Site of Special Scientific Interest status for London parks is confirmed

by | May 27, 2015 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Natural England has confirmed the designation of Bushy Park and Home Park in the London Borough of Richmond as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

SSSIs are the country’s best sites for wildlife and geology – there are more than 4,100 SSSIs in England, covering around 8 per cent of England.  Bushy Park and Home Park were first notified as of SSSI quality in September 2014 and Natural England has now formally confirmed the designation of the site, following a consultation period,

The Bushy Park and Home Park SSSI has been designated because of the exceptionally large numbers of ancient and veteran trees growing on the site; its internationally significant populations of rare insects; and the presence of extensive areas of special grassland habitat.

The trees at Bushy Park and Home Park are survivors of a wood-pasture management that dates back to the 15th Century.  More than 200 veteran trees have been identified at the site of which 94 are classed as ancient.  The site is one of only 44 sites nationally known to support more than 100 veteran trees and is the highest ranking of ten comparable sites in the Greater London area.

The trees include oak and lime with some horse chestnut and sweet chestnut and around 16 other species of tree.  A notable feature is the occurrence of a large number of very old hawthorn trees, many of which are festooned with mistletoe.

The great age of many of the trees also provides habitat for many rare species of wood feeding insects and the site ranks amongst the top five in Britain for this highly specialised group of creatures, for which Britain has international importance.

Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells, said: “Natural England is delighted to confirm Bushy Park and Home Park as one of London’s newest Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  This is a very important site in the heart of London for its special natural habitats and rare species of wildlife.

“This accolade provides a great opportunity to enhance both the wildlife and people’s enjoyment of nature in one of London’s historic green spaces and to protect it for future generations.  We’re pleased that the new designation has been supported by both the Royal Parks and Historic Royal Palaces and we looking forward to working with them over the future sympathetic management requirements of the special features of the site.”

The majority of the 540ha site is held in trust by the Crown Estate.  Bushy Park is managed by The Royal Parks and Home Park by Historic Royal Palaces who have both welcomed the SSSI designation.

Nicholas Mallory Garbutt, Tree and Wildlife Conservation Manager, Historic Royal Palaces, said, “We are delighted that Home Park has received this recognition of its national significance for wildlife conservation.   This historic deer park is a vital part of Hampton Court Palace’s history, which has been enjoyed by everyone from King Henry VIII, to the many visitors who flock to the Hampton Court Flower Show every year.

“The results of recent wildlife surveys show that the historic trees and acid grassland of the park provide an important habitat for wildlife conservation, and we look forward to working with Natural England to continue to preserve this environment for future generations.”

Ray Brodie, Manager of Bushy Park, Royal Parks, added:  “This is a great accolade for Bushy Park and confirms what we have long-known to be true; that Bushy Park is one of the finest sites in England for wildlife and ecology. Bushy Park contains many rare and important species and habitats including rare stag beetles and around 10 different species of bat.

“The Royal Parks works hard to conserve and protect this unique environment, while also ensuring that Bushy Park is a peaceful haven for the many thousands of visitors who come each year to relax, unwind and enjoy the natural surroundings.”

The confirmation of the SSSI designation comes during London Tree Week 2015 which runs from 23-31 May and celebrates London’s trees and woodlands with a series of special activities.