November 2020


Wanstead’s Christmas tree lights switched on early

L1220859©Geoff Wilkinson

The lights on Wanstead’s Christmas tree on George Green were switched on early this year.

“The trees are normally installed with the lights ready to be switched on at community events. As there are no organised events this year due to government restrictions, it was decided to switch them on as they were installed,” said a Redbridge Council spokesperson.

Last year, more than 150 residents attended the switch-on event, when local milkman Steve Hayden flicked the switch to illuminate the tree opposite the station.


Chutneys for charity: brother and sister sell condiment for good causes


A brother and sister from South Woodford are raising money for Cancer Research UK and Great Ormond Street Hospital by making and selling chutneys to order.

“During this festive season, our chutneys will make lovely Christmas gifts while helping raise money for fantastic causes! There is a good variety to choose from – including apple, plum, mango and tomato – and they will go perfectly with your crackers after a heavy Christmas dinner!” said Dina and Riad Hoque, aged 17 and 13 respectively.



Winter protection


Back in July, Adem Esen from Wiseman Lee explained the changes to residential tenancies caused by COVID-19. With more changes now in force ahead of winter, the local solicitor provides an update

Since my last article in the July edition, there have been further changes to residential tenancies. Landlords or their agents must now give tenants six months’ notice before they can start eviction proceedings, except in the most serious of cases, such as incidents of antisocial behaviour and domestic abuse. This change came into effect on 1 September.

Possession notices served on or before 28 August are not affected by these changes and must be for at least three months.

Exceptions apply for the worst cases to seek possession. These are antisocial behaviour (now four weeks’ notice), domestic abuse (now two to four weeks’ notice), over six months’ accumulated rent arrears (now four weeks’ notice) and breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (now three months’ notice).

In addition, new court rules have been agreed to confirm landlords will need to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings.

“We have developed a package of support for renters to ensure they continue to be protected over winter. I have changed the law so that renters are protected by a six-month notice period until March 2021… These changes will support landlords to progress the priority cases while keeping the public safe over winter. We will keep these measures under review and decisions will continue to be guided by the latest public health advice,” said Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Jenrick added: “We are conscious of the pressure on landlords during this difficult time and do not want to exacerbate this. Of course, it is important that tenants who are able to do so must continue to pay their rent.”

With the introduction of the new notice periods, the government has recognised that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. The effect of this is that the duration of a Notice Seeking Possession will differ depending upon which ground you are relying upon and, essentially, the rent arrears cases where the arrears are more than six months old, as well as antisocial behaviour cases, can be progressed more quickly than other types of cases.

In business rent cases, the freeze on landlords taking action for non-payment of rent has been further extended until 31 December 2020. However, commercial tenants are encouraged to pay their rent where possible.

Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000

Floating ideas


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 11th 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

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how important it is to take care of our vulnerable neighbours. In England, there are over five million homes at risk of flooding, many of which are home to vulnerable people who may be worse affected during and after a flooding event.

We know the effects of flooding, physical and mental, can last for years after a flood has happened, so by looking out for your neighbours, you can help your loved ones and the community recover more quickly.

In our previous articles, we have emphasised the importance of being prepared and being more resilient. As winter nears, here is a reminder of some positive actions you can take.

Create a personal flood plan
This will help to protect you, your loved ones and your possessions.

Help us establish a flood action group
This brings the local community together to talk about local flooding issues and helps to form a proactive group of residents that can support each other during an emergency.

It doesn’t matter if you’re at work, retired, need additional mobility help or just generally have limited time – it’s great to get involved in any way you can. Even if you don’t live in a flood risk area, your help can be valuable in helping others respond without the worry that your own property is in danger.

Help your community prepare for flooding
Are you part of a local group? Whether that be a religious group, a running club, a dog walking group, a book club or something else, could you help share our messages?

