September 2021


Rediscovering Art

IMG_2010©Elsie Drew

Art Group Wanstead member Elsie Drew developed a passion for art at a young age. But with a family to nurture and a career to develop, painting was put on hold. Now, in retirement, Elsie has rediscovered art all over again

As a child, I was always drawing on scraps of paper or sketching in books. I remember drawing Art Deco-style ladies with large Afghan hounds at their sides that I copied from magazines. One of my elder brothers was a very talented artist and he would often show me how to draw or to paint in oils. I now know my preference is watercolour.

It was my mother who took me on my first visit to an art gallery when I was 13. We went to the Whitechapel Art Gallery where they were showing some of Henry Moore’s sculptures. I wished I could have stayed all day.

I thoroughly enjoyed my art classes at school. When I was in my last year at junior school, my teacher read William Blake’s The Tyger to us, but it was years later before I realised Blake was a wonderful artist as well as a poet. The local council held an art exhibition for all the schools in the area and my painting of a tiger coming through the trees was picked to be shown. My art teacher at senior school was considered very Bohemian with lots of beads and bangles and very bright colours on long swirling skirts. I can still see her now and remember her as a wonderful teacher.

After school, my life became very busy, leading to a family and a career, and drawing and painting no longer played such a pivotal role.

After my husband passed away, I decided to join an art class organised by Age UK and realised I had been missing art in my life. I received great encouragement from everyone and have formed wonderful friendships in the process, as well as passing on my childhood wonder and rekindled passion for art to my grandchildren. Rediscovering art – in particular watercolour – has been wonderful in my retirement.

My art is constantly changing. When I first started, I felt I had to copy my subject in the finest detail. It was very precise and would frustrate me when I felt the perspective and colours weren’t right and the picture didn’t convey my feelings towards the subject. Then, through art classes both online and locally, I found that it didn’t have to be like that. I was shown how the water could flow over the page, taking the colour with it and mingling with other colours to produce new ones and wonderful unintended shapes. If you have the patience to let the water dry, it will show you the way forward, allowing you to use ‘mark making’ and other mediums to achieve what you want to express on paper.  I have learnt that there is no wrong or right way to approach art, just different ways, and the process of creating a piece is uniquely personal and of a moment.

It’s only recently that I have found the courage to show my paintings and did so at the last local art trail before lockdown. I also entered three paintings in a virtual exhibition organised by Essex Art Club.

I now happily go out and paint, and my friend and I can often be seen in Wanstead Park with our sketchbooks and paints enjoying chats with walkers and other artists and the Wanstead community.

For more information on Art Group Wanstead, visit


A lot to lose

cata-1Emperor moth caterpillar at the allotments (June 2021)

In the fourth of a series of articles by plot holders at the Redbridge Lane West allotments – which are under threat from the adjacent gas works – Iain Ambler explains the site’s importance for local biodiversity

The proposal by our neighbour Cadent, the global gas company, to use all or part of Redbridge Lane West allotments as a compound to support their works has put the future of the site at risk. This hidden natural jewel in the middle of Wanstead is a diverse and rich habitat with a strong tradition of wildlife conservation, and I believe the site should continue to be conserved for the benefit of wildlife and all Wanstead residents.

From historic maps, it would appear the allotments were originally glebeland (meadows belonging to the Rector of Wanstead), becoming allotment land by 1915. We have found exemplar flora in some of the undeveloped areas between plots that suggest these are relict patches of old natural grassland.

In recent years, there has been a history of active wildlife engagement by plot holders, working together and with the council. Previous conservation efforts have included tree planting, installing a large pond and bog pond, and creation and management of a wildlife area in the middle of the site. The wildlife has been beautifully recorded in images on the website East London Nature (, currently maintained by one of our plot holders.

