July 2022


Wild Wanstead


From small spotty-eyed drone flies to a rare jumping spider and pink moth, chair of the Wren Wildlife Group James Heal reports on some of the highlights of the recent bioblitz in Wanstead

The Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group is 50 years old this year. Fifty years of helping to promote and protect the wildlife of the Wanstead area and its surrounds, and helping to bring the people of east London closer to the wildlife that can be found on their doorstep.

One of the most popular activities of the Wren Group in recent years has been an almost annual ‘bioblitz’, a range of family-friendly wildlife surveys and walks to get a snapshot of what flora and fauna can be found here.

On the last weekend of June, we spent a day each on Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park. Saturday 25 June started very early, with an ‘almost dawn chorus walk’. Several people set their alarms to walk into Bush Wood to listen to the birdsong at 5.30am. Chiffchaff, blackcap, song thrush and blackbird serenaded us as we walked, but a highlight was a singing reed warbler, not in a reed bed where they are more usually found, but in a rose bush.

A few hours later, a larger group joined us for a walk on Wanstead Flats. Amongst other things, we found green-eyed flower bees (Anthophora bimaculata), small spotty-eyed drone flies (Eristalinus sepulchralis; pictured here) and yellow 22-spot ladybirds (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata – try saying that after a few sherries!).

Later in the day, we were joined by spider expert David Carr. The conditions weren’t great for spiders as, despite the warmth, it was windy and the branches we were checking were clear. However, David’s eagle eye spotted the tiny, nationally scarce jumping spider Salticus zebraneus on a tree in one of the Flats’ plantations. This is a stripy, zebra spider and is closely related to its more common and similar but larger cousin Salticus scenicus, which you may well find in your homes and gardens (one to look out for). 

Later that day, we put out two moth traps near the Temple in Wanstead Park. The next morning was another very early start to check the traps. The highlight was a beautiful salmon pink and black moth called a rosy footman (Miltochrista miniata) – the first time it has been found locally. Later in Wanstead Park, we watched the macabre sight of beewolf wasps (Philanthus triangulum) carrying paralysed honey bees down to their nest holes in the ground to feed their larvae.

We were also joined by local school children to do some pond dipping, where the kids marvelled at being able to hold a young newt in their hands. The day ended watching and listening (using electric sonic detector technology) to bats near Perch Pond.

If this brief snapshot whets your appetite, do join the Wren Group to find out about more wildlife activities coming soon.

For more information on the Wren Wildlife Group, visit wnstd.com/wren


Evergreen Field development proposal: feedback welcome until 15 August

0caa07_0f77f663273a45b99cfe3dbc860cf93c_mv2CGI of the proposals looking north along Wanstead High Street

Developers behind plans to build a four-storey building on Evergreen Field have agreed to accept feedback from residents until 15 August.

“The original deadline was 31 July, but we won’t be submitting a planning application until the autumn and we are keen to gather as many responses as possible by then,” said a spokesperson for Local Government Insights, which is overseeing the consultation on behalf of land owners Caerus Developments.

The proposals would see the creation of 24 homes, a ground-floor nursery and a public playground. The developers will also be donating half of the site for community use and have put forward three garden design options.

Located off the High Street, adjacent to Christ Church Green, the fenced-off land has been unused for over 50 years.

Visit wnstd.com/efconsult


A deep problem

_DSF9401The dry, cracked bed of the Ornamental Water. © Geoff Wilkinson

With the dry, cracked bed of the Ornamental Water once again on show, Benjamin Murphy, chair of the Epping Forest & Commons Committee, explains the inherent difficulties in managing the water levels of Wanstead Park’s lake system. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson

The water bodies in Wanstead Park were created in the 18th century, originally as a cascade of nine lakes. They were filled by a diversion from the River Roding,
which has long since been lost.

Today, five lakes remain. They run in a semi-circle in an anticlockwise direction. First is The Basin, which is the head of the cascade in the ownership of Wanstead Golf Club. The next four lakes running down the cascade are Shoulder of Mutton Pond, Heronry Pond, Perch Pond and the Ornamental Water, all under City of London Corporation ownership.

The catchment area for surface water naturally draining into the ponds has vastly diminished in size since their creation due to housing and roads that have since been built. Essentially, we are now dealing with a series of artificial water bodies that, for over a century, have not had a sustainable water source. 

