February 2020


Stories Great & Small

Screenshot 2020-01-27 13.45.07

Author, retired vet, ex-racing cyclist and head injury victim Julian Earl has many stories to tell, and residents are invited to hear them at an event in Aldersbrook this month. Gill James reports

As pet owners, a trip to the vets is all part and parcel of owning a pet. But have you ever wondered what it is actually like to work as a vet?

Such a profession is often seen as a glamorous occupation, but the reality is mess, noise, dealing with the public, being called out for an emergency in the middle of the night and long hours. Plus, there is the constant threat of injuries and accidents from large, unruly animals. You need a sense of humour to be a vet, and the author of Cows in Trees, vet Julian Earl, certainly has that essential attribute.

His book is written in a warm and light-hearted style, and yes, the cow in the tree story as depicted on the front cover of this hardback book really did happen! And this month, you have the chance to hear Julian telling us about a vet’s life in person.

Julian dreamed of working as a vet from his childhood. He worked in Lancashire and Lincolnshire with both domestic pets and farm livestock for many years.

He was a keen competitive cyclist before suffering life-threatening injuries during a cycle race in 2012 that brought his clinical work to an end. He was left with skull fractures and multiple brain haemorrhages. He was placed into an induced coma and underwent multiple operations. He was not expected to survive.

But not only did this remarkable man survive, he now – due to his head injury – competes as a para-cyclist.

Julian recovered well from his head injury thanks to the work of a remarkable surgeon. Sadly, many brain injury survivors are not so lucky. Headway East London is a local charity, based in Hackney, supporting people affected by brain injuries. It offers specialist support and services to survivors and their family, while also campaigning for greater public awareness.

We all think ‘it will never happen to me’, but every year around 350,000 people are admitted to hospital with an acquired brain injury. That’s one every 90 seconds.

Like Julian, Aldersbrook resident Oli Herz suffered a serious injury caused by a cycling accident. He is grateful for the support he received from Headway East London and now volunteers for them every week. He will also be at the event this month to tell us a little about his own experience and the work of the charity.

Julian and Oli’s talk will take place at Aldersbrook Bowls Club, 34 Aldersbrook Road, E12 5DY on 13 February from 7.30pm (tickets: £5 on the door or £4 in advance; under-16s: free). Email gilljames@btinternet.com. For more information on Headway East London, visit  headwayeastlondon.org

Wanstead to take part in council’s wheelie bin pilot

L1210473-2©Geoff Wilkinson

Some households in Wanstead Village will join four other wards across Redbridge in trialling wheelie bins for rubbish collection this month.

“The pilot areas have been chosen to be representative of the borough so the bins can be tested… before considering whether to introduce them more widely,” said a Redbridge Council spokesperson. Introducing wheelie bins across the borough could potentially reduce some of the £18m the council currently spends each year on collecting 22 million black sacks.

Visit wnstd.com/wheelie


Wanstead Night Shelter


The Wanstead Winter Night Shelter launched at Christ Church hall last month. Revd Canon Ann Clarke reports on the largely volunteer work that has made it such a useful resource for their weekly guests

Steven Timms, MP for East Ham, acknowledged recently that if it were not for Faith Group Night Shelters, 2,200 more people would be sleeping on the streets of London each night.

As part of Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter (FCENS), Wanstead Parish opened its parish hall doors on 7 January to guests for the very first time. We were able to provide our visitors with a welcoming hot drink, a nourishing hot meal, shelter and breakfast,  and a listening ear and a smile.

Thanks to the financial support from our crowdfunding supporters and Aviva employees, £8,491 was the official sum raised, including £2,000 from the Aviva Community Fund. We were able to purchase a dedicated warming oven, fridge, new dishwasher, oven and microwave in time for the opening of the shelter, as well as room dividers, sleeping bags, food, storage equipment and a key fire safety system – a mandatory requirement for having guests sleep overnight.

The generosity of the local community has been overwhelming: in volunteering (40-plus people on the current rota); in donations from our Christmas services; and in donations of clothing and food from our Reverse Advent Calendar. Special thanks to Lizi at The Cuckfield and John at Petty Son and Prestwich for collecting so much and for supporting this venture.

