Alexandra Park is a delightful mixture of informal woodland, open grassland, formal gardens and attractions such as the boating lake, cafés and the pitch-and-putt course. It covers 196 acres around Alexandra Palace in North London.
Our normal activities include:
Park rewarded with many Awards
The Park and Palace scoops lots of awards recognising the work done by the Alexandra Park and Palace Trust, John O'Conner (Park Maintenance) and the Friends. So a special thanks to our members.
The Green Flag and Green Heritage Awards have been once again awarded to the Park. Winners here.
In the London in Bloom Competition, the park scooped Gold Awards in three categories. Large Conservation Area, Heritage Park of the Year and Large Park of the Year. Winners here.
Art in the Park Group
Sorry cancelled, possibly to be reschedued to Thursday, 30th June.
Another artist in the park... This is Alan Lancaster who often paints houses... just to illustrate the diverse opportunities......
This monthly meet-up provides an opportunity for park lovers to join others in a relaxed and friendly group and enjoy some quiet time in nature. Each month we meet in a different part of the park.
Please email email@example.com to book a place or find out more.
London Metropolitan Brass Community Band
A second band visit for the month of June, this time from the Community Band. Enthusiastic music and many tunes that all will recognise. Just come along to The Grove outside the cafe and sit on the grass for a perfect Sunday afternoon.
Conservation Work Party
This picture is of yellow rattle growing well in the Anthill Meadow. This is now growing very and is important is slowing the vigour of more "thuggish" grasses
We will be back in the Ant Hill Meadow (previous called the Butterfly Meadow) for the next work pary. It's back to the task of cutting back and uprooting the brambles which have been encroaching on the meadow. Picture left courtesy Patricia Pearl.
Do join us if you can. We have mini-mattocks which are so good at taking out bramble roots. It's excellent exercise, and plenty of fresh air and good conversation. Please bring gloves and a drink/snack for the break that we take halfway through.
We work from 10 am to 12.30 pm, but come for as long as you can. Meet at the Ant Hill Meadow, or if you're not sure where that is, be at the finger post half way along the Lower Road at 10 am.
This award celebrates the local people who rallied to help Alexandra Palace clear its historic parkland of litter during lockdown. The efforts of the volunteers were critical in helping to keep the parkland safe and clean for everyone to enjoy.
Extract from a statement from the Palace
Alexandra Park has served as a haven for millions of people throughout the pandemic, with visitor numbers nearly double what they would be in a normal year. Unfortunately a negative side effect of this has been a huge spike in litter. Overall for the period May-December 2020, 147 tonnes of rubbish were collected in the park, an increase of 45 per cent on the same time in previous years.
RECENT EVENTS IN THE PARK
Art in the Park - May
We had one of those days when we didn’t know if it was about to rain or the sun was about burst out from behind the clouds. In the end, it stayed overcast for the 10 of us in the Anthill Meadow, which meant that, disappointingly, the butterflies stayed away. However, there was so much to see in the detail of the tangle of long grasses that this kept our artists’ eyes busy. We found that when we sat down, the wildflowers and grasses came to eye level, so a whole world of interest opened up. We thoroughly enjoyed all the beauty on offer and also realised that we needed to brush up a bit on our wildflower names!
Conservation Work Party - May
The meadow is coming to life with several flowering plants noted, insects flitting and buzzing around, with a backdrop of bird song – particularly a black cap. Of particular interest was the yellow rattle: we had seeded five patches of bared ground, last autumn, all of which had some plants (including ones in flower) but two that were thickly carpeted with yellow rattle. There were also patches of self-seeded yellow rattle from previous years plantings. In those latter areas thinning of the vigorous grasses was evident – very pleasing to see. The next step will be to consider introducing seeds of other flowering plants appropriate to the area. People in the know, have noted that the meadow doesn’t have a great variety of flowering plants.
