July 2020


Floating ideas

DSCF6178©Geoff Wilkinson

Rising at Molehill Green in Essex, the River Roding passes through the Wanstead and Woodford area en route to the Thames, bringing with it a very real flood risk to local homes. In the 10th of a series of articles, Nina Garner from the Environment Agency reports on the River Roding Project, which aims to reduce that risk. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson

We maintain a wide range of flood and coastal risk management (FCRM) assets which reduce the risk of flooding to people and property. These assets could include, but are not limited to, embankments, pumping stations and flood gates.

The channel maintenance we currently have in our 2020/2021 programme for the River Roding in Redbridge is an annual check to be carried out in December 2020 to January 2021.  This involves our field teams walking the river, cutting back any overhanging vegetation to just above bank height or to allow reasonable access to the channel. They also remove woody debris from the channel to reduce the risk of snagging and clear any blockages larger than a football.

Due to coronavirus, the timing and nature of the maintenance works may change so we can adopt safe ways of working. In line with government advice, we are continuing to deliver all of our flood risk management projects where it is safe for our teams and delivery partners to do so. We are following the latest guidance from Public Health England regarding safe working.

We will publish an updated programme every three months to show progress (visit swvg.co.uk/rodingprogress). You can view the programme as an interactive map to see what is going on near you. To use the map, enter the desired postcode, then click on a feature to find information about the asset and planned work.

The Water Resources Act 1991 grants statutory powers to the Environment Agency to maintain main rivers for reduction of flood risk (sections 169 to 172), irrespective of channel ownership. These powers are discretionary and are exercised according to resources available and the flood risk pertaining in any locality. The legal duty to maintain a watercourse rests with the riparian owner (normally the owner of the land adjacent to the watercourse), irrespective of whether the Environment Agency chooses to undertake works.

Since our last article, we have received an indicative programme of works for the River Roding Project which outlines what will be carried out and when.

Back in October 2018, we carried out ground investigation works at four locations in Woodford on existing flood embankments along the River Roding. After analysing the information obtained, we were able to determine that works are required at two of the four locations to ensure the defences are fit for purpose. To determine exactly what works are required, we will be doing further ground investigation works in August.

We will also be conducting various surveys along the River Roding. These will include ecology surveys at both the flood storage area (FSA) site and Woodford defences and geophysical surveys, including trial trenching at the FSA site, which are proposed to be conducted between August and December 2020. These surveys will inform what work needs to be undertaken and inform the planning application, which we aim to have granted by August 2021.

Please keep an eye out for upcoming engagement events in March or April 2021 prior to the submission of our planning application. This will give you and your community an opportunity to comment on the proposals.

To find out if your property is a flood risk, visit swvg.co.uk/flood
To register for flood warnings, visit swvg.co.uk/floodwarn
To check the River Roding webcam, visit swvg.co.uk/rodingcam
For more information on the River Roding Project, visit swvg.co/rrp or call 0370 850 6506

Our Churchill


Along with many other monuments, the Sir Winston Churchill statue in Woodford Green was vandalised in June. Extremists are seeking to hijack Black Lives Matter for their own agenda, says Councillor Clark Vasey

Shocking images of George Floyd’s final moments on the streets of Minnesota have echoed around the world, and rightly sparked calls for action to address inequality on both sides of the Atlantic.

Fortunately, we don’t have the same issues with our police as they do in some parts of the US, and we can be proud of how our police serve all of our communities. However, there is more we must do to ensure everyone has the same chance to get on in life.

As we unite against racism and examine what needs to be done to improve the life chances of black citizens, this timely debate has been hijacked by extremists hell-bent on tearing down statues. They are not concerned about improving anyone’s life chances but care about furthering their extreme political agenda by controlling the past. It’s been helped along by virtue signalling politicians, like London’s mayor, for whom it’s a handy distraction from his city mismanagement.

I agree with President Macron when he said he would not erase French history. Indeed, few countries’ histories would come off well through the prism of today’s values. We should be honest about our history, but what matters most is the history we make now. This is where we can make a difference.

Statues across the country are being targeted to further an extreme agenda through undemocratic means. Tellingly, the bloodstained memorials to Marx and Engels are not on the list. The hit list is a mix of statues with vile links to the slave trade and a century’s worth of politicians they don’t like, but most bizarre to any normal person is the inclusion of the man who led the defeat of fascism, Winston Churchill.

