December 2020


Thank you, Wanstead


As he prepares to leave Wanstead Parish, Revd Dr Jack Dunn reflects on his four years as Rector, and talks about a Christmas appeal to help keep rough sleepers safe this winter

A year like no other, 2020 has had its highs and lows. We had wonderful news from the Heritage Lottery Fund, inaugurated our winter night shelter and raised funds to sponsor a refugee family. We also had to shut our church doors, learn to embrace Zoom and, sadly, take more funerals and comfort more bereaved families than we ever thought possible.

Last winter, our night shelter opened inside Christ Church halls, providing our guests with a hot meal, shelter, breakfast, a listening ear and a smile. We were overwhelmed by the support of the local community: financially, volunteering and donating clothing and food. This project above all others summed up the wonderful Wanstead community, helping others less fortunate than themselves.

This winter, things will be very different. Covid-19 restrictions mean church halls across the country can no longer be used for shelters, yet the need for emergency accommodation is greater than ever, with more people set to lose jobs and homes.

Partnering with Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter, we plan to provide emergency accommodation in a local hotel, funding 15 individual rooms per night to run from November through to the end of March 2021. We’re delighted to have again been chosen to feature in the Aviva Community Fund, and our Christmas appeal crowdfund is now live. We’re praying the local community and Aviva employees will want to support us once more.

Charities worldwide have been hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis and yet the local community in Wanstead has been so supportive. Just as we entered lockdown in March, our fundraiser to sponsor a Syrian refugee family went live. This was not great timing, yet, once again, we were amazed by the generosity of the local community and we soon hit our target. Our application has now been approved by the Home Office. We hope to welcome a family to Wanstead in 2021 once resettlement flights resume from Jordan.

Following last year’s restoration of St Mary’s – thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – we received the huge boost of a further £72,500 grant. This will help us to work with consultants and architects to secure and plan the longer-term future for both St Mary’s and Christ Church, and explore how both churches can be developed to serve our communities better. We would love to hear from members of the wider community about how our church buildings can better serve everyone – young and old, people of all faiths and none. After all, the church is there to serve everyone, not just churchgoers!

If this year has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me that community is everything. I will really miss the Wanstead community. Thank you for your generosity and great kindness.

To donate to the Wanstead Parish appeal, visit

Park & ride?


A previous article highlighting ideas for new cycle routes in Wanstead Park generated many ‘lively responses’. Here, Friends of Wanstead Parklands member Gill James reports on plans for a consultation in 2021

The new draft Epping Forest Cycling Strategy aims at encouraging responsible cycling in the forest. Cycling is permitted throughout Epping Forest, with the exception of Wanstead Park. Epping Forest has 284km of shared-use paths, which makes it a great place to explore by bike.

When cycling in Epping Forest, you are asked to follow the cycling code of conduct, which includes the following rules:

  • Let people know you are there with a greeting or bell
  • Give priority to pedestrians and horse riders
  • Approach corners and descents with caution as dogs, wildlife and cattle may cross your path unexpectedly
  • Do not race bicycles – this includes digital KOM/QOM ‘chasing’
  • Use the existing routes and avoid skidding

Cycling in Wanstead Park
The current regulation forbidding cycling in Wanstead Park is incongruous with the rest of the forest. The Friends of Wanstead Parklands and City of London agree that cycling in the park has become a ‘free for all’ and clearer revised guidelines are necessary. Many lively responses to an article in the September edition of the Wanstead Village Directory showed a majority in favour of more shared-use routes in Wanstead Park.

The City of London has now indicated they wish to move from the current, restrictive model to one which better reflects the time and will develop a separate cycling policy for Wanstead Park. Once various strategies for achieving a more harmonious situation have been considered, consultation with the public will follow in July 2021. This will be your chance to have a say.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands will be acting as a consultative body with Epping Forest and will suggest three options:

  1. A shared-use ‘commuter’ route between the Northumberland Avenue gate and the Warren Road gate. This would allow people to cycle straight across the park to the Tube, shops and schools using a hard surface already used by motor vehicles.
  2. A shared-use circular leisure route on existing wide paths for families to enjoy.
  3. Allowing responsible cycling anywhere within the park. Complaints about cyclists in the rest of the forest are rare. This would put the park in line with current practice in the rest of Epping Forest, thus avoiding further confusion over which paths are permitted and which are not.

