April 2021


Walks past Wanstead

Screenshot-2021-03-08-at-14.04.57©2021 Google

Russell Kenny and Paul Hayes have devised a series of self-guided history walks around the Wanstead area which can be followed on a smartphone or from a printable guide. In the fourth of a series of articles championing these tours through time, we look at the history to be found on the edges of Wanstead Flats

Most of the buildings around the edges of Wanstead Flats date from the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The rapid development in this era followed the coming of the railways. Forest Gate Station opened in 1840, Leytonstone Station in 1856 and Manor Park Station in 1873.  

The Georgian Manor House, which still stands in Manor Park, was built around 1810.  The Eastern Counties Railway bought land near the house for their planned new line to Norwich in 1837. The house was sold and later used as an Industrial School to train boys in practical skills. It is now divided into flats.

Manor Park Cemetery was opened in 1875 and has some interesting Victorian graves.  Some notable people buried there are Annie Chapman, the second of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Mary Orchard, the nanny of some of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren, including Alexandra who married Tsar Nicholas and was executed along with her family in the Russian revolution, and William Thomas Ecclestone who, when he died in 1905, was thought to be the second-heaviest man in the world. Two young heroes are buried there too. John Clinton was a 10-year-old-boy who in 1894 saved another boy from drowning in the Thames, but was then himself drowned. Jack Cornwell was buried here in 1916, aged 16, and was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery at the Battle of Jutland during World War One.

On the corner of the Flats nearest Forest Gate is an area that at the turn of the 20th century was a centre of local social life. The Monkey Parade for courting couples to promenade, a bandstand (since demolished), and the Angell Pond, named after the engineer who built it, are here. Further around the Flats in 1908, the Model Yacht Pond (now the Jubilee Pond) was built. This part of the Flats has a history of hosting circuses and fairgrounds, and before that, horse fairs.

After passing the sites of two World War Two prisoner of war camps, we reach the iconic John Walsh and Fred Wigg tower blocks, which look out over the Harrow Road Playing Fields. In Davies Lane, past the school attended by Jonathan Ross, we get to the Pastures, once a home for “Fallen Girls” and those “rescued from persons or houses of ill-fame”. It was founded in 1876 and run by Miss Agnes Cotton, a social reformer and philanthropist. Born locally into the wealthy philanthropic Cotton family, Miss Cotton was known as Sister Agnes because she often wore a veil and dressed in black.

At the top of Leytonstone High Road there are more interesting historical houses. Leytonstone House, now next to Tesco, was built around 1800 and was originally the home of Sir Edward North Buxton and his family. He was a partner in the London brewers Truman, Hanbury & Company, based in Brick Lane. In 1868, the house and its grounds became another Industrial School, set up to teach practical skills to boys who were orphaned or destitute, to enable them to make a living. It went on to become a children’s home, a hospital and is now offices.

Other interesting buildings in the area are the 19th-century cottages of Leytonstone Village, and further down the High Road, near The Birds pub, a row of beautiful, Grade II-listed Georgian Houses. Built in the mid-18th century, and originally surrounded by fields, they are now tucked away behind a row of shops and hemmed in by the Victorian houses that sprang up with the coming of the railways.

To view or print the walking guides and maps, visit wnstd.com/walkspast


Endangered in Wanstead


The Wren Wildlife Group, London Wildlife Trust and Wild Wanstead have compiled a list of 10 species at risk of local extinction. In the second of a series of articles looking at each species in turn, Alex Deverill explains how to help smooth newts thrive in your garden

Anyone with a pond will tell you that newts are welcome visitors – engaging little creatures with a handy appetite for slugs. The best time to spot them is March to October. Smooth newts are generally brown in colour with a yellow or orange belly with small black spots. The males develop an impressive wavy crest along their backs in the breeding season, making them look like miniature dinosaurs. In fact, on land, their skin can take on a velvety appearance and they can be mistaken for lizards.

Smooth newts spend part of the year in water and part on land. Adults head to ponds from the start of the breeding season in February through to around June. Spawn is laid as individual eggs wrapped in pondweed. Newt larvae breathe through external feathery gills which sprout from behind the head. It takes about 10 weeks for them to metamorphose into air-breathing juveniles. In late summer, both juvenile newts and adults leave the water. They can often be found sheltering in damp soil beneath logs and rocks. In winter, they stay hidden underground, among tree roots and in old walls.