While the country has been disgusted by the defacing of the Churchill statue in Parliament Square, residents of Woodford have worried about our own iconic statue, which has not been immune from thugs who ought to read some history rather than deface it. The statue in Churchfields ward was recently vandalised with spray paint, which was quickly removed. However, you only have to delve into the murky world of left-wing Twitter to see that a threat to the statue remains. Churchfields residents who have contacted me are right to be concerned. We have a brilliant Safer Neighbourhoods Team here, but we must all remain vigilant.

When commenting on the vandalism, Council Leader Jas Athwal seemed to lump Churchill into a wider review of the appropriateness of statues in Redbridge. Churchill is the man who led the defeat of the most racist regime in history. We should be proud to have one of the greatest Britons recognised in our area, and pride is exactly what residents feel.

Clark is a Conservative councillor for Churchfields ward. Call 07741 194 763 or email clark.vasey@redbridge.gov.uk

Ice blast from the past


Local resident Jim Reynolds (back row, centre) shares two photos from his teenage years taken in the early 1950s, when he would play ice hockey on the frozen lakes in Wanstead Park

These photos were taken at the Shoulder of Mutton Pond in Wanstead Park one wintry Sunday, circa 1951. They show a few friends from a group of about 18 ice hockey enthusiasts who would meet up on Saturday evenings to watch Harringay Racers ice hockey team playing their home games at Harringay Stadium. 

We would catch the number 25 bus from Ilford Broadway to Woodgrange Park Station. From there, onto the local train bound for Harringay Stadium where we would join some 8,000 spectators.

After the game, we would don our skates for a session on the ice, re-enacting the game! Then off to the chippy in Green Lanes for a bag of chips and a pickled onion! A dash up the stairs to catch the last train back to Woodgrange Park and walk back to Ilford Broadway, having always missed the last bus. Another enjoyable Saturday!

The skating at Wanstead Park, shown in the photos, would have been arranged whilst at Harringay Stadium one Saturday night.

And the gentlemen taking an icy dip were regular all-weather lake swimmers. They were taking their daily dip as my mates and I were on the lake for our ice hockey game!


Mind of Amina


Wanstead resident Amina Kayani will be running 15km in aid of Young Minds this summer. Here, the Woodbridge High School student explains why we need to destigmatise mental health issues

Hello, my name is Amina, I am a high school student and I have been living in Wanstead my whole life. I attended Nightingale Primary School and am currently studying at Woodbridge High School, set to do my GCSEs during the summer of 2021.

I live at home with my parents and four brothers. I enjoy my local area, including the community spirit and the various events that take place here.

I started high school in September 2016. Soon after starting, I began struggling with my mental health. I started to frequently feel anxious and lost. I was oblivious to the fact I needed some extra help. It was only when my form tutor sat me down and explained what I was experiencing that I finally accepted support.

After finding my way out of the darkness, I became increasingly aware I was not alone in what I was facing. In fact, many people in my peer group were struggling with their mental health. Also, I realised the support I was receiving at my school was much more than any of my friends at other schools were getting. I felt privileged yet sorry for other young people struggling to reach out for much-needed help.

My struggles are not over, but I am on the road to recovery and have come a long way from where I started. However, many young people are in the midst of a crisis and in desperate need of help. Which is why I am fundraising for Young Minds through a 15km sponsored run on 31 August.

Young Minds is a charity fighting for young people’s mental health by providing training courses, taking care of vulnerable and excluded young people, providing mental health aid to those in crisis and empowering the next generation.

The stigma surrounding mental health is stopping young people from reaching out for support, allowing them to fall into crisis point. Now, more than ever, we need to destigmatise mental health issues, especially because 83% of young people have said the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a decline in their mental health.

I am fortunate to have been residing in an area where support in the community spirit could not be better, and to be attending a school where students’ wellbeing is paramount. So, let’s take this opportunity to recover the one in eight school-aged children facing a mental health problem.

Please help make a difference to the lives of young people.

To sponsor Amina and to follow her fundraising projects on Instagram, visit wnstd.com/amina

A clearer vision


Wanstead Climate Action is a community group keen to encourage local and central government to address the climate emergency. Here, Tina Nieman Da Costa talks about air pollution

Air quality was the main reason Daisy chose not to live in Wanstead. She was concerned about the effects of pollutants on the lungs of her unborn child.

This was not unreasonable; after all, there is nothing a parent would not do for their child. She checked government-sanctioned London air quality maps and made the decision based on the likelihood her child would not grow up with one of any number of respiratory disorders associated with air pollution.

There are millions of parents who are not as lucky as Daisy. For these parents, their sacrifices for their children and grandchildren are hindered by the increase in the burning of fossil fuels caused by the current uncontrolled hunger for economic growth.