Staggeringly, only a third of people who live in areas at risk of flooding believe their property is at risk! And with climate change already causing more frequent, intense flooding, we all need to know what to do in a flood. Even small actions like encouraging your neighbours to sign up to flood warnings can be a massive help and save lives.

Create a community flood plan
A really great way to help protect your community from the worst effects of flooding can be to create a community flood plan. These plans can help you decide what practical actions to take before, during and after a flood, ultimately reducing the damage the flooding can cause. This requires your help and local knowledge.

The immediate effects of climate change mean flooding is predicted to happen more frequently, so it is more important than ever to get involved.

If you have any ideas, big or small, about how we can raise awareness of flood risk in your local community, please get in touch. Or, if you’d like to find out more information about how you can help, please do let us know.

River Roding Project update
The River Roding Project team are busy progressing the detail designs. The team recently visited a neighbouring Environment Agency flood storage area, to make sure we are feeding best practice and learn valuable lessons from the team who look after the structure into our design.

We have also been preparing the Flood Risk Activity Permits to start digging archaeological trial trenches in November at the upstream site in Essex. This will help us to explore the site in more detail to see if there are any historic environmental assets on site. By doing these investigations, we can ensure that any archaeological heritage is preserved at the site.

Please keep an eye out for upcoming River Roding Project engagement events in March or April 2021.

To find out if your property is a flood risk, visit
To register for flood warnings, visit
To check the River Roding webcam, visit
For more information on the River Roding Project, visit or call 0370 850 6506

Future for Whipps


In the sixth of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Charlotte Monro discusses sustainability and explains why nature and biodiversity are vital for the new building

With the architect team appointed, the design of the new hospital is now under way. A series of public virtual meetings are being held by Barts Health NHS Trust. And Action 4 Whipps community campaign is up and running, fighting for the hospital we need, along with a sustainability-focused action group. 

Ryder Architecture are leading the design team and have partnered with Hoare Lea as the sustainability advisors. All of us who have been calling for the new hospital to be net zero-carbon and designed to the highest sustainability and well-being standards can, I believe, be happy to have had some influence on this selection.

Hoare Lea has worked closely with the UK Green Building Council in developing a net zero-carbon framework for building. Through the Green at Barts health staff group I met with James Ford – the company’s lead for sustainability, who said just how significant a project Whipps is – and Chris Pottage, who contributed to the World Green Building Council research on health well-being and productivity in offices. Chris is determined that staff work areas must be designed to the highest standards for their well-being, something he has seen commonly neglected in hospital builds.

Building for net zero-carbon is a step-change, to which, said James, the building industry is responding. Health and well-being is integral to sustainability, and they both emphasised their belief, backed by a fast-growing body of research, in how important nature and biodiversity are for human well-being.

During the first of a series of public meetings by Barts Health Trust last month, we had a glimpse of possible designs for the hospital, to be located where the old nurses’ home currently stands. All the options appeared to offer access to outside views throughout the building, in contrast to the monolithic block type design of the Royal London. It was good to hear from Paul Bell, lead architect, talking of the building orientation to bring in the warmth of the sun and light, and the value of green space and biodiversity. However, many of us in the audience noticed what appeared to be minimal green space allocated around the hospital itself, and are asking if enough of the site is being retained for healthcare use and future expansion.

The strongest concern was over too few beds. People found the level of optimism in the presentations as to how far the need for hospital care will be avoided through improvements to community services to be “at odds with the reality on the ground”.

Neither a hospital of the right size for our growing population, nor a zero-carbon hospital will happen without us fighting for it. You too can get involved in the campaigns.

For information on future public meetings and to get involved, email

Why can’t you see me?


Wanstead teenager Grace Wolstenholme invites you to watch her YouTube channel for an insight into her life with cerebral palsy. In the fourth of a series of articles, Grace pretends to be vegan whilst eating meat

Hi. It’s a new month, so you know what that means, you get to see me again, well, hear me, well… you get what I mean! So, let me fill you in.

