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Bushy Park’s Chestnut Sunday

Issue: TW11 May '14

BILL SWAN, ASSISTANT PARK Manager at Bushy has a great fondness for the park. He was brought up in the area, where his father worked as a scientist at Bushy House for forty years. So it is particularly apt that he now works for The Royal Parks and more importantly at Bushy.

‘We are a small organisation, although we run Hyde, St James, Green, Regents, Greenwich, Richmond and Bushy parks as well as Kensington Gardens. Unbelievably for all those spaces there’s only around 100 people who are direct employees. This includes all the areas, with a Park Manager and some assistants, technical officers plus marketing and administration. So it’s a small club really and because of that we get involved in a great diversity of things.’ says Bill.

Royal Parks are a government agency, entrusted to maintain the fabric of the park, the horticulture, the trees and oversea building projects such as historical restorations and heritage landscapes. While the land is owned by the Crown estate, these spaces were opened up to the public during the reign of William IV as part of the Royal Parks Act. This means there is public access and the maintenance of the park is paid for by tax payers. Each year and particularly in recent years, government grants have diminished.

Bill explains ‘The pressure for income generation goes up and up. There are a lot of events across the parks, with Hyde Park holding major concerts and there are ceremonial events in St James. But because the management focus of Bushy Park is to be a deer park with access to the public, we don’t have the level of events some of the others see. The deers come first, which means our events
are small.’

Bill is the event organiser of the ever popular Chestnut Sunday held yearly in Bushy Park. ‘I do feel like it’s my baby. As soon as Christmas is over I start to gear up for the next event.
It’s the one biggest event in the park throughout the year. Originally it was a Victorian and Edwardian event that later fizzled out between the war years. In those days they would have these really big cycle gathering that would coincide with the flowering of the chestnut trees. You’d get lots of groups coming out of the city in charabancs for a day out from the smoke.’

‘It was around 1976 when the parade was reinstated by Hampton Wick Association members Colin and Mu Kirby Pain. It restarted as a small affair, with a walk down Chestnut Avenue and a picnic. As time went by the event gathered more momentum. We have had some very large events that were staged for the VE Day commemorations, then again in 1999, for the 300 year anniversary of the Avenue being laid out. And a similarly large event in 2000. After that we decided to rearrange things so now it is a more locally run event organised from the park office here at Bushy. We moved the event site to near the playground which made more sense with the car park, kiosk and infrastructure. And that’s how we’ve run it ever since.’

‘On a good day there are around 15,000 visitors that attend. Although that is very weather dependant, if it rains it may be nearer 5,000, but there is always a good core of people that come through the gates. The parade is a great attraction, along with the traditional fairground. There’s also various information stalls about wildlife and initiatives, we have historical reenactments and the horse rangers give a display. The wildlife officer will put on a big display about all of the wildlife in Bushy and there is a historical display about the park. There is a live band or two, tree surgeon demonstrations, Park Lane Stable pony rides, so there really is lots going on. The parade has Companion Cyclists, veteran cyclist with historical models, City of London Police Horses, the cadet marching band, classic motorbikes, cars and lots of military vehicles. It is quite a sight. Lots of people bring picnics and really make a day of it.’

‘It is always a great day out, so now we just need to see if the chestnut flowers will still be out to grace the day held in their honour!’

Chestnut Sunday, 11th May
Parade Starts at 12.30
event finishes at 4.30pm
Chestnut Avenue will be closed to through traffic between 12.15pm–1.30pm

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