January 2020


Wanstead to Leytonstone Central Line track replacement delayed


The discovery of asbestos has caused delays to the replacement of Central Line track in the local area.

“We are replacing rail track between Wanstead and Leytonstone Tube stations to reduce noise levels… Ahead of work starting we identified some asbestos, which has now been dealt with by a specialist team to ensure the safety of staff and customers. As a result of this we have made some changes to the track replacement programme, but will complete it as soon as possible,” said a London Underground spokesperson.


Talk yourself better

ariene-1Ariane with Richard Dawkins at the launch of the Atheist Bus Campaign. © Zoe Margolis

Paul Kaufman, Chair of East London Humanists, introduces Ariane Sherine, writer, comedienne and woman of many parts who will feature at the group’s Wanstead meeting this month.

Ariane Sherine, who lives in Leytonstone, will be talking about her extraordinary and eventful life journey and signing copies of her latest book at Wanstead Library this January.

Expelled from school at 16, Ariane started hanging around with Duran Duran and played piano on two of their tracks. Her journalistic career started at 21, reviewing records for NME. She was soon contributing to TV shows,  including Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Countdown, and spent time on the stand-up comedy circuit. She has gone on to write several books and is a contributor to The Spectator, The Guardian, The Independent, The Sunday Times and Esquire magazine.

Ariane has a young daughter and is a patron of Humanists UK. In 2013 she published the ebook Give: How to be Happy. She wrote in The Guardian at its launch about her lack of religious belief and her wish for her daughter to grow up in a kinder world. The book describes 10 practical actions we can all take to help achieve this. Ariane sold half of her possessions as part of the campaign and donated the proceeds to Médecins Sans Frontières.

But perhaps the best-known achievement initiated by Ariane was the Atheist Bus Campaign. Launched in 2009, the campaign grew at an astonishing pace. A total of £100,000 was raised in four days. It was taken up in over a dozen countries. Ariane thought up the campaign in response to the use of bus advertising by the Jesus Said organisation to promote their message that all non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity. Ariane’s message was: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Even this simple retort was too much for some. It was criticised by George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury. Attempts to run similar campaigns in Russia, Italy and Australia were thwarted. And there was a backlash for Ariane. The hate mail she received from extreme Christians contributed to a breakdown.

The road to recovery prompted Ariane to write her book Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person’s Guide to Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help. Reviews include: “What an excellent, long-overdue idea! A super-accessible guide, through the bewildering marketplace of modern therapy, to ease our noble search for help,” (Derren Brown); “How do we cope with this brutal world? In this witty, revealing book Ariane Sherine runs through the ways. An excellent, funny and thought-provoking read for all who seek answers,” (Arthur Smith).

There will be time for questions and discussion following Ariane’s presentation.

Ariane’s talk will take place at Wanstead Library on 27 January from 7.30pm (free; visitors welcome) – visit wnstd.com/elh. For more information on Ariane and her books, visit arianesherine.com

Building Wanstead

IMG_0536-croppedPlans for 88–90 Nightingale Lane, originally known as 8–9 Laurel Bank, in 1892

Wanstead has changed considerably over the past 160 years. Ahead of a talk at Wanstead Library this month, Dr Colin Runeckles discusses his work cataloguing local building plans dating back to 1858.

The Heritage Section of Redbridge Central Library holds over 40,000 building plans for Ilford and 14,000 for Wanstead and Woodford. These range from an entire area, drainage and street plans, churches and cinemas, stables and garages, down to alterations to houses including installing WCs and additional bedrooms. The majority of the plans are folded and stored in individual envelopes and numbered for identification purposes.

However, it should be noted that not all plans are available – sometimes, the original list records that the plan is missing and what has been left may be a document relating to the building. Where the original list records the exact location of the building, this still has some use to researchers, but where we are left with simply ‘one house’ in a particular street, the value of the record diminishes greatly.

Ilford Historical Society member Carol Franklin took on the task of computerising the details of every Ilford plan onto Excel spreadsheets. The details include the following: plan number, month and year, building type, house numbers, company, street name, area of Ilford, number of houses, proposer, builder and architect. So, for example, if you wanted to look at every plan held by a particular builder – Cameron Corbett, for instance – this can be done very quickly by filtering the information held on the spreadsheet.