For more information on the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, visit

Staying positive


Councillor Daniel Morgan-Thomas (Wanstead Village, Labour) looks at how the pandemic has impacted blood testing facilities for Wanstead residents, and is pleased to see phlebotomy services slowly improving

Among the turmoil caused by COVID-19 this year, many Wanstead residents will have noticed the walk-in blood testing service at the Heronwood and Galleon unit off Hermon Hill (the last remnant of the old Wanstead Hospital site) shut its doors during the pandemic.

As a Wanstead Village councillor and member of the Redbridge Health Scrutiny Committee, I tried with others on the council to establish what alternatives were available while it was closed, but the answers weren’t satisfactory. Some local residents were told to go as far as Loughton, to a clinic where queues stretched around the block; others were sent to the Langthorne Clinic in Leyton, though this service was not commissioned by Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), so they risked being turned away when they arrived.

In fact, neither of those services were the nearest walk-in option: phlebotomy provided at Whipps Cross Hospital (who are actually responsible for running the Wanstead unit) would have been more accessible, but understandably, many people may have been reluctant to visit an acute hospital at the height of the pandemic, and it is certainly not as accessible for our community as a short trip on foot to Hermon Hill.

It wasn’t clear for how long the local service would be closed over the summer or why such a popular service had been deemed fit to close at all – Barts Health, who provide the service, said the site was requested for use by the CCG for pandemic response purposes. In any case, it was a relief when the service at Heronwood and Galleon reopened on 21 September, and it has, by all accounts, been working well as a walk-in service, open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 1pm.

Unfortunately, the wider picture for phlebotomy provision across the borough remains less positive. In October, a serious incident was declared for phlebotomy across Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge (BHR) CCG – waiting times for non-urgent blood tests in parts of the tri-borough area had reached as high as 16 weeks. Since this low-point, the CCG has increased resources available for blood testing, including an additional centre at South Woodford Health Centre and supporting GP services to deliver blood tests; waiting times are now slowly coming down.

On the Health Scrutiny Committee, we have been particularly keen to ensure the CCG share their messages with the community more widely so people know how the situation with blood testing in the borough is progressing, and what the best ways of finding a blood test near you are. The CCG website is updated weekly, so you can check for details of testing sites and how to book. We’ll keep asking for updates and pushing for the best possible service for patients too!

For more information on blood tests, visit

Have your say on crime: council and police want your opinions

DSC_4012-(1)©Geoff Wilkinson

Redbridge Council, in partnership with the Metropolitan Police, is asking people who live or work in the borough to take part in a survey to help shape both organisation’s crime priorities.

“We want to understand how you feel, what your concerns are and what we can do to make Redbridge safer. If you have been impacted by crime over the last two years, please fill in the survey and tell us what you think our priorities should be,” said Leader of the Council, Councillor Jas Athwal. The survey closes on 10 January.



Church and school selected for Co-op’s Local Community Fund

1582715146_b657e350-b739-4957-a626-4a1fa5e54bf7©Kira Vos Photography

Wanstead Parish and Snaresbrook Primary School PTA have been selected for the next round of Co-op’s Local Community Fund.

“When you buy selected Co-op products and services, 2p for every £1 spent goes into your membership account… You can select the local cause you would like to support,” said Diana Varakina, Co-op’s Member Pioneer for Wanstead and South Woodford.

The church will use the funds to support their outreach programmes and the PTA will buy new equipment for nursery and reception classes.


Wanstead knitting group continues fundraising with Christmas gifts


Wanstead-based knitting group Social Knitworks is raising funds for rough sleepers by selling a range of festive knitted items, including crocheted Christmas puddings (£6.50), large snowmen (£8.50), Santa bears (£12) and knitted heart tree decorations (£2).