For many years, the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest charity has helped to alleviate the water shortage by pumping directly from the underground water aquifer. However, there are legal limits on how much water can be pumped and this is subject to licensing from the Environment Agency. 

We have now had over six months of notably low levels of rainfall. The River Roding is at 39% of its normal level. Ponds throughout the Forest, which rely on rainfall and sit on clay soil, are at notably low levels or have completely dried up. 

In Wanstead Park, the borehole from the aquifer tops up water levels to the Heronry Pond. A second pump takes water from the Heronry to Perch Pond. When the Perch Pond is full it overtops and spills into the Ornamental Water. 

The pump used to extract water has a limit on the capacity of water it can pump. Therefore, it can be alternated to fill either Heronry Pond or Perch Pond. The pump has been working on Perch since June. It normally takes around four days to fill Perch enough to flow into Ornamental, but the heat and dryness of the earth means that even when the small amounts of water do flow into The Dell and on to Ornamental Water, this is rapidly absorbed or evaporates. Simply put, there is neither enough rainfall nor surface water naturally, nor enough water being pumped artificially from the aquifer, to resolve the problem. 

Even if we could pump directly into the Ornamental Water, the dryness of the lake would absorb most of the water into the ground without the help of additional rainfall. 

The Epping Forest trustees are committed to finding a strategic solution to identify alternative water sources and to improve water retention. Actions taken include: 

  • A series of expert engineering surveys have been commissioned to consider options available. 
  • Created plans to replace the pumping infrastructure at the River Roding to reinstate water pumping during the wetter winter months.
  • Designs to install more land drainage to take rainwater into the Ornamental Water.
  • A successful grant award from the Mayor of London for a study into a Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme (SuDs) as part of developing wetland habitats.
  • Contingency plans have been put in place to protect animal welfare.

For more information on Wanstead Park’s lakes, visit wnstd.com/parkwater


All fired up

20220319_161835Julia teaching in her garden studio

Pottery is the perfect way to combat the stresses of modern life, says Julia Dreher, who is excited to be launching her Wanstead Pottery business from her new garden studio during next month’s Fringe

It was whilst studying art and design during a foundation course that I first encountered clay, and it was a meeting that would shape my future, albeit via a rather convoluted route.

Following the foundation course, I specialised in ceramics at Falmouth School of Art, a stunning part of the country to be based. From there, and having moved to London, a chance opportunity secured me my first job, as a leather goods designer. And so began a career that spanned 25 years, took me all around the world many times, and allowed me the privilege of working with some of the most recognised British retailers and designer brands.

My career as a design manager ended abruptly, however, when, following a cancer diagnosis in 2017, I was made redundant. My health and recovery were, of course, my main focus during this phase, but it was around this time that a friend suggested we sign up for a pottery course. I’d dabbled with clay during the intervening years, but my career had been relentless and never afforded me the time to pursue ceramics, even as a hobby. 

The chemotherapy treatment had not long ended and I felt that working with clay again would be the positive distraction I needed. I was not wrong. I can only describe the sensation I encountered on entering the pottery class on our first day as a kind of epiphany. I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging and a realisation that I had ‘come home’. It was quite surreal and that experience marked a fundamental turning point in my life. Following the diagnosis and redundancy, my future had been very uncertain, but in that moment, I knew what I had to do.

It has taken quite some years to get to this point. My recovery has been slow, but the studio is now complete and I am very much looking forward to welcoming students, young and old, to join me in a calm and inviting space to explore the marvellous medium of clay.

Pottery is an ideal antidote to our frenetic modern lives. You simply cannot rush clay. You must be present and focused. It’s the perfect way to disconnect from the world and lose yourself in the mindful nature of the craft.

I have a fully equipped garden studio and will be teaching various hand-building techniques and how to throw on the potter’s wheel. The classes will be small and I am very excited to be launching the business as part of the Wanstead Fringe in September. If you are interested in experimenting with form, texture and decorative techniques to create something you will cherish, please do join me.

For more information on Wanstead Pottery, visit www.facebook.com/Wanstead-Pottery-109328661834617

For more information on Julia’s Wanstead Fringe classes, visit wansteadfringe.org


A step in the right direction: progress on Wanstead Park’s new play area

Screenshot 2022-07-25 at 16.11.15

Work has been progressing on Wanstead Park’s new natural playground.

“The balance logs and log stepping stones are now in place, and the team have started to smooth off sharp edges and corners. Once the monkey bars and balance ropes are installed, the play trail will be a fantastic resource for local kids,” said Gill James.

