September 2020


Wanstead blood testing clinic to reopen

Nurse collecting a blood from a patientNurse collecting a blood from a patient for annual check

Wanstead’s blood testing clinic on the Heronwood and Galleon site will be reopening for walk-ins for Redbridge patients only on Monday 21 September.

The centre will be open from 8am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

“Barking, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group have also told us appointments are now available at additional clinics across Redbridge. These clinics may be temporary, but appointments can be booked now, online or by telephone at South Woodford Health Centre, Hainault Health Centre or Seven Kings Health Centre,” said a spokesperson for Healthwatch Redbridge.

“When going to an appointment, take your paper blood test form with you as this is needed to process your test.”

Book a blood test online


Cows come home

DSCF3300©Geoff Wilkinson

Quinny, Nina and Naru are the first cows to be allowed to step hoof in Wanstead Park in 150 years. Geoff Sinclair, Head of Operations at Epping Forest, explains why the City of London Corporation’s cattle-grazing trial is good news for wildlife conservation. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson   

Cows began roaming in Wanstead Park last month for the first time in 150 years. Residents may recall cows in the area more recently, but that was on Wanstead Flats, where they roamed freely until the mid-1990s, although occasionally some may have ventured into the park before being moved on by the keepers. The park is not common land, so there was no right to graze in it. The City of London Corporation, which manages the Grade II* park, has now put selected cattle from its 200-strong herd out to graze as part of a two-month trial, continuing this month.

The pilot is part of a plan to use cattle to better manage and to restore the acid grasslands in the area for wildlife conservation.

Initially, three cows have been introduced: Quinny, Nina and Naru. Two of them are in calf, with the births expected in November, when they will be back in their winter quarters (on a farm near Theydon Bois). If all goes well, the eastern part of The Plain could carry up to 10 cows in future years for late-summer grazing in August and September. The Glade is another potential site.

Although acid grassland is scattered across 27 of the 32 London boroughs, it is mostly now in small fragmented and vulnerable remnants. Wanstead Park, taken together with nearby Wanstead Flats, is one of only four remaining large sites in London (which include Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath).

As well as rare plant species, Wanstead Park’s acid grassland supports a great diversity of insects and spiders. Butterfies abound – especially small heath, small copper and common blue. These species like the hot ground conditions in the summer and autumn and rely on a mix of tussocks, short grass, bare ground and overwintering dead stalks and leaves to complete their life cycles.  Grazing is the best form of management for this type of habitat to maintain this variety and prevent loss to scrub encroachment. Although such encroachment can take many decades because of the drought-prone, nutrient-poor soils, it is now at a point in Wanstead Park that the core of the acid grassland could be lost. Once scrub like broom establishes, it can change the soil and pull in nutrients, which allow in taller, commoner grasses. Grazing is particularly important for the park because to mow with machinery would destroy one of the main features of wildlife interest, the yellow meadow ant hills.

A team of volunteers and staff will be closely monitoring the cows’ welfare and encouraging visitors to admire – but not feed or approach – the cattle.

GPS-collar technology is being used, which helps contain the cows by emitting audio signals when they reach a virtual boundary. Location reports are provided at 15-minute intervals, with instant push notifications if the alarm is activated. The boundaries of the area for the cattle follows natural barriers, such as the Perch Pond and lines of trees, which the cows will learn to recognise.

This pilot will help identify better ways to protect Wanstead Park’s historic views at the same time as conserving a wide range of species and supporting an even better ecological balance at the site.

For more information, click here

Wanstead mini jumble trail


A group of neighbours have got together to create a community event and have organised a mini jumble trail in Wanstead this coming Saturday 19 September between 10am and 2pm.

“It promises to be a lovely , albeit socially-distanced, event which encompasses the following roads: Spratt Hall Road, Addison Road, Dangan Road, Gordon Road and Chaucer Road. Residents will be filling their front gardens with unwanted furniture, plants, clothes, records and other bits and pieces. Please come along,” said organiser Karen Myers.