The site, opposite Wanstead Leisure Centre, is triangular in shape and is squeezed in between Redbridge Lane West on one side and the A12 on the other. It boasts mature trees on each of its three sides, including hornbeam, Lombardy poplar, lime, London plane, silver birch, ash, Norway maple, sycamore, apple, and several weeping balsam poplar adjoining the Cadent gas site. Thick hawthorn hedging runs down the Redbridge Lane West side. This makes the site a fantastic habitat for nesting birds: we recently undertook an early morning breeding bird survey and recorded 15 to 20 nesting territories, including blackcap, jay, wren and great spotted woodpecker. The site sits at the end of a green corridor from Wanstead Park over the golf course: we have recorded common pipistrelle bats foraging on site, which we think roost in the park.

It’s simply amazing what diversity of wildlife exists under our feet, and what it does when you leave it alone! This summer, we recorded over 150 species of flora on the site. A number of these are grasses including false oat grass and Yorkshire fog. A fox and her cubs have been living in a den here this year and we have found wood mice and bank voles. Recently, an emperor moth caterpillar was spotted – a first for Wanstead.

The importance of urban microsites like our allotments and others locally, such as Tarzy Wood and George Green, for conserving and increasing biodiversity in the face of wider declines cannot be overemphasised.

To view the petition to save the Redbridge Lane West allotments, visit


Plan to fail?


Derek Inkpin from local solicitors Wiseman Lee outlines the methods of enforcement available to local planning authorities when it comes to ensuring building projects do not breach the rules

Most people have a reasonable idea about the requirement to obtain planning permission for larger building projects, and obtaining building regulations consent for the method of building. However, when something goes wrong and a house owner decides to build without planning consent, the weapons in the armoury of the local planning authority (LPA) are considerable.

A flagrant breach of planning law is relatively rare, but it can be a breach of the conditions in the planning permission which causes the LPA to take action with the service of an Enforcement Notice. This will be done if it is in the public interest to do so. Before this happens, the LPA will normally write to the offending owner in the hope of reaching an agreement on the measures required to rectify the breach of planning law. Time limits apply and no enforcement action can be taken after four years of building operations or a change of use to a single dwelling. All other cases carry a 10-year limit, after which a breach of planning is immune from prosecution.

The methods of enforcement are:

  • A planning Enforcement Notice, which is the most common means of ensuring the planning breach is corrected.
  • A planning Contravention Notice, where the LPA requires more information about the building activities carried out. If there is a failure to respond, or false information is given, a criminal offence is committed.
  • A planning Enforcement Order is served once made by the Magistrates’ Court, where an authorised development has been deliberately concealed.
  • A Stop Notice is an urgent measure if a planning Enforcement Order does not resolve the breach. If it is not observed, a criminal offence is committed with an unlimited fine.
  • A Temporary Stop Notice lasts for no more than 28 days and is used if time is critical for unauthorised building work. Unlike a Stop Notice, it does not need to be preceded by an Enforcement Notice.
  • The most serious form of planning enforcement is a Court Injunction, but this is rarely used.
  • Another rarely used enforcement method is a Right of Entry, which can authorise officers from the LPA to enter land where there is an ongoing breach of planning control.
  • A breach of Condition Notice arises where one or more of the conditions in a planning permission are not adhered to. A time limit for compliance is specified in the notice but there is a right of appeal to the High Court.

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


Aspire to inspire


Aspiring athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds often suffer to develop their talents due to a lack of resources and guidance. A couple from Wanstead are working to change that. Troy Da Costa reports

Wanstead couple Dan Sharp and Arela Williams – who run Sharp Training out of Target Fit on the High Street – are dedicating their free time and knowledge to bringing quality training and mindfulness to young, underprivileged athletes. Both highly qualified and experienced personal trainers, Arela and Dan have made it their goal to help young adults fulfil their potential.

Sharp Training currently offers one-to-one sessions and online mentorship, and are looking to expand their work in the community through a sponsorship programme. For a small, non-obligatory subscription, potential sponsors can help hopeful youths stay focused on their goals while receiving a first-class physical education otherwise beyond their means.