All timber used is from trees that have either fallen naturally or have had to be felled as part of tree safety works.

“So far, volunteers have raised £30,000. Can you help us reach our £40,000 target?”

Visit wnstd.com/wpplay


More cycle parking along the High Street as council encourages bike use


Over 100 new cycle parking racks have been installed across the borough, including 22 along Wanstead High Street.

“We’re keen to support residents to make the switch from car to bicycle where they can and the provision of safe and secure cycle parking is essential to that,” said Councillor Jo Blackman. Redbridge Council is also encouraging more residents to get on their bikes by offering free cycle training to adults and children who live, work or study in the borough.

Visit wnstd.com/cyclecourses


History comes home

Wanstead---Ice-skates-(C)-Redbridge-Museum1930s girls’ ice skates. © Redbridge Museum

Redbridge Museum will open a new permanent exhibition later this year exploring 200,000 years of local history. In the sixth of a series of articles, Museum Officer Nishat Alam looks at some of the items on show

One notable transformation visitors will see when Redbridge Museum reopens later this year will be in the section we call ‘From Village to Suburb’. This part of the museum looks at the period between the end of the 19th century and the 1930s, when the borough saw a rapid growth in population. The new displays will showcase more objects from our collection, exploring the changes that took place as Wanstead became a suburb.

The railway came to Wanstead in the mid-19th century, with Snaresbrook station opening in 1856. This was a key catalyst for the transformation of the area over the next 80 years. With a direct link into the city, professionals working in London began to move into places like Wanstead and surrounding areas that offered the peace and fresh air of the countryside, with the possibility of a quick and convenient commute to work.

Following the creation of the Wanstead Urban District Council in 1894, local services improved with the building of new roads, sewage pipes and electric street lights. New schools and churches were also established to serve the growing community.

Between the two World Wars, Wanstead experienced rapid growth, which brought further changes. Many people were attracted to the new housing built here in the 1930s, which were fitted with gas, electricity and the latest household appliances. It was at this time construction began on a new Underground station at Wanstead, although this did not open until 1947 due to the onset of war.

Much like today, the people of Wanstead enjoyed a buzzing community life. There was plenty to do, like watching movies at the Wanstead Empire (later Kinema), or visiting Wanstead Park, which had opened in 1881, to take tea, feed the swans and even ice skate on the frozen pond in the winter. Wanstead High Street soon became a popular shopping destination too. In 1939, the High Street was used by local estate agents Cheke & Co to encourage retailers to open hairdressers, butchers and fishmongers on the new ‘shopping parade’.

In 1934, Wanstead merged with Woodford to form a new urban district, which became a municipal borough three years later. By the end of the 1930s, Wanstead had transformed into a fashionable suburb while retaining its quiet village feel – a lasting quirk that continues to attract new residents today.

The new displays at Redbridge Museum will feature a variety of objects from our collection, like the pair of 1930s girls’ ice skates shown in the photo above, to illustrate life in Wanstead as it transformed from village into suburb.

Redbridge Museum is located on Clements Road, Ilford. Visit wnstd.com/rm
To complete a survey on what else should go on display, visit wnstd.com/rms


Age-old advice

IMG_20220616_111426Ron Filer’s art class at the Allan Burgess Centre

Darren Morgan from Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering highlights the importance of keeping active, and invites over-55s to take advantage of the charity’s activity centre in Wanstead

Following the pandemic, levels of social isolation remain high, so here at Age UK, we’re trying to tempt older people back out again. Now the pandemic is easing and things are slowly returning to normal, I would also like to highlight the importance of keeping active.

If you are over the age of 55 and live locally, you can give your fitness, mental well-being and social life a real boost by dropping into our activity centre (The Allan Burgess Centre) at 2 Grove Park, Wanstead. The centre, staffed by wonderful volunteers, is a short walk from the station and bus stops, and is a homely, welcoming and safe environment.

What’s on offer? We can help you get fit with chair exercises and yoga, or if you prefer something livelier, Zumba at the nearby Cherry Tree Café. If you fancy something more intellectual, join us for a game of bridge, read along at the book club, or learn how to get the most out of your smartphone, tablet or computer. Creative? Then arts, crafts and knitting may be for you.

