Storm Eunice struck London on 18th February 2022. 150 trees were lost in the Royal Parks and there was also damage to fences, walls and lamp columns. In the aftermath, our expert tree team worked from dawn until dusk assessing trees for damage and making them safe in all eight parks, Brompton Cemetery and Victoria Tower Gardens, covering 5,000 acres of land – that’s an area of roughly 4 miles by 2 miles, containing around 170,000 trees.
In this post, Head of Park Operations Michael Rowland details the damage and the clean-up.
Richmond Park was hit the hardest, with around 60 trees down. Sadly we lost three veteran oaks, with a further two veteran trees sustaining major damage. Veterans are trees which have developed specific features of biological interest over time due to their age.
As you might expect, Bushy Park also suffered major impact with over 40 trees lost, including around 25 in the Woodland Gardens. Fortunately the park’s veteran trees survived undamaged. The Regent’s Park had 21 trees down, with the remaining losses divided between Greenwich Park and the central London parks.
Our park teams, arboriculturists and landscape contractors worked from the crack of dawn over the weekend in a major clean-up operation to open the parks safely for visitors. With the work taking place in windy conditions they proceeded carefully, first assessing the damage and removing any obvious safety hazards. They then cleared debris and made final checks before reopening. Their efforts meant that all parks were opened on Saturday, apart from Richmond Park which re-opened on Monday. We owe a huge thank you to all of our staff for their hard work, and to the public for their understanding.
Visitors to some parks will still be able to see the aftermath of the storm. This is because we leave fallen trees and standing deadwood in place wherever possible, as they form important habitats for a range of invertebrates and other wildlife.
Preparing for the future
It’s certainly unusual to have three major storms within a week. I think these storms have been concerning as they peaked during the day, when people were around. On the other hand, we were fortunate that deciduous trees weren’t in leaf, unlike the great storm of 1987 which came in mid-October and destroyed 4,500 trees across the Royal Parks.
It’s our job to prepare as best we can for these situations and, this winter, we’ve been installing weather stations within the parks to monitor weather and its impacts locally. These will help us to continue preparing for the future. To keep people safe, we have plans in place to respond to extreme weather. Each park also has a management plan that outlines areas of the park needing tree planting, as well as listing the species best suited to the area, taking climate change and biodiversity into account.
Caring for the 170,000 trees in the Royal Parks all year round is an important area of our charity’s work to maintain these historic green spaces. We create and manage habitats for wildlife while providing a welcome to nature for millions of visitors each year. If you’d like to support the upkeep of these vital parks please consider donating.