Late Spring Wildflower Walk
Caroline started the walk with a question: are grasses flowering plants? The answer is yes – the flowers are so much less showy because they are wind pollinated and therefore don’t have to advertise their pollen using colour and scent in the way that insect-, bird- and mammal-pollinated flowers do.
mongst the other topics we covered were the way that some leaves are positioned to avoid overlapping to catch the maximum amount of light, how leaves on the same plant can have different shapes and how plants of the same species can vary in size and form depending on where they happen to be growing.
Urban Tree Festival Tree Walk
Stephen led an evening tree walk to look at some of the more unusual and iconic trees in the park which welcomed quite a new audience (30) to the park, (with a few people from the Friends!). We also looked at a few of the pests and diseases affecting trees in the park including Ash Dieback and seeing some of the early oak processionary moth nests. This picture left was kindly provided by Colette Joyce (@colettemjoyce on twitter) and shows the group looking at the only Oriental Plane Tree in the park. This tree is one of the "parent" trees of the much more common hybrid London Plane.
For more information on the Urban Tree Festival and to catch events next year follow this link.
Spring Bird Walk and Ringing Display
Around 20 people (many of whom were first-timers) joined Gareth Richards to explore the park’s birdlife. The star of the morning was undoubtedly the singing garden warbler in the Cricket Scrub. Normally an uncommon and rather fleeting visitor to the park, this male has noisily held a territory for several weeks. This is hopefully an early indication of the success of the habitat work that was done in the Cricket Scrub over the winter.
The ringing demonstration by Gerry Rawcliffe also took place in the Cricket Scrub. We were lucky to see an interesting range of birds being ringed, including a greenfinch, several blackcaps and a group of juvenile long-tailed tits. This gave Gerry the opportunity not only to explain the scientific and conservation benefits of bird ringing, but also to show how a close examination of the birds could determine both their age and their sex.
Family Activities Day - May
Despite most of North London having disappeared for the bank holiday and the inclement weather, a few families enthusiastically got stuck into the activities on offer. The children delighted in handling a variety of leaves and sticking them onto a card band to create their very own crowns. They also found the nature hunt absorbing, gathering treasures in their collecting bags and then having them identified – any live critters were speedily released! The Xplore course, a mini orienteering activity testing observation and map-reading skills, had children (and their parents) rushing round the Grove. All in all, a very good four hours spent meeting park visitors and helping to open children’s eyes to the natural world of the park.
Picture shows a group off on an xplorer trail wearing theire crowns.
Members' History Walk - April
With the Bike Show in progress on the Pavilion car park and the public testing bikes on the slopes below it, we kept to the lower areas of the park to consider the many sports that have taken place in the park over the years. From the ladies’ archery contest at the park opening in 1863 to trotting, outdoor bowls and cricket (still being played in the park after 116 years), sport has always been a feature of the park. In fact the Alexandra Park Company, which developed the park, had a motto of ‘Healthy Exercise – Rational Recreation’. Gordon was able to point out a few visible features of earlier sporting activities, such as the swimming bath and the outdoor rifle range, and confirm their location on maps. And of course pétanque will shortly be added to the long list of the park’s sports. Pictures shows players in the Fairground Car Park
Anthill Work Party - April
Nine of us turned out on a warm and sunny April morning. We had a backdrop of spring birdsong to our work in the anthill meadow, with blackcaps, chiffchaffs and wrens being the loudest songsters. We continued with the remorseless job of bramble root removal before the new shoots take off. The yellow rattle seedlings are doing well in the west side of the meadow, although they do need water after all this dry weather. The highlight of the morning was seeing a female brimstone butterfly laying her eggs on the underside of alder buckthorn leaves (one of their host plants). She laid each elongated egg on a single leaf – so tiny that they were barely visible (pictured, an egg laid last year). This season’s butterflies will appear in around July/August.
Bat Walk - April
After a day of heavy rain and a cold wind, there were some doubts as to whether the bats would make their usual appearance around the Boating Lake, and Gordon’s introductory talk about bats and their habits was cut short by a brief rain shower. Then after a chilly wait the pipistrelles appeared, in rather better numbers than in recent years, and entertained the group with their customary acrobatics, punctuated by the clicks and buzzes from the bat detectors.