Arela is a former elite volleyball player and specialist in flexibility, and Dan has a background in semi-professional basketball and is a strength and conditioning coach. Together, the couple has 16 years of health and fitness expertise to share.

The sponsorship programme has been up and running since June this year and is already quite popular. “Athletes who wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to train with us now have an opportunity to be part of the mentorship programme. They receive a sport performance direction and join in weekly leadership meetings on Zoom,” says Arela, herself just 25 years old. “Sponsors receive updates and letters from the athletes they sponsor.”

“I aspire to inspire, and I do that by teaching and equipping my trainees with tools to make them more powerful humans first and then athletes,” says Dan. “They inspire me when they excel.”

According to Arela, the best part of her job is inspiring young female athletes to be confident within their body and to not alter their personality because they find themselves in a male-dominant environment. “Their success definitely inspires me on days when I’m not feeling confident within myself.”

Seeing their young athletes put into practice the lessons taught on how to overcome mistakes and have a ‘next play mentality’ is one of their great successes. “Watching a player recover from a miss caused by overthinking the situation, only to score the winning shot minutes later is great,” adds Dan, talking about a youth basketball player.

The ultimate goals of Sharp mentorship are to build a support platform for youth athletes, connect them with pros from varying backgrounds to learn from, and to teach them how to prioritise their physical and mental well-being.

For more information on the program, visit or follow them on Instagram @sharptraining




A grass verge, a raised bed, a thin strip and a circular patch. Marian Temple offers a potted guide to four new local mini gardens, courtesy of the Wanstead Community Gardeners. Photography by Geoff Wilkinson

As if 2020 wasn’t active enough (it was one of our busiest years ever, gardening-wise), us community gardeners have continued creating new patchwork mini gardens across Wanstead in 2021.

1. First off the blocks is the Redbridge Lane West grass verge. This has been in a sorry state for years. Kathy Taylor of Wanstead Community Gardeners applied for a Community Infrastructure Levy grant for improvement here along with the application for the flower turf for the traffic island near The George. Vision RCL prepared the soil and planted the shrubs. They are small at the moment, so locals have planted flowers there till the shrubs grow. A great improvement.

2. The second new patch is the raised tree surround on the corner of Wellesley Road and Hermon Hill. The tree, a large horse chestnut, was more than dead. We asked Peter Marshall (Redbridge Council’s Principal Arboricultural and Horticultural Officer), the ‘go to’ person for street trees, if we could adopt this raised bed as we wanted a patch of flowers in this area of hard surfaces. A new street tree was planted outside the Methodist Church, and the raised tree surround, with the hollow dead tree stump, was handed over to us as requested. The stump gives more character for the patch and rotting wood is good for insects. A thick mat of couch grass and weeds removed and seeds sown in time for rain. The resulting patch of bright summer flowers has been a delight, especially for the lady who lives in the nearby block of flats who can look straight down onto them. The flowers will seed themselves so the patch will renew itself and a pot of lavender sits in the hollow tree stump. A delight for bees, and for us.

3. Number three new patch is almost up to the Green Man Roundabout. It is a strip of soil in a recess in the wall surrounding the Ennerdale Court flats. Weeds and rubbish removed; seeds sown and favourite cottage garden plants added. The generous rain was on our side. By August, the patch was flowering and morning glories were climbing the trellis. Next year, hollyhocks and Verbascum, our tall favourites, will be flowering. Lovely for anyone passing by and especially good for the bus drivers of the W14 as it terminates there. They really enjoy our patches, so now they can have one for themselves.

