In the seventh of a series of articles looking at the developing plans for restoring Wanstead Park, John Meehan, chairman of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, looks at what has been achieved in the park so far and explains what is still to come, and invites anyone who cares about the park’s future to become a member. Ornamental Waters photo by Christian Moss
The present campaign for Wanstead Park was started in 2005. Initially an ad hoc committee of concerned local people, the founders delivered a successful lottery-funded project to raise awareness of the park. About a decade ago, we reactivated a membership-based group called the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, which had been dormant for some time.
The Friends has grown into a dedicated group of volunteers, which works tirelessly with the City of London and other stakeholders to improve the Wanstead Park experience – both for its human users and resident wildlife!
The Friends has constantly been implementing small, much-needed projects to improve the park, for instance, a successful bid for £8,000 of Tesco funding to pay for new picnic tables and benches by the tea hut. They also paid for the restoration of the antique tables in the Temple.
More recently, the Friends also convinced the Field Studies Council to run a two-year education programme in the park for local schools and children, and they are currently agreeing a sponsorship with the Corporation to provide additional signage to help people navigate the park.
We have already been successful in convincing Redbridge to put signage on roads leading to Wanstead Park, which are now in place.
The Friends also runs events throughout the year, including children’s events at the Temple, talks by historians and historical novelists, information stalls at local fayres and shows, music concerts, quiz nights, walks and an upcoming Christmas event at the Temple.
One of the most important jobs the Friends do is to keep the local community informed of the park’s history, ecology and events through a variety of media. Our website is very informative and well used and we also produce four newsletters per year for members. However, our most impactful work is on social media, where the Facebook page has 1,366 members and the Twitter account has 1,867 followers (and 4,465 tweets).
In recent years, our work has focused on attracting a substantial funding package from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and we have played a very active part in shaping and producing a Parkland Plan to guide that work, in partnership with the Corporation and others.
The latest draft of the Parkland Plan has been completed and was featured in the November Wanstead Village Directory, whereas the implementation of the lottery bid awaits the structural assessment of the four lakes in the park, which involves checking their stability under flood conditions (see our feature in the October Wanstead Village Directory).
The Friends committee meets every month to coordinate our work. We are now a registered charity, with stated charitable objectives agreed with the Charities Commission and properly maintained accounts.
Our Annual General Meeting, usually held at Wanstead Golf Club, gives regular members and interested members of the public an opportunity to ask questions about the work of the Friends and quiz speakers from the Corporation of London.
If you wish to be involved in the ongoing development of the Parkland Plan, and actively contribute to the thinking behind it and the local community, please consider joining the Friends of Wanstead Parklands.