On a long hot summer day, most of us head for the shade, or the sea – or just avoid the whole thing all together. But where is the fun in that! I head out, camera in tow, to Richmond Park whilst I was staying in London, to see what I could find during the scorching heatwave in July.
Starting at the car park by Pembroke Lodge, the walk began along Queen Elizabeth’s plantation, which gave welcome relief in the form of shade from the relentless sun. Juvenile great tits scurried between branches whilst a jackdaw family bickered in an ancient, hollowed tree.
So there was life! Which was a great sign during such unprecedented heat for such a long time. As I approached the Pen Ponds, the wildlife seemed to be creeping out gradually more and more into the open – especially the butterflies.
Richmond Ragwort Highway
Common ragwort, the summer yellow daisy which is the favourite snack of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars, carpeted the sides of the pathways, seemingly unaffected by the lack of rain. This yellow highway was alive with buzzing and flapping and all kinds of creepy crawling. I spotted meadow browns and gatekeepers with their very modest orange and brown wings enjoying the feast, as well as a host of white types including small, large and green veined whites.
It really was a who’s who of central London butterflies, and was topped off with a Common Blue, a flash of iridescent blue with beautifully patterned under wings. It’s the most numerous of around 20 blue butterflies there are in the UK, and it loves to perch on nice tall plants, such as long grass pictured here.
For me, the butterflies were the stars of this mid-summer show, but there was a whole cast of other insects who were braving the sun – damselflies darting around the ponds, moths and pollinators. Cinnabar Moth caterpillars were feasting on the ragwort, some plants looked entirely stripy from the amount of caterpillars crammed onto one stem!
The pen ponds at Richmond also drew in the birds – a large family of tufted ducks dabbled in the shade. The small chicks taking it in turns to ride on mums back just like great crested grebes do, cute! They were joined by a common tern doing acrobatics in the air and a few black headed gulls looking for a snack. Quiet, but fun to watch in the shade of the trees.
A Garden For Nature
We ended the walk by wandering down to the Isabella Plantation, a large woodland garden inside the park where nature meets formal gardens, a really nice way to wind down the day. Lots of trees and native plants gives the gardens a wild feel, and you could hear the scurrying of busy parent birds in the branches. Not hiding from anyone was a grey heron at a large pond, sunbathing and preening in the sunshine – gotta make the most of it whilst it’s like this right?!
Overall, a really lovely walk to be had even when I had wrongly thought that nature would be hiding away during those harsh, peak sunny hours of the heatwave. It really shows how resilient wildlife is. I’ll definitely be coming back as we didn’t spot any of the famous local deer and other feathered residents. See you soon Richmond Park!