It can be said, and rightly so, air pollution has decreased in the UK at a steady rate since the coal-burning carefree days of the Industrial Revolution, but a closer look reveals, as a nation, we have exported ours to manufacturing countries such as China and India and mining regions like central and southern Africa. Regardless of where it is created, what goes around, keeps on going around.

Exposure to carbon monoxide (one of the gases released by the turning of the key in any normal functioning combustion engine) can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea; moderate prolonged exposure is also linked to heart disease. Nitrogen dioxide, another gas created during the process of burning fossil fuels, causes inflammation in the lining of the lungs and reduced immunity to lung infections, leading to wheezing, coughing, colds, flu and bronchitis. Higher levels can increase asthma attacks in children and causes a higher risk of heart complications in older people. Levels of these two pollutants have reduced significantly, as much as 55%, due to the current lockdown, according to research from King’s College London.

Since 2005, there have been efforts by the UK government to improve air quality. The tentative steps taken, however, are nowhere near the radical alterations needed for a brighter, cleaner future. The World Health Organization estimates seven million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution, 100,000 of those in the UK.

It’s left up to us. We can change our behaviour. Reduce our consumption. We can eat less meat, more local and more organic. We can drive electric cars. We can take fewer flights. We can make our phones and laptops last longer. We can be more than consumers. We can join groups to hold our government to account.

What we cannot do is deny the future children of planet Earth, Daisy’s children, your children, the right to a fresh breath of air.

For more information on Wanstead Climate Action, visit wnstd.com/wca

Look up, Wanstead

DSCF3256Wanstead High Street photo by Geoff Wilkinson

Lockdown provided London tour guide Chris O’Donnell with an opportunity to learn more about Wanstead, subsequently imparting this knowledge via his virtual tours and encouraging us all to look up. Wanstead High Street photo by Geoff Wilkinson

“Look up.” That’s the first piece of advice you are given when training as a tour guide. It is so you can show people things they haven’t seen before. Or tell them something about a building, a tree, a hill they didn’t know.  And people walking to work, to the shop, to the pub, never look up. 

Lockdown happened 48 hours after I launched my Hidden in Plain Sight London Tour Guide business. I had plenty to do in terms of ever-broadening my repertoire. Even when they are shut, there is plenty to read about on the Tower, St Paul’s, the Abbey, for my exams there next year.

But I needed something else to do. Locally, obviously. But with no people. Zoom meetings and lectures quickly raised the idea of a virtual tour. A virtual local tour. But the problem I had was that 25 years of living in Wanstead hadn’t taught me anything about the place, really. I mean I have my favourite places. The Ginger Pig, the fishmonger, Luppolo’s. And I know all the pubs. The High Street has everything but clothes shops. And even then my new second-hand policy was beginning to work in the charity shops.

But I didn’t know Wanstead like I know the City. Or Soho. Or the South Bank. How to guide it, how to explain it? How to delight and surprise people here? So, I looked up.

I saw the sundial at the Allan Burgess Centre.  I saw what looked like bits of old houses behind the British Heart Foundation shop I bought my black shirt from. I saw just how amazingly massive and majestic the sweet chestnuts on St Mary’s Avenue are. I saw what looks like the fragment of an ancient forest at the bottom of the High Street abruptly end next to the beautifully manicured memorial green. Opposite, the shops, like above Boots, are noticeably younger than… wait… above the Italian deli, “1888”.

What’s going on here?

And then I listened. “At the first tee,” said my mate, “are the craters where the wine cellars were for the old house.” What? Wine cellars at the golf club?

When you have seen things that look interesting, you know where to look then. The old houses turn out to be old Georgian houses, just like the Manor House. And the City of London runs the crazy forest, not Redbridge. The trees on St Mary’s Avenue are famous in horticultural circles. And the sundial? Well, you might have to come on a virtual or walking tour for that one!

So, I have now engaged with around 200 Wansteadians I had never met before and told them things they never knew about their home urban village. All because I looked up.  And so should you.

Chris will host a virtual tour of Wanstead on 15 July from 8pm (£5). For more information, email cod@hipstours.com or follow him on Twitter @hipstoursldn

Lockdown litter


Last month saw an unexpectedly high turnout for a clean-up session in Wanstead Park, which has joined many other beauty spots across the country suffering from lockdown litter louts. Richard Arnopp reports

The coronavirus lockdown coincided with a long spell of warm, sunny weather. The Friends of Wanstead Parklands are delighted that so many new people have been discovering and enjoying our green spaces during this difficult time. However, the increased number of visitors has unfortunately included a minority who spoil the experience for others by leaving their rubbish behind.