If you live on one of the roads and would like to join in, email


Local women’s organisation has a big idea!


Woodford-based women’s organisation Soroptimist East London has a big idea and everyone is invited to join!

Members of the organisation are contributing their experience and skills to the #BigIdeasWeek, a week of motivating and stress-busting activities and webinars online with all monies going to charity. “There will be pilates classes, coaching, yoga, a chance to hear from a range of published authors and more,” said a spokesperson.

“Why are Soroptimist East London doing it? To help make other people’s big dreams come true. In this case, it’s the big dreams of The Ideas Partnership a Kosovo and UK based charity which works with the most marginalised communities in Kosovo including through education and income generation projects.  All donations made by attendees at the online events will go to The Ideas Partnership with Global Giving doubling the donations! Soroptimist members have been helping The Ideas Partnership in other ways too including providing online English conversation classes to The Ideas Partnership volunteers in Kosovo during covid lockdown.  In return, The Ideas Partnership have publicly celebrated the ladies as among their most committed volunteers during the covid lockdown which has affected Kosovo as well as the UK.”

Soroptimist East London includes members who live or work throughout East London.  The organisation focuses on empowering women to achieve positive change and sustainable development right here in East London as well as across the globe.

The week of activities is being held from 14 to 18 September 2020 online. Visit



Extinction Rebellion event in Wanstead


Wanstead Climate Action, the local affiliate of Extinction Rebellion, will be holding an event this weekend as part of the late summer rebellion.

“Members of our group will be parading down Wanstead High Street, accompanied by Rolant the Rebel Horse to bring attention to the government’s inaction when it comes to air quality in our local area and London in general. Air pollution has been linked with heart disease, strokes, and a myriad of respiratory disorders and even, in some cases, poor foetal development and reduced bone density. There have even been studies showing links to rises in COVID-19 deaths in areas of high pollution,” said a spokesperson.

Rolant the horse, local doctors and the other local rebels will set up a stall on Christchurch Green to discuss the current air quality situation and what needs to be done to secure a ‘breath of fresh air’ for the next generation. Rolant will have a very special message of his own and will be available to take part in photo opportunities.

The proceedings will take place on Sunday 6 September during the regular community market, meeting on George Green at 11am.

Rolant’s emissions will be donated to the Wanstead Community Gardeners.

“Social distancing will be observed, and masks encouraged.”



PCOS Awareness month: My diagnosis story

PCOS-conf-2018Kristine is a volunteer trustee of Verity, a national charity for PCOS

September is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) awareness month. PCOS is a condition that affects 1 in 10 women and AFAB (assigned female at birth) individuals in the UK and 70% of those with the condition don’t know they have it. Snaresbrook resident Kristine Stacke reports

I’m Kristine, I have PCOS. My PCOS journey started at the age of 13 when my periods stopped for 18 months. Before that, I’d been bang on the 28-day mark and my first period started on my first full day of lessons at secondary school… what a way to start! A lack of periods joined some already pretty dramatic mood swings that I started experiencing when I was 9. My mum is a nurse so she tracked everything going on with me and took me to the GP on multiple occasions to discuss this. Time and again it was put down to ‘just being a teenager’ but eventually they decided it was time to refer me on for testing and sent me off to gynaecology.

Low and behold, my appointment came and so did the first period in a year and a half. I was sent off for an ultrasound, internal examination and blood tests (ultrasounds are no longer recommended for teenagers suspected of PCOS). Everything came back inconclusive but with the possibility of PCOS. I was offered the pill to regulate my cycle but turned it down. Fast forward to being 15 and in a mock Biology GCSE exam when a period started (oh the irony) leaving me faint at my exam desk and I changed my mind.

