It has been a busy week in Richmond Park. We operate a rotational on-call system for out of hours work and my 1st week on-call for 2013 landed at the same time as the snow.
The park is generally a few degrees cooler than central London so when it snows we generally have it deeper and for longer than our colleagues in Hyde and St James Parks. On Friday we started gritting the eight or so miles of roads in the morning just after the rush hour traffic had died down and we kept working into the evening to push any slush off the road. Then on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings we had a full team of eight working from 02.00am to grit the roads, drive the snow into the grit and the snow plough.
We also had to deploy road signs and cones and a team to grit pedestrian gates. My role is to monitor the state of the weather, instruct the team and assess when the park roads are safe to open. We are then kept busy for most of the day dealing with issues the large numbers of visitors bring with them.
The park was very, very busy this weekend and it's great to see so many people enjoying the countryside with friends and family. I was very impressed with the brilliant snowmen people built and one group of friends even built an amazing igloo that took them 5 hours!
As staff, though, we also always worry about the amount of litter (mostly broken sledges!) and damage to the park infrastructure and habitats. However my young son has enjoyed collecting rubbish on his sledge much to the delight of our litter crew. The police were also very busy issuing parking tickets for people that used the verges instead of the car parks.
Amongst the snow related issues I also had a lost Jack Russell dog that the owner thought may have disappeared down a rabbit hole. I made a search of the park (to no avail) and heard nothing more. One assumes they were re-united as luckily the dog had a collar with a phone number. Every year we get lots of dogs found without tags and they always take up a lot of time as they get taken to kennels by the dog warden unless the owner is found straight away.
I also fed the deer at night in the snow. It is a truly magical experience driving across the park distributing deer pellets and maize to a herd of hundreds of deer, who are delighted to receive their rations when there isn't much grass to be found.
Although it's been busy, the team spirit between park contractors and Royal Parks staff is excellent. Without exception the team here always help out when they are called upon, and I'm once again in their debt for helping to get the park fit for the public to enjoy the snow.