This has been a nationwide problem. On 1 June, the BBC reported: “There have been widespread cases of littering at beauty spots and public spaces over the weekend as warm weather coincided with an easing of coronavirus restrictions. Rubbish piled up in areas including Cornwall, Dorset, Birmingham, London and the Peak District.”

Epping Forest, the 15-mile swathe of woodland and heath which helps to make this part of London so special, has not been spared. A number of volunteers already collect litter in Wanstead Park and the Flats, but their efforts were being overwhelmed. To help, the Friends announced monthly litter picks in Wanstead Park, initially from June to September.

The first event was held on 7 June, in collaboration with Epping Forest, which provided trigger-action litter pickers and builders’ bags. It was publicised on social media and we expected about a dozen volunteers. We were astonished when nearly 40 turned up – a measure of public concern about littering. Fortunately, we had erred on the side of safety in terms of providing equipment: most individuals got a litter picker, and most couples got at least one between them! Fanning out across the park, they collected a huge quantity of rubbish.

Although, in an ideal world, they shouldn’t have to do this, a number of our volunteers commented that litter picking is actually quite fun! It’s also satisfying and appreciated by the local people who love and respect our open spaces. As we worked, many said they were grateful for what we were doing.

Littering is, sadly, just part of a spectrum of antisocial behaviour on Epping Forest land. In recent years, fly-tipping has become a major problem, with hundreds of incidents each year. Epping Forest has become a leader in tracking down those responsible, accounting for a significant proportion of prosecutions nationally. Also, despite recent devastating fires on Wanstead Flats, there have been a number of barbecues on Forest land.

Epping Forest keepers need the public to act as their eyes and ears. If you spot any problems in the Forest – fly-tipping, fires, obstructions – please let them know.

The next litter-picking event will take place on 2 August from 11am. For more information, visit wnstd.com/fwp. To report any incidents to Epping Forest keepers, call 020 8532 1010 or email epping.forest@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Lockdown Ramble

IMG_0070Leyton Flats

Like many others, in recent weeks Crispin Acton has spent more time than usual walking around Wanstead. Here, the secretary of Redbridge Liberal Democrats reveals the discoveries from his lockdown rambles

The London Encyclopaedia (2008 edition) notes: “Unlike most suburbs, Wanstead is still clearly identified. Separated from Walthamstow, Leytonstone, Forest Gate and Manor Park by continuous portions of Epping Forest and from Ilford by golf links and Wanstead Park, it is only to the north, where Wanstead meets Woodford, that building straddles the boundary.”

I discovered during lockdown that it is possible to walk through the continuous fragments of Epping Forest. A near three-quarter circle can be made around Wanstead by walking from Eagle Lane onto Leyton Flats, across the Green Man roundabout to Bushwood, walking due south to Wanstead Heath and then heading east to Wanstead Flats. You return to Wanstead by aiming for the spire of St Gabriel’s, Aldersbrook and walking up Park Road to Wanstead Park, then along the Heronry Pond, leaving the park by Warren Road. Altogether, it takes me about an hour and a half.

The Ordnance Survey map reveals a Centenary Walk through the length of the Forest, from Manor Park to Epping, 15 miles in total from south to north. I walked one afternoon about five miles from Snaresbrook to Whitehall Plain, near Buckhurst Hill. Most of the walk is through tree cover, with occasional open spaces. The Forest is truly that, full of ancient and mature native trees. You have to make road crossings, but these are easy, with some footbridges, including one over the North Circular. I nearly reached Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge at Chingford but was put off by knowing it would be closed.

It seemed odd to me that there were no signs at all for the Centenary Walk. In fact, there are no signs of any kind for walkers in the Forest south of the North Circular. The Centenary Walk was created in 1978 to commemorate the Epping Forest Act, 1878, which ensured conservation of the Forest we now have. Surely, it is something to celebrate?

The City of London has been the conservator of Epping Forest since 1878 and has done well to prevent encroachment. Perhaps, though, it could help us to enjoy the Forest better. Its own Forest map does not mark footpaths clearly and does not mention the walk.

One of the benefits of lockdown for many has been enjoyment of the natural world. We are fortunate to live near a wonderful, historic forest. We have heard a lot about statistical modelling helping the government to decide its next steps on Covid-19. Similar kinds of modelling work by public health researchers have shown access to plentiful green spaces can really make a difference to both quality and length of life. The way that humanity treats – or mistreats – nature was at the root of the Covid crisis. A better relationship with nature could help us in many ways.

For more information on Epping Forest, visit wnstd.com/ef

Where to now?


