In the first of two articles looking at the work taking place to improve Wanstead Park, the Friends of Wanstead Parklands’ new chairman Peter Brimson reports on the park’s Temple and Grotto
I was elected as chairman of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands earlier this year, after the resignation of our previous chair John Sharpe. John did a fantastic job, bringing hard work and problem-solving skills to the task, which increased our effectiveness as a group. I hope I can do at least half as well.
I am no great expert on Wanstead Park, but I take great confidence from the experience and knowledge within our current committee. We have expertise on the park’s history, event organising, botany, ecology and wildlife.
Looking to the future, it seems we will have a crowded agenda given recent developments against the continuing backdrop of the Corporation of London (who manage the park) reorganisation and the consequent depletion of Epping Forest staff. This has led to more uncertainty about how and when some forest projects will be taken forward. The Corporation assures us that all vacancies will be filled by September this year.
Despite this backdrop, some projects are being taken forward. Epping Forest staff have worked hard despite the above difficulties to implement the Woodland Play Area in Wanstead Park, which was formally opened on 16 June. All of the money to fund the playground was raised by local groups, especially the Aldersbrook Families Association; and the Friends pledged £5,000 to fund construction of a path able to take buggies and wheelchairs into the site.
Other notable positive developments in the works concern the park’s Temple and Grotto. The future of the Temple is under active consideration as the building fabric is fragile and its future functions need to be determined. A working party has been established by the Corporation of London to create a comprehensive management plan and a report is being drawn up to provide some options. One meeting of the working party has taken place and Friends representatives are keen to attend more to discuss possible uses of the nearby vacant park keeper’s cottage as a more substantial education and expanded visitor centre, together with a café.
A project manager has also been appointed to move Grotto stabilisation on to the next stage. Walkers in the park will have noted recent work to the landing stage of the building and the recovery and on-site storage of original stonework. Further work is now needed to restore the historic building and prevent its collapse. Initial work will be undertaken to assess soil conditions underlying the site. The results will be used to generate options for the stabilisation of the Grotto structure. We all hope these efforts will prevent any further deterioration.
For more information on the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, visit wnstd.com/fwp