Friends at work

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

In the second of two articles looking at the work taking place to improve Wanstead Park, the Friends of Wanstead Parklands’ chairman Peter Brimson expresses concerns over the condition of the park’s lakes

I was elected as chairman of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands earlier this year. Last month, I reported on the positive developments in the works concerning Wanstead Park’s Temple (the visitor centre) and the historic Grotto remains.

The condition of the park’s lakes, however, gives fewer grounds for optimism. The City of London Corporation (who manage the park) has made a firm commitment of £1.15m to strengthen the dams in the lake cascade. The finance is committed as a requirement of the Environment Agency to prevent dam failure in the event of flooding or the earth dams drying out in a drought. These works are necessary, and should start in autumn 2024, but will do nothing for the most visible problem: the drying out of the Ornamental Water.

The City of London Corporation is prepared to fund pumping water from the River Roding into the Ornamental Water during the winter months. Unfortunately, this requires a licence from the Environment Agency, which has not so far been forthcoming. We hope the Environment Agency will grant a licence in the foreseeable future, but there is no guarantee. If the licence is withheld, there is no other major source of water replenishment, which would lead to the current state of drying remaining indefinitely. 

Another possible source of at least some water for the lakes was a series of small drainage schemes that would channel excess water from roads, the golf course and other adjacent land into the water bodies. The scheme failed to attract funding from the Greater London Authority. At the June Epping Forest Consultative Group, the City of London Corporation was asked about how the scheme might be taken forward. The reply was that a further consultant’s report would be commissioned. No doubt the search for funds for this scheme will continue, but once again, there are no guarantees.

Looking at the longer term, I have to flag up the risk to the future of both Perch Pond and Heronry Pond. At present, the Heronry Pond is prone to considerable leakage. There has been a long-term failure on the part of the City of London Corporation to fix these leaks. However, both Heronry Pond and Perch Pond are kept full by pumping water into them from an underlying aquifer. This is a most welcome arrangement, but again, it does depend on a licence from the Environment Agency to continue pumping. The current licence expires in 2028 and there is no guarantee the renewal will be granted given the looming water shortages in London and the South East. I sincerely hope pumping will continue post-2028, as without this water supply – and the leaks being repaired – the lakes will simply drain away.

For more information on the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, visit wnstd.com/fwp