A volunteer subsequently made a start on the plans for Wanstead and Woodford and catalogued 1,500 plans dating from 1959 to 1963. Sue Page, Development Librarian, gave me the more exciting task of going right back to the beginning of the archive for Wanstead, dating from 1858. So far, I have catalogued up to 1924, and I’m aiming to finish Wanstead up to the point it joined Woodford in the new Borough Council in 1934 by January 2020. Part of my work is to reassign houses to their modern street number as so many were given individual names or terrace numbers when they were built.

As a researcher into the streets and houses of the borough, the original plans and the lists are invaluable for my work into the growth of the area. This is especially true for the years before the earliest detailed Kelly’s Directory of 1900, where knowledge of when roads were laid out or the first houses built can be sketchy, to say the least. I am also constructing a full list of roads for the area with the date of them being laid out.

Some of my findings will be the subject of a talk at Wanstead Library this month, entitled Building Wanstead, where I will show the development of Wanstead over the last 150 years or so through a number of these plans.

Colin’s talk will take place at Wanstead Library on 29 January from 2pm to 3pm (free; booking required) – visit wnstd.com/build. For more information, email heritage@visionrcl.org.uk

Training your friend


Colin Spence runs dog training classes in Snaresbrook and has been using force-free methods to discipline man’s best friend – and their owners – for 23 years. Here he explains why such classes are important.

In my view, a vital aspect of dog ownership should include responsibility for not only the animal’s welfare and wellbeing but also for their training needs. Most dog owners do train their dogs in their home and – as best as they can – in the outside environment as well. This is very good, in my opinion; at least they have done something to improve the diligence of their pet.

But training a dog is not as clear-cut as some might think. To get dogs to fulfil good, solid and trusted behaviours, we first need to understand how dogs actually think and learn how the environment plays a part in influencing the behaviour of every dog, no matter where that environment may be, indoors or outdoors.

Only when owners truly understand how easily dogs are influenced by – and how they learn from – the environment will they be closer to understanding how to add on the training side (operant conditioning). Dog trainers that are qualified and certified have invested time in their own education. Those that use humane training methods are the type of trainer all dog owners need, as they can rest assured they will get sound advice along with productive training for their dogs. Look for a trainer that runs structured classes with schedules each week.

Training classes offer dogs a safe environment in which to learn. As the owner, you too will learn how to use distractions and how to use the environment to your advantage. Ultimately, you will learn how to train your dog to be focused on you during the session. This is incorporated with your dog’s development around other dogs, learning how to be calm and sociable and able to relax while there is movement around them.

The trainer should be able to guide everyone in how to be consistent, including the tools owners should have to ensure the session runs smoothly, such as having the right type of harness that fits correctly and suits the individual dog.

Dog training also provides an education in the laws that come with owning such a special pet, and what that means to all that have a dog in their care. Classes provide the social network all dogs need, but they also teach the owner how to get the very best from their dog, by learning various training methods that are science-based and humane, and that reinforce good behaviours.

Colin’s K9 Training Services holds classes on Wednesday evenings (6.30pm and 7.30pm) at the Scout Hut at 72 Hollybush Hill in Snaresbrook (£10 per class). For more information, call 07931 460 451

Wild Wanstead


In the 19th of a series of articles charting the Wild Wanstead project, Alex Deverill encourages us all to resolve to do more to help local wildlife in 2020.

The latest State of Nature report published in October paints a sorry picture of the UK’s wildlife, which is continuing to decline due to factors like modern farming techniques, use of pesticides and urbanisation. But anyone with a bit of outdoor space can make a big difference. Here are six New Year’s resolutions to help nature thrive in Wanstead.

Love the trees you’ve got
We’re lucky in Wanstead to have some ancient trees in the parks around us. But mature trees in our gardens are just as important. Take the lime trees where I live. These trees are like a wild flower meadow in the sky. The leaves are eaten by many moth caterpillars and attract aphids, which are food for hoverflies, ladybirds and many species of bird. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for insects, particularly bees. Long-lived trees provide dead wood for wood-boring beetles and nesting holes for birds.