Last month, the group raised £374 for The Legion and Wanstead’s Corner House Project through sales of knitted poppies.

“I have been amazed by the support we have received,” said Liz Hickson, who established the group in 2018.



Kind words…


In the fifth of a series of articles documenting the thoughts of anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold, the founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative talks about her exciting trio of festive projects

This Christmas is going to be very different for all of us, and a lot more challenging than we are used to. As part of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative, and to follow on from a few projects we launched in 2019 as a way to combat loneliness at this time of year, I am organising a few things to help keep the spirit of Christmas alive this winter.

Community advent calendar
This year, we are designing a Spreading Kindness at Christmas family advent calendar for everyone to get involved with. Each day there will be a new challenge to complete as part of the calendar, from supporting local businesses and initiatives to self-care days and staying connected with others. It’s a great way to get the whole family involved with completing a fulfilling task each day in the run-up to Christmas.

Please contact me to order a physical, or digital, copy of this advent calendar.

Festive Friends
I am also working closely with Cambridge Nursing Home in Wanstead on their new initiative called Festive Friends, to bring the amazing festive Wanstead community spirit to their residents. “Sending a letter, Christmas card or even a drawing will go a long way to make our residents’ Christmas extra special, especially after this difficult year. We look forward to being dazzled by your creations!” said a spokesperson for the home. It is another amazing thing all the family can get involved with, and it will really make a big difference.

Virtual community Christmas concert
I am so excited to be launching Wanstead’s first virtual Christmas concert this year! It is going to be filled with performances from members of our wonderful community and celebrating some of the incredible and inspiring work that has been going on locally throughout 2020.

This follows on from our work to combat loneliness around this time of year. Sadly, our usual events are not possible this time around, so this is an alternative for us all to enjoy. The concert is going to be widely shared with local care, nursing and residential homes, many of which would usually have children’s choirs and visitors as we approach Christmas.

We are working with the production company 2b Media on this project, which will be premiered via a private link on 17 December from 5.30pm. To watch the concert, you will need to book your free tickets, which will provide you with the link to the event.

I know this is a particularly difficult time for so many of us and I hope some of these small things will add a little extra cheer to the alternative Christmas festivities this year.

To get involved, email
To book tickets for the Christmas concert, visit

Takeaway tubs needed


Residents enjoying a takeaway this month are urged to save any microwaveable tubs their food arrives in, ready for donation to Wanstead Parish’s appeal for the homeless.

“Every Tuesday night from January, volunteers will be cooking for the night shelter, and we will need at least 45 microwaveable trays (and lids) every week,” said Nicola Jarratt. The appeal will also fund hotel bed spaces for rough sleepers until the end of March.



Petition submitted to council over Mansfield Road rat run


Residents of Mansfield Road in Wanstead have submitted a petition to Redbridge Council calling for traffic-calming measures on their street.

“An alarming number of vehicles use Mansfield Road as a rat run to avoid the traffic lights at George Green. Cars speed down here from Redbridge Lane West at peak times. We fear for the safety of residents and pedestrians,” said Jenny Burbage, who would like to see a one-way system or speed bumps introduced, citing Gordon Road and Wellington Road as good examples.


Over 500 local tree pits adopted in 2020: apply now for 2021 and receive free seeds

190522-Halstead-Road-croppedAdopted tree pit on Halstead Road, Wanstead

A total of 570 tree pits were adopted across Wanstead and Aldersbrook in 2020, and residents are now encouraged to reapply for 2021.

“It’s that time of year when residents can adopt tree pits to stop them being sprayed with chemicals and grow wild flowers instead. This can help bees and other creatures when they’re moving about – especially in places where lots of gardens have been concreted over. Adoptions are now an annual process – so even if you’re an old hand, you need to reapply… Just fill out a quick electronic form and the council will be in touch to provide a label for your tree,” said a spokesperson for Wild Wanstead.

Redbridge Council also has 400 packets of wild flower seeds to give away with adoptions, each sufficient for two or three tree pits. The deadline to apply is 31 December.