Overlooked

A view over Tarzy Wood and across WansteadA view over Tarzy Wood and across Wanstead

Last month's Tarzy Woodfest introduced many residents to an often overlooked woodland off Wanstead High Street. Steve Steele, coordinator of the Tidy Tarzy group, invites you to help maintain this important community asset.

There aren't many high streets in London that come with their own bit of historic woodland. I guess Wanstead is just lucky. But what amazed me, speaking to people at the Tarzy Woodfest on 16 July, was how few knew the wood was there or, less surprisingly, that it's called Tarzy (its name comes from the tar-covered fence that was erected – and torn down by outraged locals – in the 1800s in a vain attempt to build on the land).

Many said they didn't use the wood because it was too dark and uninviting, but the festival changed their opinions. People were really impressed with the event – the brainchild of Epping Forest Keeper Alison Tapply – and the work done to make the wood feel safe and open.

Other than the obvious highlights of the bands, bar and BBQ from The Duke, my personal favourite was the Tarzy tree trail, developed by Iain Ambler from the Epping Wildflower Group, which was a great hit. More than 40 families and individuals found and correctly identified the 20 different species of trees we are very lucky to have in such a small wood.

My family moved to Wanstead in 2006 and I instantly loved the wood at the end of our garden; Tarzy was a place to enjoy nature and tranquillity. But over the last 11 years, reality has fallen short of this idyll. Littering, broken glass and signs of drug use were reasons I felt the wood unsuitable for my young kids. But what can one person do?

I spent the best part of two years collecting rubbish in Tarzy Wood most weeks, but other than a couple of volunteer working parties, I saw few signs of active woodland management or regular litter collections. So in 2016, I contacted the Corporation of London, and Alison Tapply agreed to draw up a management plan to increase biodiversity and encourage use. Having a strong local volunteer group was part of the plan and that was where I came in. Myself and Mark Lonergan, a fellow Tarzy Wood neighbour, were trained to run Tidy Tarzy events and several volunteer working sessions have been held since January to rehabilitate the wood. Now it's great to see the wood opened up for nature and more visitors, with the Corporation of London and Redbridge Council giving it some TLC (Tarzy Loving Care).

I help coordinate a small group of passionate, committed volunteers, who regularly get involved and contribute to improving the site. You would be most welcome to join us. Our upcoming activities will include:

Taking turns to regularly collect the litter that the more ignorant and selfish parts of our community leave behind.

In the autumn, we will remove undergrowth along the High Street from Church Path to New Wanstead to reveal the avenue of lime and oak trees and make the cut-through path feel more open and safe.

And hopefully, Tarzy Woodfest will be repeated next summer. Watch this space...

For more information on Tarzy Wood and to volunteer for the Tidy Tarzy group, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . View more images of the site at wavidi.co/tarzypics


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