4. The jewel in the crown of this year’s new garden patches is definitely the traffic roundabout further along from our flower meadow in between The George and Wanstead Station. We adopted this five years ago and called it The Island Bed. This year, Ingrid, one of our super energetic gardeners, took on the mini roundabout as a project and, with amazing speed, has turned it into a garden. A massive amount of rubbish removed, ditto ivy, to allow sun and rain to the earth. This is a full sun area and is being filled with donated plants. Lots of shouted conversations between drivers waiting at the traffic lights and passers-by on the pavement. There is so much interest and delight at seeing the island transformed at such a pace. It has something of the style of Derek Jarman’s Dungeness Garden, with interesting pieces of wood planted vertically in the earth giving it a sculpture garden look. One such piece is sprouting beautiful dark red leaves. It has no roots, but no matter. Miracles happen on Ingrid’s Isle!

For more information on the work of the Wanstead Community Gardeners and to get involved, visit


Wanstead Festival returns this Sunday with a ‘green twist’

fest18Wanstead Festival 2018

The annual Wanstead Festival will return this Sunday (12 September) with an environmental twist.

“This year, our Smarter Travel Team has also ‘reclaimed’ the adjoining Wanstead High Street from traffic for the day, to showcase the fantastic environmental and sustainable options available to residents,” said a Redbridge Council spokesperson.

The High Street will be closed from 7.30am to 10.30pm between Grove Park and Wanstead Place and bus diversions will take place on the day.

Bus Routes 66, W12, W13 and W14 will be diverted via New Wanstead, Green Man Roundabout and Cambridge Park in both directions.

“Our green High Street event aims to promote active and sustainable travel opportunities; raise awareness of a healthy street approach, play streets, recycling, and the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which comes into effect on 25 October 2021. Residents will be able to take part in cycling events including bike rides led by experienced instructors and the chance to try out fun cycles and tricycles. Our Neighbourhood Team will also be on hand to lead some play activities for our young residents as well as giving out information on recycling and guidance to help make your lifestyle become ‘greener’.”

All cycling events are free to participate in, but booking is required for the bike riding events at

The annual Wanstead Festival is organised and managed by Vision RCL. The main festival activities will be held on Christchurch Green on 12 September from 11am until 6pm. Visit


Cleaner & Greener

IMG-20200619-WA0008Litter pickers on Christchurch Green

In the second of a series of articles providing an update on the Cleaner Greener Wanstead initiative, Councillor Paul Donovan (Wanstead Village, Labour) says it’s time to tackle the waste epidemic

The pandemic led to more rubbish around Wanstead. Especially galling has been the discarding of masks. The aim of the mask is to stop the spread of Covid – how does chucking it on the ground do this? One of the aims of Cleaner Greener Wanstead is to take greater individual responsibility.

What is it that makes people believe they are so entitled that simply putting rubbish in the bin or taking it home is below them? No, dump it on the ground for someone else to pick up. At one point, Redbridge Council were taking more litter off Christchurch Green than Valentines Park. Note, the full-time worker deployed simply to clear up after those who cannot deal with their own rubbish. There is also the monthly litter pick (third Saturday of the month, meeting at 10am on Woodbine Place), as well as ad hoc individual efforts.

Plastic is another particular problem. The planet is simply getting clogged up with plastic, being used and discarded on land and in the sea. There are efforts to cut single-use plastic, as well as find alternatives, but progress is slow. What is really needed to address the problems of litter and plastic (often one and the same) is to stop creating the stuff in the first place. Recycling is good and should be encouraged, but a step further is to not create the rubbish to start with.

Cleaner Greener Wanstead sought to address the joint problems of plastic waste and litter. An early initiative was to try to get our High Street shops to not use single plastic. One Saturday, as part of a nationwide project, activists took the plastic back to a number of supermarkets, including the Co-op, Tesco and M&S. The stores listened attentively and promised to take the argument on board – some progress is being made at a national level, but what about here?

There is still a lot of single-use plastic on Wanstead High Street – the thousands of plastic lids on takeaway coffee cups spring to mind. Wanstead Climate Action recently conducted a survey of nine coffee shops, with responses varying from “couldn’t care” to “you won’t find plastic here”. La Bakerie, Bare Brew and City Place Coffee came out on top, offering discounts for those who bring their own cups. Consumer power can bring change. Supporting those shops doing the right thing for the environment will help.