Gordon usually receives requests for extra bat watches from local groups, and this year 15 cubs and their leaders from the 221 North London (Hornsey) pack were thrilled to see the bats on a much warmer evening.
Spring Tree Walk - April
Further on the group admired some of the well-grown oaks and sycamores lining the racecourse on the edge of the Conservation Area, and noted how well elm saplings are growing, even though they will probably fall victim to Dutch elm disease when they reach a height of 7 metres or so. (photo by Beatrice Murray.)
Great British Spring Clean - March
As our contribution to Keep Britain Tidy’s annual campaign, 23 volunteers wielded their litter pickers and scoured the park for some of the hard-to-reach rubbish that accumulates over the winter. The result was around 30 bags plus a small bike. Those who had participated in similar events over the years felt that there was less litter than normal – a tribute not only to the John O’Conner team’s good work, but also to the efforts of all the volunteers who kept the park clean last summer, several of whom continued throughout the winter. Our thanks to all the litter-picking volunteers.
Art in the Park - March
What a wonderful spring morning!
Lovely to have 5 new members join us too.
Conservation Work Party - March
It was such a lovely morning, especially with the sound of spring birdsong ringing around the meadow, the chiffchaff the loudest of all. We had a good morning’s work with most of us mattocking bramble roots, before the new shoots get going. Richard did some good work on the alder buckthorn, cutting out a rotten broken branch, the reward – three brimstone butterflies flitting around the meadow. Tony released an elder from the clutches of ivy, and Stephen stopped the march of bramble over cherry and blackthorn. To top it all we could see that good numbers of the yellow rattle seeds we broadcast last autumn had germinated.
March Wildflower Walk
Caroline led two walks to look at the wildflowers that are already out and about this year. There was information on identification and lots of interesting background stories on folklore of the plants. We started at the Park Visitor Centre and made our way down to the area where the compost head lies.
Caroline explained the difference between the Lesser Celandine and Greater Celandine which can be both found in the park, but only the Lesser is flowering. They both have yellow flowers, but are unrelated. Lesser Celandine is a relative of the Buttercup whereas Greater Celandine is in the Poppy family.
Stephen led an overflow walk that just concentrated on the identification of the flowers.
March Members' Walk - The View
This is definitely our shortest, slowest type of Members' Walk. We wandered from The Beach (the area outside the Phoenix Pub) along the facade of the Palace to below the BBC Tower taking an hour to do it.
The weather was generally poor with rain and only moderate visibility, but we did manage point out what is visible from the terrace including the protected view to St. Pauls. We also took time to look at the new buildings going up and those recently completed.
Art in the Park - February
This month’s meet up had to be put back a day due to torrential rain and hail forecast for our meet-up time! However, all was serene and sparkling up at the Boating Lake the following day. We were a smaller group of five due to the change of day, but we made the most of the sunny spot to enjoy each other’s relaxed company and attempt to capture the effects of rippling water and the forms of rather uncooperative water birds, who just didn’t seem to want to stay near us for longer than 10 seconds. We must remember food another time! New members are very welcome – please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join the group.
Mosses and Liverworts Walk - February
Conservation Work Party - February
Attached is a photo of a very tiny, germinated, yellow rattle seedling, which Tricia took, while we were working in the anthill meadow. Fingers-crossed it has many siblings in the next few weeks.
Members' Walk - this year
Gordon usually looks back at some aspect of the park's history, but this time he looked ahead to some of the activities which will be happening in the park this year - from concerts to conservation work, with the occasional diversion to trees, flowers and flying things.
Big Garden Birdwatch 2022
The local branch of RSPB set up a stall by the Boating Lake to help promote the Big Garden Birdwatch. They also aimed to introduce people to the RSPB and to point out local birds.
There was a guided walk to see some of the birding highlights - a slightly distant view of the peregine and a single redwing were among the highlights. The picture left shows a dispute between coots and egyptian geese. The weather stayed fair and a good day was had by all.
Members' Conifer Walk - January
It was a windless morning, which was lucky because there was a large group (26) of us but we could still hear Stephen clearly.
