2012 proved to be an exceptionally busy year with Hyde Park hosting several Olympic competitions, a concert series, BT London Live, a London 2012 Shop, Proms in The Park and later in the year Winter Wonderland. The prolonged wet weather conditions were also exceptional and have resulted in a more significant restoration programme than in previous years. The Royal Parks are now overseeing a team of specialist contractors and gardeners that will restore Hyde Park to an excellent condition by the end of this spring.
The progress of all restoration work is dependent on the right weather conditions. If it is too wet then the ground preparation and turfing needs to be postponed until the soil dries out sufficiently. To attempt to carry out this work when the soil is very wet would make preparation impossible and damage the underlying soil structure. Plans for different areas of Hyde Park, outlined below, have been carefully developed to allow for this; however prolonged wet weather, frost or heavy snow can cause delays.
The Parade Ground: Between July and September 2012 this large open area of Hyde Park, located between Speaker's Corner and The Serpentine, hosted BT London Live, a concert series and the Proms in The Park. More than one million people from across the globe visited the park during this period. Following unprecedented wet weather conditions, wood chip was laid onto the Parade Ground to ensure that the events could continue and were safe for visitors.
To minimise the impact on park visitors and to ensure that the new grass thrives, the decision was made to complete a programme of restoration work during the spring 2013 growing season. This work, which started on 12 February, is being completed by a team of specialist contractors with expertise in large scale reinstatement under the careful management of The Royal Parks. Every effort will be made to ensure that park visitors can access as much of the park as possible; however large sections of the Parade Ground will need to be fenced off in stages to allow the work to be carried out safely and efficiently and the new areas of turf to establish.
A number of key footpaths on the Parade Ground will be kept open where possible to maximise access for park visitors. If a footpath needs to be closed for the work to take place then a diversion route will be sign-posted.
The scale of the project means a lot of very impressive specialist machinery is being used and it will be really interesting to watch. Such equipment is normally used to create and restore sports pitches and other large areas so it is ideally suited to the project that is taking place.
The majority of the work will consist of removing the wood chip, preparing and improving the ground and laying new turf. The southern section of the Parade Ground will be restored first, then the northern section near Speaker's Corner and finally the middle of the Parade Ground. Subject to the right weather conditions, it is anticipated that the turfing will be completed by the end of April 2013. Once each section of new turf has been laid it will need to be protected for four to six weeks so that the roots have time to establish - it can then be incrementally opened up for park users to access.
The Bandstand and Serpentine Road: Between November and January Winter Wonderland welcomed around two million people in this area of the park. All temporary event structures were removed by 18 January and work to restore this area of the park started on 12 February.
The majority of this work is being carried out by the same specialist contractors that are restoring the Parade Ground and the same approach will be taken. The immediate area around Serpentine Road will be restored by our in-house contractors as in previous years. Subject to the right weather conditions, this area of the park will be restored by the end of March.
The Cockpit: This area of Hyde Park, located at the north-west corner of The Serpentine, hosted the Olympic Triathlon and Marathon Swimming venue. The Royal Parks worked closely with the London Organising Committee for the Games (LOCOG) to develop plans for this Olympic venue and ensure that the impact of the temporary structures on the park was kept to a minimum.
Immediately after the Olympic events, work began to carefully remove the temporary venue structures and by the end of September this phase was complete. A team of our in-house contractors managed by The Royal Parks then started work to restore this area of the park and one month later the majority of the Cockpit reopened to the public. Due to unprecedented wet weather work has taken longer than anticipated and some areas of The Cockpit will be restored during the spring growing season, once the ground has had time to dry out. By the end of March, subject to the right weather conditions, this area will be returned to its pre-Games condition.
The Old Football Pitches: The eastern section of this area was home to a temporary London 2012 Shop between July and September 2012. Royal Parks' contractors will begin a programme of restoration work in late February to restore the site of the shop and the area surrounding it. Subject to the right weather conditions, this area will be improved beyond its pre-Games condition by the end of March as part of a wider project to improve the grassland in this section of the park.
Hyde Park is normally restored immediately after events and going forwards this will continue to be the approach taken by The Royal Parks. There will be fewer events in 2013 than in 2012, with six summer concerts. The Royal Parks is also working closely with AEG, the concert series partner, to minimise the impact of this new event on the park and to ensure that the Parade Ground is quickly and fully restored after the next concert season.
In addition to this restoration work, you may have noticed that elsewhere in the park, our specialist gardeners are busy regenerating old shrub beds and replanting others. One area of particular note is the Dell Gardens where the historic vistas are being restored. This includes the removal of inappropriate planting and implementing a new planting scheme designed to maximise the damp woodland conditions and the historic 'Palm Dell' feel of the garden. Some of the plants we will be using include ferns, primulas, bamboo, Japanese Acers and the impressive gunnera or giant rhubarb as it is sometimes known. The work is well underway and will continue into the spring.
Visit Restoring Hyde Park for further information.