Oak Processionary Moth
May is the time of year when the caterpillars of this invasive Moth are on the move. The hairs of the caterpillars carry a toxin which can be a threat to human health, causing skin rashes, eye irritation and respiratory problems. In high numbers the caterpillars can also cause defoliation of oak trees. In late April / early May pesticide spraying will take place on oaks in busy areas and those where they have been previously heavily infested. This will be followed by careful surveying of the whole park in June and July to locate nests which are then removed by specialist operatives using protective clothing and equipment. If you come across the caterpillars or their webbed nests please do not touch them and keep children and pets away. Report any sightings to the park office on 0300 061 2200.
The Common Whitethroat
The Common Whitethroat is a small bird that migrates to the UK for the summer to breed. They are a grey–brown colour and obviously get their name from their white throats. Males have a dark grey head whilst the females do not and the throat of the female is duller. In the late 1960s the numbers crashed by 70% due to a drought in its over wintering grounds but the population has grown steadily since. Numbers have risen in Richmond Park and for the past few years has supported around 35 pairs. They will skulk in small scrubby areas such as a hawthorn or a mature patch of bramble that provides cover for their nest. They are best spotted by listening for the males as they perch high up and sing a pleasant song that is best described as 'jolting and scratchy' – heralding the start of summer!
Park Road Closures
Richmond Gate is due to be closed from 20.00hrs on Friday 15 May until gate opening on Monday 18 May. This is to allow a crane operation on Star and Garter Hill and will be subject to a revised date if it is too windy. This year the park will be closed on 2 August and 20 September for the Ride London and Duathlon events. On Sunday 1 November, Roehampton Gate and the roads between Sheen Cross and Robin Hood Gate will be closed for a running event.
May Day is the first of May and the first bank holiday. The history is thought to date back to pre-Christian activities linked to the coming of summer, when flowers are in bloom. May Day can be considered as the first day of summer, with the summer solstice (22 July) being mid-summers night. In agriculture, it was desirable to have planted all the farms seeds by May Day and a public holiday was regarded as a reward to the farm labourers for their efforts to achieve this. May Day is often celebrated by a village fair centred around traditional dancing and the crowning of a May Queen by the community. Morris dancing is popular but May Pole dancing has greater links to this date – the may pole being linked to Hawthorn trees that are also known as ' May' because of their abundant blossoms at this time of year