In the first of a series of articles by plot holders at Redbridge Lane West allotments in Wanstead, Ged Heeney reflects on the site’s long history and emphasises how devastating it would be to lose it
I was recently sent an old map of Wanstead as a gift from my sister. It was an Ordnance Survey map, compiled in 1915 during the First World War. Wanstead was still in Essex, and much of the land to the east was rural. I found it fascinating to see so much that I recognised from having lived in Wanstead for the past 25 years, but also to see how much has changed.
The Hainault branch of the Central Line had not yet been built, so there was no Wanstead Station. The A406 and the A12 did not exist. Instead, the road leading east from The George pub was known as George Lane and went as far as what is now the footbridge over the A12, before turning left into what later became Nutter Lane.
The site which is now Wanstead High School was occupied by the rectory of St Mary the Virgin, Overton Drive, and the land opposite was ‘glebe’, used to support the parish priest. This use is reflected in the roads in that area, which were named after former rectors. Wigram and Drummond Roads were the only ones in 1915, but would later be joined by Corbett Road and Rectory Crescent.
There was no leisure centre either, and Redbridge Lane curved through the fields to the Red Bridge, which crossed the River Roding, and eventually gave its name to the local borough.
One thing that has not changed in over a hundred years, however, is the use of the land at the bottom of Redbridge Lane West, next to what is now River Close. The map shows this area as allotments. However, this could all change. The gas company, Cadent, which has a site adjoining the allotments, have said they wish to take over the allotments to use as a base for upgrade work. This would involve paving over the site for turning HGVs or for employee parking. This would be a devastating blow to us plot holders who have spent years nurturing the land.
Cadent met with the tenants to present their plans and listen to suggestions. I fear that if the planned developments take place, the land may never be returned to its original use.
If you value the green spaces in your neighbourhood, where wildlife such as toads and newts can live undisturbed, where people with learning disabilities are provided the chance to grow their own produce by local charity Sprout There!, and where the best fruit and vegetables in Wanstead can be found, then please sign our petition and pass it on!
For more information and to view the petition, visit wnstd.com/rlw