These have been difficult times with the pandemic darkening all our lives over the past 18 months. Some of the initiatives begun pre-pandemic have stalled due to the crisis, but now is the time to redouble our efforts. We need to take real action to cut the amount of waste being created, and when that is not possible, deal responsibly with the residue.

There is only one planet and we all have a responsibility to look after it.

For more information on the initiative, visit


Rain review

fkloodA car submerged in floodwater on the A406, near Charlie Brown’s Roundabout, on 25 July

Flash flooding this summer brought a taste of the world climate crisis to Wanstead and South Woodford. Local weather enthusiast Scott Whitehead offers his insights

Downpours at the end of July caused chaos around Wanstead and South Woodford and the wider Redbridge area, with homes and public infrastructure flooded.

Although the rain wasn’t unprecedented here, it was still notable in that the fall on Sunday 25 July was the greatest July fall ever recorded here and the fourth greatest of any month since 1960, measuring 48.5mm that day. The greatest rainfall ever experienced here was on 22 June 2016 (60.8mm), followed by 55.4mm on 20 September 1973.

The maximum rate I recorded at my weather station in Aldersbrook that day was 92.7mm per hour, the highest since I started recording in 2011.

The rainfall was the result of a convergence line over the area. Wherever these features set up, they always end with a deluge.

There was a big clear-up that evening and into the next morning as flooded cellars had to be pumped out. One person I spoke to in Leytonstone said the depth in her cellar was almost up to the top of a pair of standard wellies. She said the road outside was like a river and that another 30 minutes of that type of rain would have seen it overtop the front door. She said it hasn’t been that bad since August 2004. Her account mirrors many in Wanstead and South Woodford, particularly places like Hermon Hill, a large part of which sits in a dip, drains for which are often overwhelmed during sustained heavy rainfall, blocked or not.

The wet theme continued on until the first couple of weeks of August – accumulated rainfall so far this summer is currently just under 244mm, making it the third wettest summer on record. The wettest was in 1987 (269.8mm), with 1985 the second (249.6mm).

While this summer’s weather is not unprecedented locally, these extreme events seem to be occurring far more often than previously. Authorities must bear this in mind when it comes to maintaining and planning infrastructure.

Despite all the rain, the average mean temperature for this summer, up to mid-August, is still nearly a degree above average. Though I have recorded only three instances of 30ºC, the lowest since 2015, our modern climate is still as warm as ever.

Is summer over? Although August did, at times, feel autumnal, there is still plenty of time for warm, sunny weather. September can often be an extension of summer with high pressure being dominant; any wet breakdowns from the Atlantic are often brief.

For more of Scott’s ‘meteorology-based musings about east London’, visit


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 seventh of a series of articles looking at each species in turn, Susie Knox says farewell to this summer’s swifts

Over the last few months, it’s been a joy to hear the distinctive screaming of the swifts as they zoom in small groups high over Wanstead in their endless aerial search for insects. Swifts spend most of their lives flying, even sleeping, eating and drinking on the wing and only ever landing to nest. Their scientific name, Apus, actually means ‘without feet’ because their tiny feet and legs mean they can hardly walk and can’t perch on trees or telephone lines (if you see a similar-looking bird do this, it’s probably a swallow or house martin).

Swifts come to the UK in the summer to breed and spend their winters in Africa – travelling thousands of miles during their migration. They like to nest high up in buildings in small holes in roof spaces. They pair for life, meeting up in the spring at the same nest site and sharing parenting duties. They normally lay two or three eggs and incubate them for about three weeks.

Sadly, swifts are on the Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern. More than half of British swifts have been lost since 1995, probably because of a number of factors. We know from scientific evidence and the absence of bugs on our car windscreens that there have been very significant declines in flying insects, their food source.