Smooth newts are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. They’re at risk because of the loss of the habitats where they live, particularly the removal of ponds, and the fragmentation of green spaces as more land is developed. In Wanstead, small garden ponds help support the species, but if these ponds are filled in or stocked with fish, or if gardens are paved over, newt populations will suffer. Here’s how you can help:

  • Newts need two types of habitat – a pond where they can breed and a surrounding land area containing slugs, snails and insects for them to eat, along with cover to hide from predators. There’s a great guide by The Wildlife Trusts on how to build a wildlife pond (wnstd.com/pond). To create places in your garden where newts can hang out, consider a long grass area or a pile of old wood or leaves in a shady location.
  • Newts need insects to eat, so help mini-beasts thrive in your garden. That means having as many plants as you can. Ground-dwelling insects generally benefit from patches of dense vegetation where they can hide away. Large areas of paving for drives and patios are disastrous for city invertebrates and wildlife more generally.
  • Never use slug pellets, pesticides or weed killers in your garden. Instead, aim to attract lots of different wildlife to keep things in balance, using biological pest control if necessary.

For more information about the 10 species under threat of extinction in Wanstead, visit wnstd.com/the10


Time of waste


We should all be helping to keep our streets and open spaces litter free, says Chair of the Wanstead Society Scott Wilding, who is keen for residents and businesses to take responsibility for their actions

Finally, we have some light at the end of the tunnel with a vaccine and plan to get us out of lockdown. But we all know there is still a long way to go. In the period between now and (hopefully) end of June, our parks and open spaces will continue to be a refuge for families and friends to meet up.

But there is an uncomfortable truth in our use of these parks and open spaces: litter. Most Monday mornings – especially after we’ve had a good spell of weather – the bins on Christchurch Green are not just full but overflowing. Excess waste is blown around the park and caught up in birds and local wildlife. The plastics used in some disposable food and drink products will never biodegrade. So, what can we do about it?

We all have a responsibility
The fact is, if we see litter or waste in a park or open space, one of us put it there. So, if a bin is completely full, just take your rubbish home. Do your bit. Don’t neatly balance your disposable coffee cup on the top of the bin in the hope as it’s near the bin, it’s in the bin. Chances are it’ll get blown away to slowly pollute the ground.

More, larger bins
Having said the above, more and bigger bins in our parks would be sensible, and I was pleased to read more bins are indeed planned for Christchurch Green, especially given the plans for a new café there – our parks are being used more than ever. Perhaps even recycling bins so we can truly up our recycling game, especially in a London borough with poor recycling rates. Ultimately though, they only cure a symptom, not the illness, and where do we stop? If a bin is full – it’s full – no matter how many there are.

Cutting waste at source
COVID has seen the war on waste take a backward step. Think disposable masks, gloves and plastic coverings to protect food from infection. But as we exit COVID, retailers must continue good corporate social responsibility by producing less waste in food packaging. Gail’s and Costa both responded to a call to reduce waste when I spoke to them, and both use incentives to persuade customers to use fewer disposable items, although COVID has restricted everyone’s efforts.

There is still a long way to go, but cutting waste in general is, despite COVID, an aim we have to sign up to if we hope to tackle the climate emergency. It has never been someone else’s responsibility to pick up after any of us, although there are some great volunteers who take part in litter picks – some daily – because they take pride in where we live. When all is said and done, and no matter how much someone else does, if the bin is full, take your rubbish home.

For more information on the Wanstead Society, visit wnstd.com/ws


Written response

Screenshot 2021-03-30 at 16.48.29

Shelly Berry moved to the local area shortly before the pandemic took hold. Here, the counsellor and novelist reflects on her observations of how and why people responded differently to lockdown restrictions

Imoved to this area at the end of 2019. By the time I had unpacked, celebrated my 40th and recovered from Christmas, the pandemic was looming.

It’s been a strange time to get to know a neighbourhood. Before lockdown hit, I was finding my way around the High Street and discovering haunts where I could write over a steady supply of coffee. Since last March, any writing outside of my new flat has been limited to my balcony or secluded spots on Leyton Flats. It’s the open spaces that surround my new home that I have been able to explore. I feel I know every tree in our patch of Epping Forest intimately and, whilst a good 30-minute walk away, Wanstead Flats has provided a welcome alternative for longer weekend rambles.

We’ve been living through what I recognise as a counsellor as a collective trauma, to which we all respond differently. Some of us have responded with hypervigilance, protecting ourselves and our loved ones through careful social distancing and self-isolation. Others have struggled to follow guidelines that cut us off from our social lifelines, especially if we live alone with only mental health problems for company.