Plant a new tree
Billions of new trees are urgently needed to address the climate crisis, and they have the added benefit of helping wildlife too. TV gardener Joe Swift says some of his favourite garden trees include Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree, 10m high, 9m spread), Amelanchier lamarckii (10m by 10m, but can easily be kept smaller), Malus ‘John Downie’ (crab apple, height 8m, spread 6m), Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ (winter-flowering cherry, 8m by 8m), Ilex aquifolium ‘JC van Tol’ (holly, height 6m, spread 4m) and Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree, 5m by 5m). Winter is the perfect time to plant a tree as a cheap, small, bare root sapling – so get that spade out!

Create a mini meadow
Flower-rich meadows support eight times more wildlife than close-cut grass. Just dig up a patch of turf and plant a wild flower seed mix this spring. Alternatively, sit back and let nature do her thing. Cut the grass just once in September – if you remove the cuttings every year to reduce the nutrients in the soil, wild flowers will gradually naturalise without you planting anything.

Plant native shrubs or a hedge
Hedges are brilliant. At the front, they provide a green barrier against pollution from cars. At the back, they create the twiggy, thorny habitat loved by small birds and hated by burglars. It’s not too late to plant one using bare root native species like hawthorn, dogwood, hazel, blackthorn and dog rose – and for evergreen, try beech and hornbeam (which keep their leaves in hedges), or yew, holly and privet. Why not work with your neighbour to swap your last fence panel for native shrubs to let hedgehogs move more easily between gardens?

Build a pond or water feature
Adding water adds a new dimension to a garden. Before you know it, it will be full of newts and a magnet for insects. Woodford Aquatics, just up the road, is great for advice and any materials you need.    

Green up hard surfacing
Nothing can live on a paving slab, so why not bring your drive or patio back to life in 2020? Lift bricks, slabs or gravel to find the earth, and plant pollinator-friendly shrubs like weigela, viburnum, sambucus nigra or hebe. Place a large, raised bed direct on the hard surfacing to create a new border (scaling up helps, but even big containers always need more watering than plants in soil). Or make the most of nooks and crannies with plants that can survive in smaller areas of soil like Mexican fleabane, Aubrieta, hardy geraniums, bellfower and thyme.

It’s not too late to stop the decline of our wildlife if we all make the most of the space we’ve got.

For more information on the Wild Wanstead project, visit wnstd.com/wild

Restoring Wanstead Park

reptonoakRepton Oak by Richard Arnopp

In the eighth of a series of articles looking at the developing plans for restoring Wanstead Park, John Meehan, chairman of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, reveals some of the park’s secrets and surviving features of its long history. Photo of the Repton Oak by Richard Arnopp.

Wanstead Park has had a variety of uses, styles and functions over hundreds of years. It has been a royal retreat, a deer park, a landscaped garden and, since 1882, a public open space managed as part of Epping Forest. Many surviving features of its long history are still there if you know where to find them!

If you enter Wanstead Park from its western end, through the Blake Hall entrance, you enter an area known as Reservoir Wood. Walk for perhaps 150 yards and you will come upon a magnificent oak to the right, with huge outstretched branches and with a newly cleared ‘halo’ around it. It is believed to be a ‘bundle tree’, which means it was not grown from one sapling but a number of young trees planted together in one hole. The object was to produce a large specimen tree with a spreading form, as all the stems merge into one huge, fluted trunk. This was a practice associated with the late Georgian landscaper Humphry Repton, and the tree is known as the ‘Repton Oak’ after him. Humphry Repton did produce proposals for Wanstead Park in 1813, in one of his last major projects, and the tree was probably planted not long after.

Reservoir Wood was named after a lake which once occupied the area. In fact, it stretched from the golf course to beyond Woodlands Avenue, and from Blake Hall Road to a large embankment, which is now cut by the path a little way beyond the Repton Oak. The Reservoir was drained by 1818, probably because of problems with the water supply. Its site was planted with a wood, perhaps to block the open view of Wanstead House from the public road.