As migratory birds, weather events associated with climate change will also impact them. But one very obvious issue in the UK is the loss of nesting sites in recent decades due to the modernisation of buildings, because swifts require suitable hollows and crevices in the eaves. In Wanstead, locals certainly report heavy falls in the number of swifts we see and hear in our skies over the summer.

Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do to support swift populations when they’re spending time with us.

How to help:

  • If you’re lucky enough to have swifts nesting in your building, protect them by ensuring any building work near their nests is carefully managed.
  • Put a special swift nest box under the eaves of your roof – or if you are having new building or renovation work done, incorporate ‘swift bricks’, which create nest holes integrated into the masonry (find out more at
  • Email your local councillors asking them to demand that any new developments in Redbridge incorporate swift bricks.
  • Make your garden an oasis for flying insects. Fill it with dense foliage and pollinator-friendly plants.
  • Install a wildlife pond and create a long grass area – these are habitats that help insects thrive.
  • Never use pesticides and lobby the council to stop using them.

For more information about the 10 species under threat of extinction in Wanstead, visit



cowssss© Natalie Cleur

English longhorns returned to Wanstead Park last month for another stint of grazing in the area south of the Temple, until the beginning of September. Karen Humpage is one of the volunteer cow wardens

I saw the cows in Wanstead Park last year but missed the chance to help out with the cow-sitting. When I heard about the call for volunteer wardens this year, I knew I had to sign up.

Our job as wardens is to be near the cows and to inform walkers of their presence. Despite posters being displayed in the park, many people are surprised they are there at all, and we don’t want them running into them unexpectedly! Even though our longhorns are quite docile, we ask dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead and away from the cows while in the grazing area. During our two-hour watch, many people stop to chat about the cows, mostly asking questions about why they have been brought here. And some regale us with stories about the cows that used to roam freely about Epping Forest up to the mid-1990s, when they would invade people’s gardens or stop traffic; something that is quite dear to my heart, having published an art book on the subject two years ago.

Sometimes, the cows are quite active and move around the park, though during one of my sessions, they had secreted themselves in a thicket away from the main paths. They have a designated area they are allowed to roam, so there is no chance of them escaping into the nearby roads. The area is marked out on the ground by GPS, and the collars around their necks are linked to this. When they get near to the ‘invisible fence’ a warning beep sounds; the cows have been trained to turn away from the beep. If they don’t and continue forward, they get a negative stimulus from the collar, but most times they are intelligent enough to come to a halt at the beep.

Our three cows this year are Nina, Nutty and Goose. Nina is eight years old and was in the park last year. Nutty is seven and in calf – she is expecting in the autumn. Goose is the grey, grand old lady of the group at 18 years of age. They are part of a 200-strong herd owned by the City of London and they graze in other parts of Epping Forest for the rest of the year.

As a heritage breed, English longhorn are less fussy about what they eat than modern commercial breeds. These manual mowing machines perform a better job at grazing the area selectively, which is quite uneven due to the presence of anthills. They are able to eat around the ants’ nests, thereby exposing them to sunlight and the attention of insectivorous birds such as woodpeckers. They also eat tougher plant life, such as saplings and shrubs, which prevents the area from becoming too overgrown with thickets and allow a more diverse flora and fauna to establish. Their dung is home to a wide variety of beetle and fly larvae, who recycle it back into the earth. The larvae also provide food for more birds and other small creatures, so the presence of cows in the landscape is of great benefit to a thriving ecosystem.

Karen’s book Common or Garden Cows, and cow art prints, are available from


Petition to save local allotments will be debated at council meeting

allotments©Stephen Lines

A petition to save the Redbridge Lane West allotment site from being used by Cadent will be debated at a Full Council meeting this month.

“We will be able to present the petition and then council members will be able to ask questions and debate it before making a decision. By the time of the meeting on 23 September, it will be six months since the gas company first told us they wanted to take over the site, and we are still no clearer about what exactly it is they want or need to do,” said plot holder Sally Parker.