Whilst it can be difficult to comprehend how others respond to Covid-19, as a counsellor and writer, I am constantly striving to understand why people behave the way they do. In my novel Outreach, I write about a young woman working with people with addictive behaviour, whose obsession with her boss some people would find hard to empathise with. I am now writing the collective stories of a group of people connected through one London estate, some of whom engage in controlling and violent behaviour. Whilst it might be easy to sensationalise the actions of my characters, I use my writing to explore why some people behave in ways that are, from the outside, quite alarming. In my experience, many addictions and other destructive behaviours stem from past experiences that, if left unchecked, affect the way we think, feel and act long afterwards.

As someone who has, for 20 years, worked with people who are often termed challenging and antisocial, I have seen the power behind taking the time to understand the root of individual difficulties, rather than trying to ‘treat’ or punish how they manifest on the outside. I’ve witnessed and experienced the impact of feeling heard, and how stuck we can get if we don’t feel understood, something that is true for the characters in my writing but also for a lot of us living through this pandemic. I hope that, as we come out of lockdown, all of us who need that affirmation after the events of the last 12 months experience the same compassion.

For more information on Shelly and her work, visit wnstd.com/berry. Shelly’s novel Outreach is available to buy at wnstd.com/books


Refund rules!


Adem Esen from local solicitors Wiseman Lee talks about deposits, and more importantly, about non-refundable deposits, which can sometimes be based on unfair small print

Our personal diaries are blank. We have all had to cancel planned holidays and events, and we know that, in some cases, the cancellation and refund process works more smoothly than in others.

One of the main concern consumers face is whether it is legal for a business to keep a non-refundable deposit in the event of a cancelled event due to Covid-19.

A deposit is part of the total cost of something, or an advance payment paid at the time of booking. Businesses will sometimes insist that it’s non-refundable if you cancel, and even draft it into its contract and terms and conditions. A common example of this is when booking a venue for an event, such as a wedding. The business’s contract and terms and conditions will very often refer to all payments made in respect of the event as ‘non-refundable and non-transferable’.

Can a deposit be non-refundable?
Just because something is written in a contract does not mean it is always legally binding. The reason for this is because businesses ordinarily cannot rely on unfair terms.

Only in some circumstances can a business keep your deposit or advance payments. If you cancel the contract, the business is generally only entitled to keep or receive an amount sufficient to cover actual losses that directly result from your cancellation. This will generally include costs already incurred by the business or loss of profit.

When can a deposit be kept?
Generally, the business has no entitlement to keep any amount that can be saved by finding another customer, or cancelling any other suppliers they have employed. That would likely constitute an unfair contract term. For example, if you booked a holiday which then sells out and the company finds another customer to take your place, it is likely the only amount it can legitimately withhold from your deposit will be administrative costs. However, if you cancel at unreasonably short notice and the business cannot find another customer, you could expect the business to keep most, if not all, of your deposit.

Was it a genuine reservation fee?
If the deposit you paid was a reasonable and genuine reservation fee and not an advance payment, it may be kept by the business as a payment for that reservation. But, importantly, in most cases, such deposits will only ever be a small percentage of the overall price.

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


Redbridge Lane West allotment site under threat

1creenshot-2021-04-07-at-11.49.37©Google 2021

More than 40 allotment plot holders in Wanstead have been left devastated by the news that gas company Cadent wants to take over their site for a minimum of two years. Plot holder Sally Parker reports

The first plot holders knew of the move came when they were called to an online meeting held on 25 March with Cadent to hear about their plans.

The company revealed how it requires the site in order to park vehicles and to carry out maintenance work on the adjacent gas works at the end of Redbridge Lane West. Cadent claims that using the allotment site is most convenient for it to create a base for the work – with lorries coming and going all day.

Plot holders are being offered the option to take a two-year ‘holiday’ from their allotments to allow Cadent to take over the whole site, relocating plots to the Council’s Wanstead Park site permanently or for the duration of the works, or to cancel their tenancy agreements.

There would likely be much disruption to residents living in local roads and to Wanstead High School, which lies almost opposite the allotments.

Amazingly, Cadent was unaware of the Council’s proposals for a new swimming pool, also to be opposite the allotment site, and they are proposing that their works commence when construction of the swimming pool are ongoing or just finished – a double whammy for the area.

Cadent has approached Redbridge Council about use of the site, which is Council owned. The Council has not yet made a formal decision.

The allotment site is a natural meadow, with huge biodiversity value. There are wild flowers, fruit and other trees, wildlife including newts and toads and a pond, as well as a host of well nurtured allotment plots. Irreparable damage will be caused to the soil structure.

