Ray joined The Royal Parks straight from school in 1981 as a horticultural apprentice.
He began his career in The Royal Parks’ tree maintenance team in 1985, spending five years looking after the trees across the central Royal Parks: St James’s Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and, Buckingham Palace Gardens, which at the time fell under the organisation’s remit.
Ray became park supervisor at Kensington Gardens in 1992, and took on responsibility for events of national importance, such as the management of the park during the funeral procession for HRH Diana Princess of Wales. And in August 1998 he was appointed manager of Bushy Park, where he has led a team over the last two decades.
During his tenure, Ray’s team has implemented several major transformative initiatives to protect the park’s natural environment and heritage, and to bring the community together through sporting and celebratory events, providing a vital local asset. This includes delivering
a major programme to restore and enhance Bushy Park between 2002 and 2011, part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and comprising 67 individual projects. This saw the restoration of the Upper Lodge Water gardens, a Baroque-style collection of pools, cascades, basins and a canal which had disappeared beneath undergrowth and silt during the 20th century; the restoration of The Diana Fountain, a bronze statue of the goddess on a marble and stone fountain; the creation of the Pheasantry Café and Welcome centre, and the restoration of the park’s Woodland Gardens.
Ray’s leadership has ensured the natural environment of the park has gone from strength to strength, from the management of the park’s herd of wild deer to the historic Longford River, constructed on the orders of Charles I to deliver water to Hampton Court.
Thanks to the team’s dedication, expertise and hard work, Bushy Park was officially recognised as being one of the most important places for wildlife in England: designated as a new Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England in 2015.
Ray’s efforts have made great strides to open up the history of the park to the public. The park’s traditional celebrations of the first chestnut blossoms on Chestnut Sunday continue to be a popular attraction. And this year, the park marked the 75th anniversary of the role of Bushy Park in planning WW2’s D-Day.
Tom Jarvis, director of parks, The Royal Parks, said: “Ray and his team have made an enormous contribution to Bushy Park over the last two decades, ensuring that it is a treasured destination for locals and tourists seeking to engage in the park’s rich heritage and natural environment. Crucially, Ray has ensured that the community is always at the heart of the park, providing a park that is truly for the people: it was thanks to Ray’s vision that Park Run started in Bushy Park in 2004 as a small community event, something that has flourished into a global phenomenon.
“We will miss Ray hugely, not only for his leadership, vision and dedication, but also as a wonderful colleague and friend. We wish him all the best for the future and a very happy retirement.”
A new manager for Bushy Park will be announced in due course.