reveal how Richmond Park was a hotbed of technological, social and economic innovation during the Great War.

Testing stations inside the park developed airborne 'balloon aprons' which hovered 10,000 feet above the air to defend the capital against air raids by Zeppelins. And a top-secret plan for a remote-controlled boat to attack enemy ships was tested in Pen Ponds.

The park was also a crucial training ground. Women trained in flag signalling and soldiers practised shooting rifles, throwing bombs and digging trenches. Sylva Boyden became the first woman to jump with a packed parachute from a tethered balloon - right into Richmond Park. And wounded soldiers were treated at a specially-constructed hospital.

Adam Curtis, Park Manager, Richmond Park, said: "The open day is always a great family day out with lots to see and do. It's a chance for the local community to find out what goes on 'behind the scenes' to manage the park, and also provides an insight into the huge array of wildlife that lives within this important National Nature Reserve.

"This year is extra special because we're adding a programme of WW1-themed activities, so visitors can uncover the little-known secrets about Richmond Park's crucial role during wartime Britain."

Additionally, more than 20 stalls will showcase community and conservation projects - including forestry, storytelling, wood turning and metal work. There will be attendance from groups such as the local Fire Brigade, Dr Bike, the RSPB and beetle experts, and visitors can watch a blacksmith shoeing the resident Shire Horses. David Ivison, Vice-Chairman of The Royal Parks Guild, said: "Richmond Park is well known today for its wonderful wildlife, but people may not realise that it contributed hugely to the war effort. So much of this knowledge has been lost over time, but research organised by the Guild has revealed a wealth of information about the way government authorities used the parks during WW1 - and the people who worked in them." The WW1 programme has been made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund's First World War Then and Now programme.

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