April 2024


Reusable Nappy Week 2024


As part of Reusable Nappy Week, Redbridge Council is running a ‘call up and chat’ event, offering local families the chance to find out more about the benefits of using reusable nappies.

In Redbridge nearly 59,000 disposable nappies are thrown away every day, which is not only harmful to the environment, but also costly for families.

Officers from Redbridge Council’s Neighbourhood Engagement and Education team will be hosting the personalised  ‘call and chat’ sessions during Reusable Nappy Week, taking place April 22-28, to help dispel some of the myths around reusable nappies, share information about low-cost trial packs and answer questions, including those about using the nappies.

The 20-minute, 1-2-1 calls are being offered by team members who are also parents themselves and are currently using reusable nappies with their own children, enabling them to share their own experiences, tips, and advice too.

Chat sessions are being run between 11am and 3pm on Monday 22, Tuesday 23, and Friday 26 of April. To reserve a spot register on the link below first, and a member of the team will be in touch to arrange either a phone or video call.

Click here to register.


Wanstead Flats at War

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To mark Local and Community History Month in May, the Friends of St Gabriel’s are organising an event to explore the wartime history of Aldersbrook. Georgina Brewis reports. Image shows Wanstead Flats during a German air raid, painted in 1916 by JH Bull

As part of ongoing fundraising aimed at fully restoring St Gabriel’s Church hall in time for the centenary of its 1927 opening, we’ve turned to history to help local residents understand the significance of the church hall as a community and social space that is worth preserving for another 100 years.

We were thrilled when over 200 people attended our Who Do We Think We Are? event in November 2023. Local PhD student Jane Skelding used census data to explore the social history of the Aldersbrook and Lake House estates. The event sparked the idea of creating an Aldersbrook and Lake House heritage scheme, which we will tell you more about in a future issue. At that event, the Friends of St Gabriel’s also received an offer from trainee archivist Becky Darnill to catalogue and arrange the church archive, which had been sadly neglected, a project that has now been completed. Becky explains: “The most interesting things I’ve found are letters from the 1910s discussing the funding and building of the new church and records of early social clubs and societies. In the 1970s, there was even a competition for an Aldersbrook summer queen. The documents show how the church has been at the heart of the Aldersbrook community since the Edwardian era.”

For our next event, local historians Mark Gorman and Peter Williams of Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society will give an illustrated talk about Wanstead Flats and Aldersbrook at war. I asked Mark and Peter what we can expect from the talk: “Wanstead Flats has been used for military purposes for well over 200 years. In the 19th century, local volunteer regiments put on large-scale mock battles, sometimes in front of the King! In the 20th century, the two world wars saw large-scale installations on the Flats, and our talk will guide you through this militarisation.”

Mark and Peter will also discuss the prisoner of war camps that housed several hundred Italians and Germans in huts and tents during the 1940s. They will bring along small artefacts associated with the wartime Flats. 

If you know where to look, you can still see various traces of the military activity on the Flats, from anti-aircraft rocket systems and a gas decontamination building to a later Cold War bunker. Unfortunately, as a consequence of this military presence, the residential areas of Aldersbrook and Lake House suffered considerable bomb damage in WWII.

After the war, East Ham and West Ham councils were allowed to erect some prefabricated houses on parts of the Flats as temporary accommodation, but further development was strongly resisted by local people. This activism helped preserve the Flats as an important public open space.

The Wanstead Flats at War event will take place at St Gabriel’s Church on 11 May from 4pm (tickets: £5; talk starts at 5pm). Visit wnstd.com/flatsatwar


Redbridge in Bloom returns with hopes for a greener tomorrow

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Redbridge in Bloom – the borough’s annual amateur gardening competition – returns this summer with a sustainable theme.

“Making small changes such as saving water, using peat-free soil, increasing wildlife-friendly habitats in our outdoor spaces and reducing surfaces that give rise to flooding can make a significant difference in achieving a sustainable, planet-friendly garden,” said a spokesperson for Vision RCL, which organises the competition.

The closing date for entries is 31 May.

Visit wnstd.com/bloom


Away from home


In the second of a series of articles charting the experiences of a Wanstead-based travel writer, Carole Edrich recalls a particularly inaccessible train press trip from Brussels to Vienna

From the first time I read an Agatha Christie novel, sleeper trains have epitomised romance. Great scenery, fine dining, an ever-changing view and interesting strangers in manageable doses are part of that, as is the train itself. I thought an accessible ÖBB NightJet sleeper cabin from Brussels to Vienna would make a great story, be environmentally friendly and get me where I needed to go.

On a train, this little lady, journalistic trammels three. With the treatment a bit afraid is, wondering what the worst would be!

There’s still magic in it. Entranced by the vistas of places we passed, I ignored my work on the window-side table. But… had I known I was going to spend the night worried about whether I’d be turfed from my accessible-cabin bed and dumped on a random seat elsewhere, I’d have worried more about that and less about setting the phone up to timelapse the trip.

I write on travel accessibility partly because the way my friends’ disabilities are ignored pisses me off, partly because I need to write what I see, and mostly because after becoming an Unlimited Trustee (the world’s largest funder of disabled arts), I realised my authentic self has no choice. So, before you read further, imagine you are a wheelchair user travelling with a friend with hidden disabilities. List the worst, most predictable and clichéd disability-based and train-travel problems you’d have, for fun.

If you’ve drawn from experience, you might have more than the 30 accessibility failures that beset that trip. Sticky plugs, switches that didn’t work, a door so heavy it was hard to budge, guards who promised to recharge my laptop and phone and didn’t, who refused my disabled status and asked for a non-existent certificate of disability, lights that turned themselves on in the small hours, an announcement of a delay so early it woke me up, and a breakfast that was so much later than agreed that – in mucking up my blood sugar levels – made everything worse. 