I continued on with the pill for the next 5 years, changing from one to another as none of them quite suited me – mood swings (worse than before), bloating, acne – the list was never-ending. Finally, I settled on one at the age of 19 and I was doing great, but 6 months later I started experiencing migraines, something I had never experienced before. These continued for a number of weeks with me eventually heading off to A and E where my blood pressure was dangerously high and I passed out when they took my blood (still get clammy hands today!). Every other option was ruled out before my lovely junior doctor told me to come off my pill. I now know that those with PCOS are at higher risk of developing blood clots when on the combined oral contraceptive and last year witnessed first hand the devastation that can cause when I almost lost a close friend for that exact reason.

Fast forward another 6 months and I had gone up 2 dress sizes, broken out in acne, developed a moustache and become increasingly depressed… and my periods hadn’t come back. The GP sent me off for all the PCOS tests again and this time they came back with a confirmed diagnosis.

The thing about PCOS is there is no one size fits all treatment, no one quite knows what causes it and there is no cure. At this point, they didn’t really know what to do with me because I couldn’t take the pill anymore. PCOS gets highlighted in the media but usually under the media-friendly symptoms that are heartwarming, positive fertility journeys, or shocking weight gain and male-pattern facial hair. What the media doesn’t always tell you is that PCOS is a life long, chronic condition that you always have to manage. That as a community we have a higher than average incidence of depression and anxiety, body dysmorphia and disordered eating. That there is no ‘one’ specialist that you can go to to help you learn how to manage the condition and you get passed between different clinics. That the most common thing told to PCOS patients is ‘here’s the pill, lose some weight, come back when you want children’. This was what happened to me…but without the pill (and my weight was on the lower side so I couldn’t even be told to lose weight).

I am now 11 years on from my initial diagnosis and just about have my head around my own management. I have had to learn to advocate for myself fiercely – tracking all my symptoms and reading up on NICE guidelines and other regulations before appointments. I have my diet and exercise regime sorted, I have had therapy and CBT to help manage the psychological aspects and I am fully aware of the increased long term risks of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and endometrial (womb) cancer. It has taken a long time to get there and I am more fortunate than others in being relatively young when I was diagnosed and having stumbled across a supportive community of other PCOS sufferers via Verity, the UK’s only PCOS charity.

My journey isn’t complete though as I haven’t broached my fertility journey yet and I still have menopause to come, an area that is vastly under-researched anyway never mind in conjunction with other conditions such as PCOS. I hope that I haven’t scared anyone away with my diagnosis journey and that if you recognise yourself, a friend or a family member in this story and you aren’t diagnosed that it might encourage and empower you to get tested.

For more information and support, visit the Verity website or search @VerityPCOS on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Post-Covid world


What will Wanstead look like in a post-COVID-19 world? In the fourth of a series of articles, Chair of Wanstead Society Scott Wilding, who is exploring these issues as part of his job, offers his thoughts

By September, a new normal will have set in. We are all used to social distancing, waiting to get into shops, wearing masks and so on. These have become part of everyday life. With the onset of autumn, we begin to take more steps to life as usual, with pupils returning to school.

However, the Chief Medical Officer for England announced in August that we have come to the limits of what we can safely do to open up society. Until, or unless, a vaccine is found for COVID, social distancing is here to stay. So, what does it mean for us?

The death of the commute? Well, possibly for some. At the time of writing, about 55% of people had visited their workplace compared to January, and many service sector jobs doubt if they will return to large London-based offices before January, or at all.

Even if those of us who work in offices do return, it will be very different. Only two people in a lift at any time. Buildings operating at about 30% capacity. Working at home two to three days a week a necessity. This means a very different look and feel to how we live our life. For instance, visits to parks have increased by around 100%. A fairly obvious statistic as this article is written in summer, but as gyms and health centres have been closed – and many people are working from home – the park has become the new exercise space. This is likely to become a more long-term trend as the benefits of outside exercise have reached more people during lockdown.