Basically, I keep forgetting what I’m going to write about, so I was just editing a new YouTube video and my phone started playing up. Then I remembered I need to write, so here’s what I’ve got for you this month.

I went back to college – yes, I went back, finally! Before Covid-19, I hated going to college. I don’t know why, I just did. Well, anything to do with education I hate, I just find it boring really.

But I’ve actually been enjoying going to college now. It gets me out of the house and I get to see my mates. Plus, I get to annoy the members of staff, so I can’t really complain about it, and it’s only 10am to 2pm, so not long at all.

At the end of lockdown, I came up with an idea of making hampers. I bought two massive, plastic bucketfuls of stuff for the hampers, but they haven’t gone far at all. I’ve made two, one for my mate’s birthday and one for my nan’s birthday, and that’s it. I’ve set up an Instagram page called ‘Hampers by Gracie’ and posted samples of some hampers, but no one has contacted me. Oh well, hopefully soon I’ll get some interest.

To be honest, COVID is really starting to annoy me now because for the past five years I’ve been going on holiday to this adaptive adventure type thing (The Calvert Trust). If you didn’t think someone in a wheelchair can wall climb, zip wire, crate stack, well, think again! I must say, one of the activity leaders is fit. I mean FIT! He’s got a load of tattoos. The only thing we don’t have in common is that he’s a vegan and I love my meat. But me being me, trying to impress, I told him I was vegan as well. Then he saw me eating a meat lasagna and he said that isn’t vegan, so I told him that my assistant got two dinners for herself!

Another thing I can’t do this year is the Christmas show at Chicken Shed Theatre. It’ll be the first time in nine years that I haven’t been in a Christmas show, so that will feel a bit odd, but hopefully, I might be able to go to more places.

I’ve seen this really cute cafe on Instagram where all the influencers go, so hopefully, I’ll go there and get some good pictures.

So, yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say really, and if you’re wondering about my new video, I’ve finally scheduled it to go live. So head over to my YouTube channel, give it a watch and subscribe!

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

For the trees


For Art Group Wanstead member Emma Davies, oil painting provided a much-needed distraction from the stresses of lockdown, with trees and changing landscapes among her inspirations

At first, I thought there was nothing good about lockdown. Six months later, I have experimented with textures and different ways of making marks in my oil paintings. A privilege to have some time to be, to paint and reflect.

Painting became my respite from lockdown and the computer screen for work. The horrors of the news and the suffering of family and friends faded away for a while. Walking the dog every day on Wanstead Flats was my daily trip out. As my world narrowed, I became more observant, watching the grasses emerge and the landscape change.

I’m an amateur artist and an academic. I’ve been painting for more than a decade. I particularly love the feel of oil paint, experimenting with different ways of applying paint to canvas. As well as brushes and palette knives, I use squeegees, feathers, sticks, sponges and anything I can find to apply and remove layers of paint. I’m inspired by many different artists, from Botticelli to Mark Bradford and Per Kirkeby.

The last exhibition I visited just before lockdown was Among the Trees at the Hayward Gallery. It was fantastic. Inspired by the artworks, I painted Stories, the oil on canvas depicted here (60cm x 120cm). I also painted an ode to NHS workers, which I put in our front window to say thank you.

I’ve missed Art Trail Wanstead this year, having exhibited for the last couple of years in shops, restaurants and pubs. The trail is exciting and a great opportunity to show my work, and to see everyone else’s illuminating all our local businesses. The trail is a whole community effort. We’ll no doubt do it again just as soon as we can.

To view more of Emma’s artwork, visit Some of Emma’s paintings can also be viewed at Filika Restaurant, 62 High Street, Wanstead. For more information on Art Group Wanstead, visit

Amazing grazing


John Philips, Grazing and Landscape Projects Officer at Epping Forest, reports on the City of London Corporation’s successful cattle-grazing trial in Wanstead Park. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson   

In our modern world, there is a huge disconnect between the natural world, farming activities and the end-users who benefit from them. A generation or two ago, the memories will be stored of working the land, if only in the summer holidays as a reprieve from city life. This transmission of custodianship and behaviours around these land-based activities have sadly become a distant memory.