The path continues to the east, past the Heronry Pond and, as you pass the second of the two islands, the Temple comes into view. Built around 1760, it seems originally to have been planned as a small building with an earth mound to the front, making it look as though it was sitting on top of a small hill, and looking like a beautiful Roman temple you would expect to see in the romantic 17th-century paintings by Lorrain and Poussin. At a slightly later date, or perhaps even while construction was still in progress, two brick wings were added, making the structure sit heavier within the landscape. Perhaps these were intended to house the menagerie, which we know the building was later used for.

Bearing around to the left of the Temple, taking the vehicle track to Warren Road, you will notice a huge evergreen tree, which is a yew. The path here leads past a big mound in the woods, which is covered in bluebells in the spring. This path leads out onto the Great Ride, and if you walk across the ride, you will find another, larger, mound. The two Mounts, as they were known, were roughly symmetrical features on either side of the Great Ride, designed to allow visitors to get above the highly formal garden to view the formal gardens, mazes and avenues. From above you could have made sense of the complex formal garden designs. The Mounts would have had a spiral path leading to their summits and the northern one seems to have been crowned by a little temple. Today, they are overgrown sentinels of a 300-year-old landscape that once covered huge areas, with avenues radiating out across Wanstead Flats to Leytonstone and Forest Gate.

The work of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands is to reveal these secrets in cooperation with the owners of the various parts of the park, the main owner being the Corporation of London. The landowners and other stakeholders, including the Friends, have jointly created a Parkland Plan, which sets out a long-term restoration and management programme that respects history, people and nature.

To join or donate to the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, visit wansteadpark.org.uk or email wansteadpark.org.uk@gmail.com

The old East End


In the third of a series of articles, local photographer Geoff Wilkinson discusses his new exhibition – entitled ‘Quick! Before it goes’ – depicting London’s East End, an area which resonates with many residents here.

A walk around London’s East End is now a fascinating experience. The changes are enormous, as I have discovered on this latest photographic odyssey for my current exhibition. Buildings and whole streets have disappeared, often replaced with modern glass and steel structures our parents and grandparents would never recognise.

Visitors to my photography gallery in Wanstead had talked about their parents’ lives and childhood memories of playing on the streets of Bethnal Green, Bow, Mile End and other parts of the East End.

It was the night I got off the DLR at Canning Town station to take some more photographs that it suddenly became a more personal journey. My grandfather’s house, now long gone, on Bidder Street was next to the railway line and what was known at that time as ‘Peggy Leggy Steps’, the pedestrian footbridge over the railway. This was part of my East End playground when we visited him and my grandmother. The ‘Steps’ have been replaced by Star Lane DLR station. When lit at night, it acts as a beacon for shift workers finishing in the darkness. The Woolwich ferry, connecting the north and south of the River Thames, was always a Sunday morning treat with my grandfather. Being on the boat as it moved through the river those few hundred yards was a real adventure. It was that memory which led me to take the photograph on these pages of the ferry named the Dame Vera Lynn.

This photograph, although not what you might think of as a typical east London scene, sums up everything for me, with the new East End (Canary Wharf) behind the ferry and the old dock cranes on the right symbolising the past.

Geoff’s exhibition of East End photographs runs until 1 March at Gallery 84 on Nightingale Lane, Wanstead, E11 2EZ. For more information, call 020 8530 1244 or visit wnstd.com/gw

Improve your birdwatching skills in Wanstead Park this month


Residents are invited to join the Wren Wildlife Group for a bird spotting walk through Wanstead Park as part of this month’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

“We’ll be looking at a variety of wintering ducks – including gadwall, shoveler, pochard and tufted ducks – on the park’s lakes. And we’ll be searching through the bare trees for fieldfares, redwings and siskins. And there may be the odd surprise as well!” said Tim Harris. Participants will meet at the park’s Temple at 10am on 25 January (free).

Call 07505 482 328


Listen and learn: Redbridge Music Service

DofE_117Redbridge Music Service students

In the 20th of a series of articles, David Bird discusses the work of Redbridge Music Society and Redbridge Music Service, whose students will be performing in Wanstead this month.