We started off with pines, which have needles in pairs, threes or fives. In the stand of black pines next to the Grove café, we discovered that their needles come in pairs. Next came the Bhutan pine, with feathery-looking needles in fives.
And onto trees whose needles come in ones: spruces and firs. We looked at the needles of a blue spruce, which are attached by a peg, and whose cones point down and eventually fall to the ground.
Later on we looked at a grand fir (the one on the South Slope that often gets decorated with baubles in December), with needles attached like a sucker, whose cones point up and stay on the tree. We looked at redwoods: the dawn redwood, which is deciduous, and the giant redwood, which is not. Both have cones with a pattern that is reminiscent of lips. We also looked at quite a few other conifers, so we all came away feeling pleased that we’d learned so much.
Fruit Tree Pruning in the Springfield Orchard
A small group of the Friends met up with Ruben of John O'Conner (Park Maintainance Contractors) to prune the fruit trees in the Springfield Orchard in The Grove. These are the trees above the large fenced Veteran Oak and below the 3-4-5 Playgroup. The trees had not had any work recently so quite a lot of cutting was involved to encourage fruiting and to keep the trees in good condition.
Some of the things that we learnt....
To cut off any slightly damaged branches first. This is, because as soon as they get weighed down with any fruit they are liable to break off.
Next to stand back and assess which branches need to go. Those good for the chop are the ones that grow from the outside of the tree toward the centre crossing other branches. They stop air circulating and their fruit can be too each other and branches.
Later cuts are made to both remove the tops of high and elongated branches as well as branches growing too close to each other. Also we had to try a give the tree an even look. After each significant cut Ruben demonstrated that we should stand back and look all around the tree before making the next move.
One extra point was not to cut back the stone fruits (e.g. plum) as hard as the others (e.g. apple) - they don't response so well to "rough" treatment.
Thanks a lot to Ruben for his patience and clear advice.
Art in the Park - January
A great turnout of 8 people for this cool time of the year. There was sunshine, but it was quite chilly. It was most enjoyable, but an hour was enough as people prompt went off to de-frost at the end.
Special Conservation Work Party with TCV - January
Some of the Friends normal events
Conservation Work Parties
We have been working in the Butterfly Meadow on an almost weekly basis for the last few months with limited numbers. This open space is covered in anthills of the yellow meadow ant. A great place to spot different butterflies and other wildlife. Other work parties have taken place in The Grove and by the edge of the Redston field and an annual litter pick.
Mostly taking place in the Winter and early Spring the talks focus on Nature (Butterflies, Bees, Birds etc.) with some on history and other subjects that are relevant to the Park.
We have had great talks on Bats, Trees, the New River and the old railway line that used to run up to the Palace.
Coming up when conditions allow, local resident Stuart Little will presenting elements from his film about the Park and Palace....
This will be great opportunity to see some elements of history from the early days up and until the (second) fire in 1980.
We put on a number of different Nature Walks throughout the year. Normally 2 Bird Walks a year, 2 Bat Walks, 2 Fungi Walks, 3 or 4 Tree Walks plus extra walks on an ad hoc basic such as this year's Moss and Liverwort walk. All these activities are open to all and free.
There are normally about 10 of these a year focusing on Nature (Wild Flowers, Tree Galls plus plus), History (seeing what was where) or just keeping people informed as to what's going on in the Park - these are our only Members' Only events.
The next walk (when pandemic restrictions permit) is planned to be:
Beating the Bounds: A brisk walk round the perimeter of the Park and a chance to look at what’s been happening in the Park in recent times.
Our Calendar for next year has now arrived! Available to order online for free local delivery via this link. Cost £8.50 (as always!)
Or in person.....
We will have a stall at the Farmers' Market in the Park on
Sunday, 5th December from 10am to 3pm
Also available at the Parkrun start on the Lower Path every Saturday from 8:45am to about 10am.
Available at the Park Visitor Centre 11am to 1pm while stocks last on
Sunday, 28th November
Saturday, 4th December
Sunday, 12th December and probably on
Sunday, 19th December.
Cash and card payments accepted.