The social impact of the cows’ presence in Wanstead Park surpassed our expectations.  We had a huge response from local people wanting to get involved with the cows and have been continually taken back by the positive response from regular park users and visitors alike.

The park is not only a refuge for wildlife in an urban area but also for its local people. Getting to work with these large animals daily, it is not lost on me, the calming effect of seeing them in a natural environment, existing, free from the trappings of the human’s higher sense of self and expectation.   

The cows’ main job while in the park was to remove vegetation created from the carbon cycle and return it as plant and insect food. This removal around the anthills is especially important to allow solar energy to penetrate the earth to warm up the hills.

Acid grasslands are at risk and diminishing due to nitrification through air pollution and dog faeces, which allows more aggressive, faster-growing plant species to proliferate. The cows help reduce the vegetational mass in a patchwork, reducing competition for sunlight, which allows for slower-growing plants and grasses to survive. This patchwork of varying heights also creates habitat for insects to breed, hunt and perch.

The cows – Quinine, Nina and Nuru – have moved on now, having completed their work. Quinine – who is pregnant – will head back to our farm in Theydon Bois and will graze in adjacent fields to the buildings until she calves. Nuru and Nina are not pregnant, so will travel to Chingford Plain to graze until ground conditions start to deteriorate.

The trial has been a huge success and has secured grazing becoming an annual fixture at Wanstead Park, managed by the City of London Corporation. We would like to thank everyone involved, especially volunteers and local park users, including dog walkers who have had to modify their use of the park to help make this a success.

For more information on cattle-grazing in Wanstead Park, visit

Deep roots


Wanstead resident Jean Medcalf has published her first poetry book at the age of 89. To Everything There is a Season is a collection of lyrical, spiritual poems about nature. In the first of a series of articles, Jean introduces Heartwood, a poem inspired by a special Wanstead tree

I have lived in Wanstead for 60 happy years. I first came to Wanstead as a newly-wed, having been married at St Mary’s Church. My husband’s uncle, Jack Medcalf, was then the parish priest.

When we first came to live in Wanstead, I discovered what a friendly place it was; like a village where everyone knows everyone. I never gossiped about anybody, as I was probably speaking to their relative or friend! It is the kind of place where people know the names of each other’s dogs.

When I first went shopping, the lady in the hardware shop asked how I was settling in. I wondered how she knew I’d just moved in – she turned out to be a neighbour. When I was expecting my first baby and went shopping in  Webster’s, the butcher whispered to me: “Just come to the front of the queue, and I’ll serve you first.”

One of the things I love about Wanstead is its beautiful trees. The avenues of trees, once part of the grounds of Wanstead House, the plane trees along the High Street that provide welcome shade as people stop to chat, the horse chestnut trees on the green that provide little boys with conkers every year.

And in particular, the 300-year-old sweet chestnut trees on George Green, some of which were sadly destroyed to build the M11 link road. I remember the people of Wanstead linking arms around the tree, defying the bulldozers and chainsaws. When it was felled, a great cry of grief went up from the watching crowd. I took a tiny piece of wood from its fallen trunk and kept it as a sacred relic.

I have loved poetry since childhood and have been writing poetry since the age of 14. I found it allowed me to express my deepest emotions, whether of joy or of sorrow.

When I was about 40, I discovered I had the gift of hearing trees speaking to me. This has happened to me several times and always with oak trees.

One very special tree stands out. Many years ago, I used to cycle to work through Wanstead Park each day, always passing a magnificent old oak tree. It was the ancient Repton Oak, which is 200 years old and dates back to the time when Wanstead House was a grand mansion surrounded by landscaped gardens. One day, I stopped to rest beneath it, sheltered beneath its spreading branches, quietly listening. I heard this poem in my mind – it was as if the tree was recounting its life story.