Two main aims of Redbridge Music Society are to promote and support up-and-coming young musicians, especially those residing within the borough, and to bring a diverse range of musical styles and genres to the people of Redbridge at easily accessible venues. Both aims will be realised when the students of Redbridge Music Service put on a recital at Christ Church, Wanstead this month. 

Based at the John Savage Centre, Barkingside, Redbridge Music Service is the gem in Redbridge’s musical crown. It is a lead partner within the North East London Music Education Hub (NELMEH), and through the many years of its existence, the Music Service has nurtured numerous talented young musicians, a large number of which have gone on to become professional musicians.

Currently, music has the status of being a statutory subject and is an entitlement for pupils up to the age of 14 in schools that follow the National Curriculum. Pupils should have access to both live and recorded music and Redbridge Music Service, via a programme of recitals, ensures pupils have first-hand experiences of music through live performances. The Music Service presents about 50 annual concerts, ranging from pupil concerts at the John Savage Centre to major events at Redbridge Town Hall. Every two years the Music Service puts on the renowned Redbridge Schools’ Choral Festival at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Learning a musical instrument can significantly improve important developmental qualities, such as self-confidence, imagination and creativity, memory and co-ordination skills and communication, team and social skills – skills which also greatly benefit other areas in the school curriculum. To this end, Redbridge Music Service provides a wide range of instrumental and vocal tuition in schools – even at nursery and reception level – throughout the borough. Instruments can be hired from the Music Service’s Instrument Centre at the John Savage Centre.

The Music School encourages its students to explore music from a wide range of historical periods, genres and traditions. This will certainly be evident at the forthcoming recital at Christ Church when the students will perform an eclectic mix of music and musical styles. Their recitals are always a popular and well-attended event and are now a standard annual feature in Redbridge Music Society’s calendar. Please come along and support our exceptional home-grown talent!

Students of Redbridge Music Service will perform at Christ Church, Wanstead on 21 January from 8pm (tickets on the door: £7). For more information, call 07380 606 767. Redbridge Music Society is supported by Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure and is affiliated to Making Music.

How low can we go?


A consultation on an initiative to make Wanstead a Low Emission Neighbourhood launches this month. Councillor Paul Donovan urges you to have your say in making the area cleaner and greener.

We are lucky to live in Wanstead – a green area, with parks, trees, waterways and open areas. There are, however, many environmental challenges. These include worsening pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity. Redbridge Council and local people are seeking to address these challenges together.

Wanstead is fortunate to have a burgeoning environmental movement looking for ways to improve life.

Modern transport systems face many obstacles in seeking to improve ways of getting around, whilst also ensuring that the planet on which everyone depends for life is not destroyed in the process.

There are moves afoot to address some of the problems of pollution and traffic congestion in the area. The council is encouraging electric cars, with charging points being installed across the borough. There are also plans for more cycle hangars.

The Low Emission Neighbourhood (LEN) scheme is being introduced – based on the London Mayor’s target of getting 80% of journeys to be by foot, cycle or public transport by 2041.

LEN for Wanstead goes out to consultation from January and is supported by all Wanstead councillors. It is aimed at making life better for those three types of travel. Objectives include improving air quality, creating safe areas around schools and safer junctions, reducing rat runs, providing a wider range of transport options, improving station access, encouraging safe speeds and generally improving the urban environment.

In addition to this scheme, there is the Ultra Low Emission Zone being brought to the area by the London Mayor in 2021. This will also help to make the air cleaner.

There is, of course, still much to do. The plans of London City Airport to expand its operations is not conducive to a cleaner, greener environment. Redbridge, together with a number of other councils, has expressed its opposition to the plans. But people also need to take personal responsibility: drive and fly less, and think about the environment and people around us.

In Wanstead, we are lucky to have a community that really is concerned about the environment and keen to engage with change. Change is on the way, so make sure you are part of it by getting involved in things like the LEN consultation. There is also the great work of local groups like Cleaner Green Wanstead, Wanstead Climate Action, Friends of Wanstead Parklands and the Wren Wildlife Group – all are keen to welcome new supporters. Together, we can make a cleaner, greener Wanstead.