Our activities are food for thought. And speaking of food, we provide a two-course lunchtime meal cooked fresh on-site using wholesome, high-quality ingredients by a trained chef. The menu changes daily, except for Fridays, when we love to serve a delicious, traditional roast dinner.

We’re open Monday to Friday, with activities typically taking place between 10am and 3pm, and lunch served around 12 noon. Activities are £3 per session, with Monday to Thursday lunch priced £5, and £5.50 on Friday. As we are a charity, we do not make a profit – all proceeds are ploughed back into the centre.

Our knowledgeable staff and volunteers are also able to give helpful information and advice. So, you can pop in if you have any questions about things that may be causing you concern and don’t know where to look for guidance. A very big part of our service is providing you with information or signposting you to other organisations that will help.

We also have talks from the local police on keeping safe, and from local health services on keeping fit, healthy and independent.

Dropping into the centre is a great way to spend an hour or two, to do something interesting, eat and drink, and most importantly, to make friends. But don’t take my word for it. Geraldine, who has been attending the art classes, says: “I thought I’d give it a go, and not only did I find a new talent for painting, I’ve made several new friends over the weeks. We’re like a family here. We all have a laugh and the staff really look out for you as well. I’m so glad I initially popped in. It’s now something to look forward to, and I certainly recommend it.”

The Allan Burgess Centre is located at 2 Grove Park, Wanstead, E11 2DL.
For more information, call 020 8989 6338


Ukrainian Interlude


Wanstead resident Eileen Flinter documents her experience of sponsoring two Ukrainian refugees, and says she has nothing but admiration for the fortitude and pragmatism her guests showed

My Ukrainian adventure began on 24 February this year. I saw a Facebook post from a lady who had been my cleaner in London for a while but had returned home to her family in Ukraine about four years earlier. I contacted her to offer my sympathy for the current situation. A few days later, she replied: “I hope it will end soon. The war is very scary, every night we pray to see a new day in the morning.”

I should explain that although our messages were in English, Nataliya (not her real name) has limited English, and I have no Ukrainian, so Google Translate did the work!

On 13 March, she contacted me to say she had heard about a scheme for Ukrainians ‘arriving in Poland in connection with the armed Russian aggression’ to come to the UK. She asked if it was true.

The UK government was refining and developing a scheme in stages, and information was gradually being posted on the Homes for Ukraine website. I forwarded relevant points to Nataliya, although her replies were infrequent due to interruptions to the Wi-Fi reception. It became clear a sponsor would be needed, and I persuaded myself I could and should do this. The form was in English, and each page had to be completed before accessing the next one. So, I had to message with a request for her passport details, street address, place of birth… on and on, wait for a reply, and then carefully type the Ukrainian words, check the Ukrainian words and move on to the next page. Somewhere along the way, I also agreed to sponsor Nataliya’s sister. Nataliya’s daughter had moved to Poland to stay with her grandmother, and, of course, her partner is not allowed to leave Ukraine. The final page listed documents to be included: proof you were in Ukraine on 1 January 2022, a bank statement, a mortgage statement and more. These are, of course, the very things a person fleeing for their life would pack! In exasperation, I wrote a terse note in the comments that these papers were not to hand. Completing the forms took over two stress-filled weeks.

In all, Nataliya and I exchanged 163 messages between 24 February and 7 May, when I unexpectedly received a photo from Rzeszow airport showing a flight to Luton on the departures board. Nataliya had contacted an office cleaning agency in London before leaving Poland and the sisters started working immediately! Every morning they left the house before six. Apart from a £200 payment – which all arrivals received – they are financially self-sufficient. They have now rented accommodation in Leyton and, as they left, presented me with a beautiful bunch of yellow roses and a large box of chocolates as a thank you for sponsoring them. I know they will not stay in London a day longer than necessary. Their lives are in Ukraine.

For more information on Homes for Ukraine, visit wnstd.com/homesukraine


Cook for the ‘brook

Allotment-two©Iain Smith

Following the success of the Aldersbrook Eco Fair in March, the Friends of St Gabriel’s are planning their next fundraiser, a pop-up fine dining event. Georgina Brewis talks to leading local chef Duncan Cruickshanks. Photos by Iain Smith

For one night only, leading chef and Aldersbrook resident Duncan Cruickshanks will transform St Gabriel’s Church into a fine dining restaurant, with the aim of raising as much money as possible for much-needed, ambitious improvements to the church hall. The event sold out within a week of tickets going on sale.

