During June and July 2013, researchers sampled 360 areas in four south London parks. They found no ticks in Wimbledon Common or Hampton Court but discovered 1,109 ticks in the samples from Richmond Park and nine ticks at Bushy Park. However, just 2.14 per cent of nymphs at Richmond Park were found to be carrying the bacteria. Ticks tended to be in areas with increased soil moisture and mat depth, lower canopy humidity and cooler ground with longer grass.
The Royal Parks should be encouraged to increase public awareness of the risk, said the researchers. But a Royal Parks spokesperson said the study was actually reassuring, with results very similar to previous studies, which are usually carried out by Public Health England.
"This study indicates that the risk of infection in Richmond Park remains low, with only two per cent of the immature ticks sampled testing positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease." The spokesperson added that staff "very occasionally" receive reports of tick bites, usually when someone has waded through dense bracken.
A leaflet available through The Royal Parks' website offers precautions for avoiding ticks and the spokesperson said it is unusual to be bitten if this advice is followed. "We have always promoted sensible advice regarding ticks including advising visitors to wear insect repellent and avoid walking through dense vegetation, especially during the months of April to October."