Royal Parks seeing ‘unprecedented numbers’ despite the winter climate

The Royal Parks, which includes Richmond Park and Bushy Park, has reported unusually high numbers despite the wet and cold weather.

Tom Jarvis, director of parks at The Royal Parks, said: “We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of people using the parks since the third lockdown, despite the fact it’s winter and it’s cold outside.

“We’re certainly seeing more people than we would normally expect at this time of year, particularly on sunny days and last weekend with the snow.

“In fact, we’re seeing the sorts of numbers we’d normally expect on a bank holiday weekend.”

Wimbledon and Putney Commons has also experienced a significant increase in visitor numbers, however this has negatively impacted some areas of the commons.

Stephen Bound, acting chief executive of Wimbledon and Putney Commons, said: “This increase in visitor numbers, combined with the wet weather, have taken their toll on the Commons.

“The additional footfall is causing a lot of damage to many areas, particularly on most of the footpaths, the heathland, and on the golf course.”

The increased popularity of green spaces has caused some residents to voice concerns of being able to social distance.

Tooting resident Robyn said: “There are so many people in all the parks and I worry there’s not enough room on the paths to run past everyone whilst also keeping my distance. It just isn’t worth the risk.”

The Richmond Park MP, Sarah Olney, recently called on the Royal Parks to do more to help keep people COVID-secure.

For many, the high levels of visitors and cold weather has not deterred them from enjoying the green spaces and they are still eager to get out of their houses when they can.

Robert, who lives on Gosberton Road in Wandsworth, said: “I am just as keen to get out the house and the cold weather doesn’t bother me too much.”

However, for some residents, the winter weather has meant they avoid the parks altogether and instead seek out drier places to walk.

Wandsworth resident Emily said: “The wet weather has stopped me from visiting the local parks, as the mud is just too much to handle. I prefer to find less muddy areas such as the paved routes along the river.”

Others have felt discouraged by the winter weather and are spending much less time outdoors.

Charlie from Wimbledon said: “Spending time in the local green spaces isn’t anywhere near as attractive during this cold rainy month. I’ve still been going for walks to make the most of the space and get out of the house albeit much more briefly than previous lockdowns.”

According to a study conducted by University College London, which followed 70,000 people for more than 40 weeks, two-fifths of people are doing less exercise in this lockdown than during the first one last spring.

Featured image credit: Colin Smith Fallow Deer in Richmond Park / CC BY-SA 2.0

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