The plot holders do not believe that the gas company understands how much effort goes into establishing and maintaining a plot. People have devoted their care, time and money over years into erecting infrastructure such as sheds, greenhouses, raised beds, walkways and frames to name just a few things. For many plot holders, including the elderly and those who live alone, their allotments have been even more invaluable during the pandemic, providing much needed outdoor exercise and contact with other plot holders.

The largest single allotment is taken up by the much-praised charity ‘Sprout There!’ project, run by the charity Uniting Friends. They work with adults with learning disabilities, providing a therapeutic horticulture programme. Cadent was not even aware that this project existed at the site.

Plot holders are united in hoping that Redbridge Council will reject the application, particularly given its own commitment to biodiversity, as expressed in the climate change emergency declared in June 2019.

This proposal really would contradict all that the Council is trying to do to promote biodiversity and counter climate change. It would cause disruption to the local area and devastation both physical and mental for the allotment holders who have devoted so much time and effort on their plots.

We understand that Cadent has not yet made a formal submission to the Council. We call on Redbridge Council to reject it when received. Cadent should seek to find a different site that will cause less biodiverse damage and disruption to the local community and all concerned.


Green, green glass


With a background in replicating Victorian stained glass and repairing the white glass panels of Big Ben, local resident Tony McCarty was well placed to launch a lockdown enterprise repurposing used wine bottles

So, as a bit of a lockdown project, I decided to see if I could create drinking glasses using our waste wine bottles, drawing on 30 years’ experience of crafting stained glass. After three months of research and practice – and many broken bottles – I began to make progress.

It wasn’t quite as easy to make something useful and beautiful from an unwanted wine bottle as YouTube suggested, but I persisted, and thanks to my patient and understanding wife, I finally perfected a reliable method and created a set of six amazing drinking glasses with super smooth edges. The transformation from a resource doomed for the recycling bin to a uniquely beautiful drinking glass really hit home.

Our friends and family loved them and were only too willing to collect and donate their empties, which I then repurposed into more drinking glasses. Before long, I made my first sale. Amazing! New ideas for other products, such as table votives to self-watering planters, and glass dining table accessories followed, and I was ready to explore new ideas and test the market further.

Next stop was a visit to Bombetta, an excellent Snaresbrook-based Italian restaurant. Armed with a selection of samples, I met with Ben and Jo. They really liked the samples and particularly appreciated the sustainability concept. I agreed to take the restaurant’s waste bottles and created 100 wine glasses for their tables as well as designing table tea light holders, vases and olive bowls, all reflecting the restaurant’s style. The idea also proved to be a big hit with the diners. Five months later, they ordered 300 more products for their stunning, new industrial-style art gallery restaurant in Walthamstow, Arte e Pasta.

I am also pleased to have teamed up with Cera London, a small Wanstead-based chandler. Working together, we have tested and developed a new range of vessels made from salvaged Prosecco bottles for their scented candle range (available to buy online or from Daisy Florist on Wanstead High Street). When the candle is exhausted, you can take your jars back to Daisy’s for refilling. How’s that for sustainability?

In the meantime, if you would like me to repurpose your waste bottles into beautiful tableware or as a thoughtful, sustainable unique gift for a friend or loved one, do let me know what you are interested in.

It’s a great creative way for you to get involved in reducing your carbon footprint. But I warn you, you will never look at an empty wine bottle in the same way again!

To view and order Tony’s products, visit wnstd.com/tonysglass, or follow him on Instagram @tonys_glassworks


Submit your COVID stories to Redbridge Museum


Redbridge Museum is inviting Wanstead residents to submit their photos, videos, artwork and stories about life during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to know about your daily walks, working or schooling from home, and the ways your community has come together to support one another. Your stories will help to document the impact of the pandemic on our borough and will form part of the collections at Redbridge Museum and Heritage Centre,” said a spokesperson.

Email redbridge.museum@visionrcl.org.uk


Dowsing in Wanstead Park… for Roman remains

DSCN0914Dowsers in Wanstead Park. ©Ralph Potter

In 2008, a group of dowsers worked in Wanstead Park to try and find the location of a long-lost Roman structure.

The group’s findings were never written up, but during lockdown, local resident Janet Cornish began analysing the results.

“The documentation has been brought out of storage and is being organised with GPS accuracy… Dowsing is an ancient art, but has gained recognition as a supplement to archaeological techniques,” said Janet, a former computer science lecturer, who hopes to publish a report later in the year.