Our overall travel patterns have also changed. TfL estimates that weekday Tube travel is down by about 70%, although weekend travel patterns are increasing. So, we are either travelling less in general or doing more by car. Although general traffic has increased since lockdown was eased, it’s not up to pre-lockdown levels. Freight traffic is about 15% down on March and general traffic is down about 10%. This may be a general trend towards less car use. A possibility supported by the fact that cycling is up 146% in England to July.

Apart from more cycling, the other good thing about lockdown, which we seem to be keeping, at least for now, is improved air quality. Since March, nitrogen dioxide pollution is down significantly on 2019 levels. It’s unclear as we approach winter if this will continue, but with less road traffic and fewer flights, it’s possible London is heading for one of the cleanest years in terms of air quality.

Lockdown and COVID represent real challenges, but an old Chinese proverb claims that in every crisis is an opportunity. Perhaps our opportunity is the ability to move away from four wheels to two, and to keep the benefits of cleaner air we have so far enjoyed.

For more information about how you can help your neighbours during these difficult times, visit

Why can’t you see me?

gw-1Grace during one of her perfomances

Wanstead teenager Grace Wolstenholme invites you to watch her YouTube channel for an insight into her life with cerebral palsy. In the second of a series of articles, the aspiring actor talks about Chicken Shed Theatre

I’ve been acting from the age of seven at Chicken Shed Theatre. I started in children’s theatre and took part in some Christmas shows, then I moved up to youth theatre and took part in a few more performances. My favourite show was Feel The Love because it was about all kinds of love and saying everyone’s equal, but I especially enjoyed the nightclub scene because I love a good party!

Chicken Shed changed my life. Before joining, I hated leaving the house as I was embarrassed for people to see me because I was ‘different’. Every time my mum tried to get me out of the house I would have a meltdown. I actually remember her forcing me to sit in my car seat to get me to my primary school, and one day, I was so strong she couldn’t physically get me in the car!

Then Chicken Shed called saying there was a space for me. My mum was in shock because she heard the waiting time can be up to 10 years. The reason I got in so quickly was because my mum took me to the children’s workshops on the weekends and they saw how bad I was. They thought Chicken Shed would really help build my confidence so they invited me to a week called Summer Shed. I remember kicking, hitting and biting my mum when she was trying to get me into the room. The lady in charge was expecting me, so when she heard screaming and crying, she knew I was there and came over. I even kicked her. Then she introduced me to my one-to-one and I went to the group, but I didn’t join in.

After a few months of going, I started getting more confident. After a year, you couldn’t get me away from Chicken Shed. I was enjoying it so much. I was only seven, but from that age, I knew I belonged and fitted in and I went to my primary school saying I was leaving and going to school at Chicken Shed, but that wasn’t true because it’s a college.

I went to a special needs secondary school,  which at the time was the best school, but after two years of being there it really changed. When I started, most people were like me, physically disabled, not mentally disabled. But that changed and most people were mentally disabled, so again, I just wanted to study at Chicken Shed. I was 14, so I still couldn’t go, and it got to a point where I wouldn’t go to school because I didn’t fit in.

Because my school was attached to a mainstream school, I used to talk to the ‘mainstream’ pupils through the fence. Then at the age of 15, I applied for Chicken Shed, and one day after school I got home to a letter saying I had an interview. My school did everything they could to help because I was quite naughty there, so the staff couldn’t wait to get rid of me! Three months later, I got another letter saying I got in. So, June last year I left school and started college. I finally felt I was getting somewhere in life.

To watch Grace’s videos about life with cerebral palsy, visit

Listen up & learn


In March, lockdown forced The Music School on the High Street to close for the first time in 18 years. As the school prepares to reopen, Liliana Dimovska explains why children and adults alike should listen up

The interruption that lockdown brought prompted us to reflect on the values and benefits of participating in music activities and why it is so important now, more than ever, to offer high-quality music education to the Wanstead community. As an experienced music performer and educator, I am thrilled to be introducing, for the first time, an Early Years programme based on the colourstrings method, as well as well structured courses for adults, starting this month.

