Restoring Greenwich Park's disappearing 17th century landscape
We have begun a three-year plan to protect and restore Greenwich Park’s threatened 17th century landscape, before its unique features are lost forever.
Reviving a unique landscape fit for a king
In the 16th century, Greenwich Park was the hunting ground of Henry VIII, but in the late 17th century, Charles II transformed this wild terrain into a formal Baroque landscape, designed by André Le Nôtre - the renowned landscape architect behind the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.
The landscape comprises the Grand Ascent (giant grass steps), and a formal banked layout (parterres) lined with sweeping tree avenues. It provides a symmetrical formal layout linking the Thames to Blackheath Gate and beyond.
However, over time, the original sharp landscape features have eroded and slumped, accelerated by footfall from 5 million annual visitors.
The avenues were originally planted with elm trees that were wiped out by Dutch elm disease. They were re-planted with Turkey oak trees in the 1970s, but these are a poor-quality species and today the trees are severely squirrel damaged and in decline. The Turkey oak trees in the park are often infected by Oak Processionary Moth and Knopper Gall wasp (a pest of our native oak tree). Several avenue trees have already died, leaving gaps.
We will restore this historic landscape, reviving the view that was created for Charles II, and protecting it for everyone to enjoy, for generations.
We will restore the declining tree avenues in carefully-managed phases over 3 years by removing the damaged Turkey oak trees, and a small number of badly-damaged beech trees, and planting a net increase of new trees: native, more-resilient, semi-mature, wildlife-friendly lime and elm trees. We won’t remove any trees planted before the 1970s.
The new tree avenues will provide long-term benefit for wildlife, with flowering limes providing nectar. More disease-resistant elms will provide a habitat for the protected white letter hairstreak butterfly and will mark a return to the original planting plan of the 1660s.
The restoration of the tree avenues will ensure that foraging habitat and movement corridors for birds, bats and other wildlife will be retained for years to come.
We will install several irrigation points connecting to ground water to sustainably overcome challenges of fast-draining soil.
We are also enhancing 7,000 square metres of woodland areas across the wider park, comprising native, diverse and wildlife-friendly trees, to boost carbon absorption and enhance biodiversity.
We will simultaneously use cutting-edge landscape design to re-define the banking and steps.
We will enhance the valuable acid grassland environment, to support wild grasses, flowers and invertebrates. The landscape restoration will expand valuable acid grassland habitats found in the park, providing foraging habitat for pollinators and birds, with specific opportunities incorporated for ground nesting bees and wasps.
Works will begin winter 2022 to be completed March 2025. The work is being delivered through Greenwich Park Revealed.
Parterre Avenue restoration timeline of works
The full plan of the project works from Year 1 to 3.