Wanstead Village councillors Jo Blackman, Daniel Morgan-Thomas and Paul Donovan invite you to drop a pin on the Redbridge Active Travel map and submit your thoughts about shaping a greener Wanstead and Woodford

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused terrible loss of life across the country. These have been challenging times for our community, but it has been fantastic to see people stepping up to help out in so many ways.

And many people have spent more time exploring their local area on foot and by bike.

Now, as we come out of lockdown, there is the possibility of shaping a whole new way of living. The chance to draw on some of the positives of the past three months – the reduction in pollution and carbon emissions. Silence all around. The chance to hear the birds and see the stars.

We must not let all of these gains be thrown away, with a rush to fill the skies with planes and the roads with cars in an effort to make up for loss of economic activity over the pandemic period. There is the chance now to move to a way of living that preserves and builds on some of the gains of the past three months. A transition to a way of living that helps confront that other great crisis in our midst – climate change.

We are keen to find a way to maintain and promote more forms of sustainable transport beyond the current pandemic as part of a green recovery.

The trial closure of some streets in Wanstead Village to enable social distancing could pave the way for street spaces that promote and encourage cycling and walking. Changes such as these could help us achieve those goals of a cleaner, greener way of living. An environment where both young and old can move around more freely, breathing cleaner air.

We know there is much more the council can do to improve cycle paths, walkways, junctions, improve bike storage and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

Redbridge Council wants to hear residents’ views about how we can make our streets safer and promote cycling and walking. So, please share your views and suggestions on the Redbridge Active Travel project’s interactive map.

We know from our inbox and advice service that local residents have lots of ideas about how to make our streets work better for pedestrians and cyclists. Now is the time to share those views to shape the future design of our streets, pavements and cycle paths. If you don’t speak out, nothing will change.

Covid-19 has shown how we can work together to build our communities and support each other. Let’s build on that to ensure a positive legacy for our streets, ward and borough.

To submit your suggestions on how to make Redbridge’s streets healthier and safer, visit wnstd.com/map


20200614_141006Gary Davis with children Guy and Imogen collecting bikes from Paul’s garden

Wanstead resident Paul Canal has spent lockdown refurbishing donated bicycles for families in need, raising funds for Haven House Children’s Hospice in the process. Now, Wanstead UpCycles needs your help

Six weeks ago, there were no bicycles in our back garden. Today, there are over 40. Kids bikes, teenagers bikes, classic Raleighs, rusty racers, even a couple of 1950s boneshakers. How did our house become Steptoe and Son’s Bicycle Emporium? And why is my wife frowning?

I was supporting a foodbank run in Woodford.  Along with food parcels, they supply toys and clothes to families in need. I was asked if I could source a bicycle for a young girl from a less well-off family. A short appeal on the Wanstead Community Hub on Facebook and a beautiful bike was rehomed to an ecstatically happy five-year-old.

There is nothing as efficient as the ‘Wanstead Bush Telegraph’. All of a sudden, people were arriving at our door with magnificent bicycles that required a bit (and sometimes a lot!) of TLC. I now had more bicycles than recipients, but thanks to the dastardly Covid-19, I also had a lot of time on my hands. (When will the Manor House reopen!)

My wife, Karen, and I have raised money for Haven House by running a series of charity suppers with the support of friends and great restaurateurs like Chris Trouard of Marmiton and Jason Flack of the Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel. Covid-19 stopped the suppers, but Haven House’s need for support has never been greater. Could the donated bicycles become a source of support? From that germ of an idea, Wanstead UpCycles was born. I now refurbish donated bicycles and either pass them on to a local family in need, or ‘sell them’ in return for a donation to Haven House. I am also carrying out simple bicycle repairs, again for a charity donation. We have a dedicated Facebook page to promote the appeal and are hoping to raise £1,000 for Haven House.

Which is where you come in! I need more adult bikes to restore for a waiting list of people eager to start cycling. I am still accepting and upcycling children’s bicycles. I am also keen to know of any families or individuals in need who would like a bicycle.

I am also looking for help! I need a couple of volunteers to join me and help to clean up and check over the donated bicycles. I have promised Karen her garden back! The wages are miserable, the working conditions dire, the banter poor, but I do offer free tea and coffee.

Finally, I offer a heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported this new venture so far. You have helped a doctor get to their Whipps Cross shift after dropping off their child; you have brought joy to a young boy living with his mum in a women’s refuge; you have made a six-year-old squeal with delight at his first “grown-up” bike. Above all, you have shown that community spirit is alive, well and thriving in this wonderful place, Wanstead, that Karen and I are proud to call home.

For more information, call 07769 159 433 or visit wnstd.com/upcycles. To donate to the Haven House appeal, visit wnstd.com/upcycleshh