Duncan’s career as a chef spans three decades, during which time he has worked in fine dining restaurants around the world, from Alaska to Dubai, and France to New York. He has just taken over as executive chef at a top London law firm, where he oversees dozens of chefs working across four restaurants.

I visit Duncan at his Aldersbrook allotment on a sunny Saturday in late May. Duncan’s seedlings are still quite small, but he has rows of potatoes doing well and he shows me the wild herbs he uses in his recipes, including lemon balm, wild rocket, bronze fennel and horseradish root. It all smells amazing.

In keeping with the Friends of St Gabriel’s focus on sustainability, ‘A Taste of Aldersbrook’ is intended to be exactly that, a hyper-locally sourced meal using seasonal and sustainable ingredients.

So, what’s on the menu? “I haven’t decided yet as it depends on what’s available,” Duncan muses, “but I’ve lots of ideas. By October, there will be lots of root vegetables, so dishes like potato and pumpkin rösti might feature. And I’m sourcing raw milk to make my own cheese.”

How is he planning to reflect the changing seasons of Aldersbrook at an event held in October? “Well, the plan is to forage or harvest the produce throughout the year,” Duncan says. “I will then preserve, pickle and puree ingredients, which will come together for the final dinner. For example, back in March, I picked a lot of wild garlic and made pesto and this might be used in a wild garlic pasta for the evening, perhaps. I’ve been making syrups using elderflower blossom this month as well.”

Duncan has also put a call out to local gardeners and allotment holders to donate produce for the event. We head over to the other side of the allotment to meet Heather Goodman, who has owned a plot here since the early 1990s and is keen for Duncan to help clear her overflowing rhubarb patch. We pull up a sample batch, which Duncan takes home to trial some recipes.

Get in touch with the Friends of St Gabriel’s if you too can help with surplus produce this summer, or if you have ideas and would like to help run other exciting events. Launched in 2021, the group exists to secure the long-term future of the church and its hall for all who live locally, and the group is open to anyone who values the presence of St Gabriel’s as a community asset, including people from any religious background or of no faith at all. We welcome new members and volunteers.

To contact the Friends of St Gabriel’s, email friendsofstgabriels2021@gmail.com

To make a donation to support the Friends of St Gabriel’s work, visit wnstd.com/fstg


Signs of the times


Following recent changes from Her Majesty’s Land Registry, Derek Inkpin from local solicitors Wiseman Lee looks forward to a new era of electronic signatures in the conveyancing world

Your signature on a document as proof of your binding commitment has been with us for centuries. Sign a piece of paper and you are demonstrating to the world that you will be bound by the document you sign because that is your act or deed which commits you to a legal obligation.

There is in the main, however, nothing wrong with a verbal contract. Once two people orally agree to do something, it can, in many circumstances, be legally binding upon each of them, such as: “I agree to buy your car for £10,000,” says the buyer, and the seller replies: “I accept.”

A contract then comes into being, following which either the seller or the buyer can be sued if one of the parties fails to perform their obligations. It starts getting complicated when the buyer says: “I am interested in buying your car,” and the seller interprets those words as an offer which, in his mind, he has accepted. Verbal contracts can therefore become complicated because of a lack of certainty. Buying or selling a house or flat is legally simpler because for the contract to be enforceable it must be in writing, containing all the terms upon which the parties agree, and signed by each of the parties, or by an attorney on their behalf or (if so authorised) by their solicitor.

As we all know, the world has changed since the World Wide Web came into being, courtesy of Tim Berners-Lee in 1991. Some 30 years later, people who are selling or buying property in this country may simply say to their conveyancer: “Email me the contract and I will print it, sign it and email it back to you.” Does that work as a legal concept? I’m afraid not unless the correct procedure is followed.

What your conveyancer has always asked for is the original contract to be signed (normally referred to as a wet signature) and then returned to their office. Why? Because the law and procedures say so. However, at long last, help is at hand because the Land Registry – which governs the registration of sales and purchases of property – has recently published guidance on the acceptance of electronic signatures.

All parties signing a deed for a property transfer must be represented by a conveyancer and all must agree to the use of such an electronic procedure. The parties must still have their signatures witnessed, and once each conveyancer is in receipt of the transfer deed, the transaction is then completed and transmitted to the Land Registry electronically. This will involve a conveyancer acquiring a software package which will meet the Land Registry’s specific requirements. After hundreds of years of ‘wet’ signatures, we are now entering a new era.

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