The colourstrings approach is a unique general musicianship education for children from birth to five years and provides a foundation for future musical training. The classes have a relaxing and positive atmosphere that encourages creativity, listening and active participation. Hungarian violinist Géza Szilvay developed the colourstrings method in Finland in the 1970s after finding the need to help his own children through the early, challenging years of playing. He wanted to make the learning process more joyful, more natural.

When children are five, they are ready to start learning to play a musical instrument. The colourstrings programme provides them with a fun and engaging introduction to the violin using nursery rhymes they love and vibrant, colourful visual representation. As all children learn in their own way, lessons can be taken on an individual, paired, or small-group basis. Individual lessons are good for those who want one-on-one tuition, and paired and small-group lessons are good for social interaction and learning to listen to other players.

But children are not the only ones who benefit from musical activities. Adults can make new social connections when they learn an instrument. Maybe you learnt to play as a child and want to brush up old skills, or you wish you had learnt, but never had a chance. It is never too late. Research shows the benefits of participating in music as it relates to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Music lessons have been shown to improve memory in a study of adults between the ages of 60 and 85 (Jennifer Bugos, University of South Florida), and it can also reduce anxiety, depression and loneliness.

During lockdown, we all had to learn and adapt to a new way of online learning. Our experience was so positive that we will continue to offer a full online programme for those who are shielding but still want access to lessons. On the other hand, for those who prefer face-to-face tuition, we plan to re-open on 7 September with all necessary safety steps in place in line with government regulations.

The Music School Wanstead is located at 59a High Street, Wanstead. For more information, call 020 8502 0932 or visit

Park & ride?


Redbridge Cycling is keen to hear your feedback on proposals to open new cycle routes through Wanstead Park. Gill James and Haydn Powell report on an often contentious subject

The last few months have been tough for everyone, so it is good to have silver linings. During lockdown, Wanstead Park was a haven to those wishing to get some fresh air and exercise. Park wardens report a 122% rise in visitor numbers.

For the climate crisis, the exponential growth in the popularity of cycling has been another real positive.

At present, a 1950s by-law restricts cycling in the park to a 200m stretch from the entrance at Wanstead Park Avenue up to the tea hut, then bearing left along the north-eastern edge of the Heronry Pond. Cycling is forbidden in all other parts of the park, but the signposting is, at best, erratic.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands Facebook page witnessed some lively discussion, including complaints about cyclists not sticking to the sole designated route. Offline, users have also reported more serious incidents, including an altercation between a cyclist and a dog walker, and bikes being ridden in Chalet Wood, home to a notable colony of bluebells, which are easily damaged by trampling.

Since the park’s keepers began returning to work, the by-laws have been more rigorously enforced, notably around the Ornamental Water, where cycling is off limits.

At a meeting in July, the Friends of Wanstead Parklands committee members discussed the possibilities of expanding cycling in the park. The current situation is an area of dissatisfaction for all parties. Cycling has become a free-for-all, which is antagonising some pedestrians. In contrast, government and local council support for increased use of bikes has stoked demand for improved cycle routes through the park.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands committee supported, in principle, the opening up of a shared-use route between the gate at Wanstead Park Avenue to the gate at Warren Road. This would make a good general ‘artery’ route for crossing the park.

Other proposed shared routes which Redbridge Cycling would like considered are:

The wide path between the River Roding and the Ornamental Water, connecting Warren Road with an entry from the Ilford side of the park. This route is good for family cycling.

A small section of pathway from the southern tip of the Ornamental Lake to the tea hut, north of Perch Pond. This would complete a circular leisure cycle route, which would be a tremendous benefit to safe family cycling. Resurfacing would also improve access for wheelchair users.

Redbridge Cycling wants to hear your views on the concept of new cycling routes around Wanstead Park.

To submit your views on the concept of new cycling routes around Wanstead Park, email or leave your comments on the Friends of Wanstead Parklands Facebook page at