This is the story it told me…

by Jean Medcalf

Upwards soars my head to Heaven,
Deep my roots dug firm in clay;
Squirrels eat my acorns dropping,
In my branches build their dreys.
Lovers carve true-love upon me –
Hearts and tokens in my bark.
Sun and Moon pour brightness on me;
I am the same by day or dark.

I saw crowned Queen Boadicea
Saw the Romans come and go;
Humans change, but I am constant;
Tree above, and they below.
Springtime sees my youth upon me,
Dropping autumn leaves me bare.
Winter lends me hoary fingers –
I change only with the year.

Humans: know my powers to comfort;
Know that I can bring you peace.
Tranquil rest your soul within me;
From all cares I give release.

If you put your arms around me,
Hug me round my crusty bark,
Troubled head to dusty roughness,
Touchwood close to unquiet heart –
Then my Heart-Wood self will bless you,
From your heavy fears absolve,
Draw them deep into my own roots,
Strengthen you with oak resolve.

Know then: we are one forever.
You shall be ours when you are clay.
Abiding, loving, green in spirit,
Remaining Dryads all our days.

Jean’s book To Everything There is a Season is available in paperback (£4.75). Visit

Good neighbours


In the first of two articles, Sadayeen Khan, secretary of Redbridge Neighbourhood Watch (NHW), explains the group’s purpose and why their objectives are more than just tackling crime

Redbridge NHW is a registered charity run by volunteers from within the community. Anyone living, working or studying in Redbridge is welcome to become a member (free). We use Online Watch Link (OWL), a secure email system, to send out security, crime prevention and other advisory emails to our members.

Our volunteers care for our communities and environment. Prevention is better than cure; therefore, we encourage early action to avoid being a victim of crime and suffering the associated financial and emotional costs, and saving the time and stress to put things right again.

We are not the police, nor are we a reporting arm of the police. Therefore, we remind and encourage the public to call 999, 101 or report crimes on the or websites, or through the ‘Report It’ section of the Redbridge Council website.

Redbridge NHW asks members and their neighbours to keep an eye out for each other and report suspicious behaviour, characters and wrongdoing, by calling the police or informing the council. We encourage members and our communities to look out and watch out for our neighbours, especially the elderly and vulnerable; to support each other and keep their environment clean and tidy. It makes the areas more pleasant to live in and discourages criminality.

We encourage the use of anti-thief and security devices for the home and vehicles, including dash cams, CCTV and doorbell cameras as a means of monitoring and as a deterrent rather than being curtain twitchers. This technology allows people to call the police immediately if they witness an event, or later when the criminals have long gone but have been captured committing crimes.

The electoral boundaries in Redbridge changed in 2018, creating Churchfields, South Woodford, Wanstead Village and Wanstead Park wards. Once the information relating to these changes was available to us, we adapted quickly and have most definitely moved on with interaction with new councillors and redrawn police teams, new IT and automation, whilst still maintaining a human touch through good-old means of communications.

Whilst we are not the police, we do actively communicate with them to inform members of what kind of crimes or criminals are active in their areas. We are also in touch with other charities and can liaise with them if and when needed.

The Redbridge NHW website includes crime prevention advice, discount codes on crime prevention products and useful links to partner organisations. For more information, and to join (free), visit

Cornerstone of humanity

orw-1Volunteers delivered food and clothing to the homeless during the pandemic

Long before local charities got fashionable during lockdown, Wanstead has always been a thriving hub of goodwill; and The Corner House Project is perhaps the jewel in its crown. Jackie Clune reports

Residents will know the Corner House itself, with its lovely volunteer-planted front garden and welcoming signs, situated opposite the park and alongside Co-op. The house has become the central node in a network of extraordinary local people who have come together with one simple aim – to do good in the local community.