Wanstead Parish has joined FCENS, which has a well-established scheme. A full-time worker, Tunde, works all year round with the homeless men and women in Waltham Forest and beyond. All guests are known by him and he attends each shelter to register them. There is also a paid worker, Anthony, who attends each shelter to help run the night shift with a volunteer. All other workers are volunteers.

Our team begins at 6pm each Tuesday to set up the hall, putting out the bedding and tables and being there to greet and engage with the guests. Teams of three or four people provide a nourishing hot meal and another group of volunteers serve and clear up. The volunteer night watch person arrives at 9pm. At 5.50am the breakfast team arrive and the guests leave by 7am. Due to the amazing amount of good quality clothing and new items, such as underpants, socks, hats, shoes and toiletries donated by the community, we have also been able to send our guests on their way with a much-needed care package.

Wanstead Parish considers it a privilege to be running this shelter once a week during the winter months. We see it as being part of our Christian duty to home the homeless, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We would like to thank so many members of our wider community for helping us to offer this important community resource.

The Wanstead Winter Night Shelter is open at Christ Church hall every Tuesday until 31 March. Call 020 8530 8743

Swan lakes

4bbo9©Tracey Adebowale-Jones

In the first of a series of articles celebrating the swans that reside on the lakes of Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats, Tracey Adebowale-Jones explains her love for these graceful birds.

After some years of being captivated by and photographing the swans of Wanstead Park, I was walking one day around the Heronry Pond when I spotted a very forlorn-looking swan sitting in the reeds of a muddy, shallow estuary. I was struck by its sadness, condition and reluctance to come over to me for food (unusual for most swans).

After that first encounter, I started to take bread and seed, eventually coaxing it across the water so she would eat. Each day I went at the same time and each day she began to wait on the bank, but she seemed unable to preen, remaining dirty and unkempt and thin.  I happened to see a friend who was carrying bags of bird food and I expressed my concern to her. Immediately, she told me about Gill Walker, who rescues swans and other birds and takes them to The Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton, Middlesex for care, healing and, hopefully, a return to the water. I contacted Gill and a day or so later, my swan was carried off in an Ikea bag (just the right size) to the sanctuary, where she remains to this day.

Since that swan encounter, I have become an avid swan watcher. Still taking photographs, but now much more aware of their behaviour and needs. Learning all the time about them, and wanting to impart everything I have learnt, I have begun to develop a network of swan watchers in the park so that we can all keep them safe.

Swans are vulnerable to uncontrolled dogs, foxes, abandoned fishing line and floats, and when very small, the cygnets can be carried away by hungry crows or terrapins that lurk in the waters. Their nests are sometimes ransacked by humans who smash the eggs, and we believe our swan population in the park last year was depleted because of this cruelty.

We have four lakes in the park and usually, there is an adult pair on three of them – one greedy pair takes two lakes as their own and often you will see a territorial of great drama when another pair attempts to intrude. Already this year, we have been able to rescue a juvenile from the Shoulder of Mutton Pond who was driven off by an adult pair.

Through our growing network, we are able to tell each other when we have concerns about a swan’s health or safety, and we thank the many people of Wanstead who share a love for these birds for their support in looking after our beloved swans.

For more information on The Swan Sanctuary, visit wnstd.com/swans. To report any concerns about the health and safety of a local swan, call 01932 240 790

Future for Whipps

Whipps Cross Hospital

In the fourth of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Gordon Drakes is pleased to report that being environmentally friendly will be a key design principle in the new build

Campaigners were informed last month that an environmentally friendly hospital and the lowest possible carbon footprint will be a key design principle in the new Whipps Cross Hospital, and that the redevelopment team want this to go further and enable the whole of the site to achieve a carbon neutral footprint.

To cover additional costs, a 3% uplift to the capital bid for building the hospital is to be included. They are aiming to achieve the ‘Excellent’ level of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Alastair Finney, the Whipps Redevelopment Director, said they will appoint a dedicated sustainability consultant to the team for the next phase: “We will also make sure there are opportunities for expert stakeholders and local people to be engaged and involved in the work as it progresses.”

The recent election has demonstrated that, aside from the ‘B’ word, securing a sustainable future for the NHS and the planet are perhaps the two most important issues for the British public. So, this is welcome news indeed.