Last year, Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter came to Wanstead, and from November to March, together with the Waltham Forest Churches, helped to give shelter to around 150 homeless guests over the winter. The outreach touched local businessman John Wagstaff, who set about collecting trainers for the homeless. Overwhelmed by the kindness in the area, he then got involved with another local legend, Frank Charles, whose Feed the Streetz initiative in Stratford was thriving. Suzi Harnett and Lizi from The Cuckfield pub joined forces to provide hubs for collection of donations.

As well as homelessness outreach, the Corner House Project supports other wonderful charities such as The Magpie Project, providing essentials for women and small children in temporary accommodation. We also work closely with the Tin in a Bin network, supporting the Wobble Rooms for NHS staff, providing fruit supplies to vulnerable people and visits to those living in hotels from Lola’s Homeless during lockdown. Other lines of support are in the offing.

The Corner House Project is a loose collective of local people who want to cut through bureaucracy and deliver what is needed to those who need it most. As well as providing material things, we want to offer outreach to the vulnerable; advice, support, a friendly face.

With that in mind, every Tuesday in a car park tucked behind a high street in E17, a group of homeless men start to congregate from around 6.30pm. At 7.30pm, a big catering van called The Christian Kitchen will roll in to serve a three-course meal to everyone there. Tonight, the Corner House Project is back after a lockdown break. We set up two trestle tables and load them with donated coats, trainers, bagged-up emergency toiletry supplies and pumps of hand sanitiser. The men are wary at first – who are these people and what do they want? But as soon as one comes to browse, they all trickle over, and soon there are clothes and pants flying in all directions.

“Thank you, Miss, thank you!”

“Bless you, thank you so much!”

“Have you got any socks, please? Thank you, thank you!”

The humility of these people is heartbreaking – how can we be living in such a divided world where Dickensian gratitude is still the norm? Shouldn’t we be relying on our governments to look after their most fragile citizens? How can this be the responsibility of a handful of do-gooders who care enough to give up their own time?

It would be easy to fall into this kind of despair but none of the team shows any sign of such compassion fatigue. Why do we do it? I ask Charlotte, founding member of Feet on the Street. What draws her here every Tuesday when she now lives miles away?

“I don’t know,” she smiles shyly, “I think I’ve got an excess of empathy. Doing this doesn’t necessarily make me feel better but I have to do it. I wake up at three in the morning sometimes worrying about them. I’ve got to know so many of them, I care about them. Sometimes, I’ll call them in the middle of the night to check in, and they say: ‘Haven’t you got work in the morning?!’”

John Wagstaff is equally committed. “From the first moment I spoke to one of the homeless guys and saw the difference I could make just by acknowledging they exist, I wanted to do more and more. To help as many people as I can. The first time I put something in someone’s hands – that direct transaction – the feeling you are really helping someone. I just felt like I belonged, and having suffered from mental illness from a young age, my empathy comes from the thought that it could easily have been me living on the street instead of them. There but for the grace of God…”

Other members of the team – Christelle, Michelle and Julie – are busy handing out jeans and home-made cookies. They are enjoying seeing the clothing collections they have been pouring hours and hours into during lockdown finally reaching their intended recipients. Michelle tries to source a bag for a man who is being taught to read by a fellow homeless person and wants to say thanks to his teacher by getting him something. One small man around my age is hovering near the jeans. They are all too big for him. Suddenly, I remember seeing a pair of size 32 Levis in a pile. I fish them out and hand them to him. He is utterly delighted. We swap names, and Jason tells me he suffers from terrible anxiety but that the jeans have made him feel good.

“I feel like it’s Christmas. Please know that I will be thinking of you all tonight.” As he walks off with a few jumpers to go with the jeans, I spot a brand new pair of fluffy Christmas socks and give them to him. He smiles. I tell him to put them on and remember us when he does, that we will be thinking of him too. And I know we all will be until we see him again next week. The Corner House Project – it has that kind of effect on you.

To donate money to The Corner House Project visit
A drive-through collection of clothing and toiletries will take place at Wanstead Cricket Club car park on 5 and 6 December.
For more information, visit