In the summer of 2019, the government enshrined into law a commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2050 (not soon enough, but a positive starting point), and it is clear that if governments of the future are to achieve this target, it will be because of action taken now and over the coming years. Given the scale of the task, the principle of net zero carbon needs to infuse and influence all government decision-making going forward.

How the government spends tax revenue on large-scale land development projects must surely be a prime area for implementing this new environmental modus operandi. Indeed, in the government’s response to a recent report issued by the Climate Change Commission, it acknowledged that the built environment accounts for 40% of national energy use and around one-third of emissions.

Whipps Cross is one of the six hospital developments the government has announced will benefit from a share of a £2.7bn funding allocation. The plans are still in flux and the amount of funding for Whipps is still not confirmed – do sign and share the Waltham Forest Save Our NHS petition to the Secretary of State for Health, which is to be handed in on 14 February. But by putting the environment at the centre of the plans, there is an opportunity to reap many benefits.

Members of Wanstead Climate Action (WCA)joined with local health campaigners to urge Barts Health Trust to ensure that low carbon or net zero carbon is a core principal of the Whipps redevelopment plans. Now that we have a positive response to this plea, we need to keep on the case. There are many hurdles to go through yet.

For information on the future of Whipps, visit wnstd.com/whipps. To view the petition, visit wnstd.com/wxp. For information on WCA, visit wnstd.com/wca

Jewish New Year for Trees: songs, stories and unusual fruits

rambutan-2477621_1920Rambutans are exotic fruits grown in tropical countries

Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue invite those interested in Jewish culture to celebrate Tu b’Shevat (New Year for Trees) on 9 February.

“This festival was developed in the 16th century to mark the first signs of winter’s departure and the re-awakening of nature in Israel. It is marked by tree planting and eating uncommon fruits, such as rambutans,” said Martin Gaba. Celebrations will take place at 2 Fillebrook Road, Leytonstone from 2pm to 5pm, with food, songs and stories.

Call 07434 631 948 or visit wnstd.com/laws


Voices from the past

Grandmother Looking At Photo Album With Teenage GranddaughterGrandmother Looking At Photo Album With Teenage Granddaughter

Ahead of a family orientated oral history training session in Wanstead this month, Rev Dr Jack Dunn explains why listening to your elders is important, and why talking to youngsters is vital for the community

This month, Wanstead Parish, in conjunction with Eastside Community Heritage (ECH), will be offering a unique opportunity to develop and gain new skills through oral history training at St Mary’s Church.

The training is part of the parish’s Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) community activities, associated with the recent repair and renovation works of the masonry at St Mary’s, and is open to all. It has been particularly designed to be family friendly and is ideal for children aged 10 and over and their parents, caregivers and grandparents.

ECH has been working in east London for over 22 years. During that time, it has become one of the nation’s leading community heritage organisations. It has established (with funding from HLF) the London People’s Archive, now called the Hidden Histories Archive, which contains over 4,000 digitised oral histories of Londoners.

ECH’s mission is to uncover the histories of people that would otherwise permanently be hidden or lost from history; from working-class communities, from the economically disadvantaged, from immigrant communities and from LGBTQIA+, BAME and disabled people. The organisation helps ‘ordinary people’ to see that their stories can be extraordinary and are worth telling and preserving for posterity.

Intergenerational activities are a core element of both Wanstead Parish’s and ECH’s ministry and offering. This project has been designed to help bring the generations together to listen and to share and to learn from each other. Young people find older people more interesting than expected; older people are surprised and touched by the interest of the young; experience is passed on from one generation to another; enduring relationships are formed, which benefit communities and individuals, breaking down generational barriers. The process of training younger people to interview their parents, grandparents, carers and older members of the community will hopefully shine a new light for future generations.

The skills and techniques the participants will acquire by engaging in oral history-based projects are numerous. For school-aged children, oral history is not confined to history lessons and can be used to enrich learning across the national curriculum, including in art, media, technology, geography and English language.

All this and more is included in the oral history training provided by ECH. We hope you will join us for a fascinating 90-minute session, open to all.

Oral history training will take place at St Mary’s Church, Overton Drive, Wanstead on 8 February from 11am to 12.30pm (free; open to all). For more information, call 020 8530 8743