I’d prefer to forget what happened, but the tediously sentient part of me won’t let it go. And boy, I let go for that feature! I went on and on and on. I got to the hotel so late that after recharging my phone and resting (the night’s stress played havoc with my normally-manageable ME) there was no time to research my arts commission or my other idea. Should I take a leaf from the Post Office scandal and blame others for a failure to deliver? Take moral responsibility like the MP in the Chrichel Down Affair? Offer the editor something else entirely? The first is unthinkable, the rest would make me seem unreliable. Luckily, my brief only mentioned Austria, so I used my Salzburg notes instead. I filed the article, the editor left and the commission wasn’t honoured. So it goes.

To read more of Carole’s work or to listen to her podcast, visit caroleinnit.com


Find your way to Wanstead Park this month to experience orienteering


An orienteering event for beginners will take place in Wanstead Park this month.

“Orienteering is an exciting outdoor adventure which involves navigating a course using a detailed map. It’s a fun sport for all the family and will also appeal to runners looking for something different,” said a spokesperson for the Chigwell and Epping Forest Orienteering Club, which is hosting the free event on 27 April between 10am and 12 noon (meet at the Temple). Maps for the 2km course will be provided.

Email info@chig.org.uk


Remember photo ID to vote


Residents are reminded that photo ID will be required to vote in next month’s elections.

An original passport, driving licence, Blue Badge, older person’s bus pass or disabled person’s bus pass are among the accepted forms of identification. “If you don’t have an accepted photo ID, you can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate. The deadline to apply for this is 24 April,” said a Redbridge Council spokesperson.

Visit wnstd.com/voteid


Wanstead’s style


As we emerge from our woolly jumpers into the warmer days of spring, we need look no further than our High Street to grab everything we need for a seasonal wardrobe refresh, says local stylist Catherine Grout

I’m a personal stylist living locally and I regularly find some wonderful clothing and accessories for myself and my clients right here on our doorstep. My job is not about helping fabulous people to look even more fabulous in high-end fashion. It’s actually about helping everyday Wansteadians to look, and more importantly, to feel their best, and that can definitely mean starting with our local fashion gems.

So, where in Wanstead can we find stylish options that won’t break the bank? Well, of course, there are our three charity shops. I find some great things – and donate – there regularly. However, there is an art to finding a bargain you will love, so don’t be tempted to buy something just because it’s cheap if it doesn’t fit or flatter you. Keep an eye out for outerwear, footwear, bags and belts, as these items tend to show fewer signs of wear, so are often better bargains than trousers or knitwear, for example. And try to opt for neutral colours (like navy, camel or ivory) and simple patterns (like polka dots and stripes), which will give your wardrobe longevity.

If you are looking to refresh your wardrobe, you need look no further than Azzurra (119B High Street) with its rainbow of stylish clothing and accessories. I rarely leave Azzurra empty-handed! And The Art Shop (117C High Street) has some great jewellery, scarves and bags. I must also give a shout-out to Wright Jewellery. Sometimes featuring as a pop-up on the High Street or at our monthly market, Carin Wright has some wonderful pieces.

Whether you shop online, on the High Street or second-hand, there is an awful lot of choice out there. So, it’s not surprising if you feel overwhelmed and end up buying something very similar to what you already own. Or if you do strike out in a new direction, you may end up with those items that just sit in your wardrobe while you question whether they suit you or decide what to wear them with. Perhaps that’s why most people wear less than 20% of their wardrobes. It can also be very challenging to break out of your comfort zone, particularly as life presents us with new challenges. 

Many of my clients are stuck in a style rut or are going through a life transition that means their current wardrobe is not right for them anymore. All of this changes not just how we feel on the inside but how we want to look on the outside.

There is also an important ethical element to our fashion choices, and if you are thinking about a wardrobe refresh this spring, then definitely consider going local first. You will be helping our community thrive. And shopping in the charity sector enables us all to donate direct to good causes whilst supporting the move to more sustainable clothing choices.

Catherine Grout is a personal stylist, colour analyst and fashion blogger. For more information, visit whatiamwearing.com


Take part in creative workshops and monthly food growing programme

Ray-Park-Community-Garden---June-Volunteer-Weekend-(4)Ray Park community garden

Wanstead residents are invited to take part in a series of free workshops in Ray Park, Woodford Green.

“We have been awarded a grant from Groundwork. The money will be used to expand the community garden we are building in Ray Park and redevelop more of the walled garden that has been overgrown for many years. The grant will also fund a series of free creative workshops throughout the summer plus a monthly food growing programme,” said a Woodford Greeners spokesperson.

Visit wnstd.com/wgreeners


Out in the Cold


Kathy Taylor from Wanstead Climate Action urges local politicians to support the United for Warm Homes campaign, which highlights the mental and physical health impacts of cold homes

A new report by the Institute of Health Equity highlights the shocking fact that in Britain today, 9.6m households are living in heat-leaky homes and have incomes below the poverty line. Cold homes double the risk of adults developing new mental health conditions and put one in four children at risk of multiple mental health symptoms.

The lack of meaningful action to tackle Britain’s cold homes over the last decade has intensified inequalities and the level of harm being felt across the country with many millions of households now at crisis point.

The UK has the oldest and least efficient housing stock in Europe, with housing directly responsible for 14% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, driven in part by the proportion of uninsulated or poorly insulated homes. Since 2013, installation rates of energy-saving measures and insulation have plummeted by 90%. Rather than the intermittent and piecemeal approach to home insulation of successive governments so far, if there were a nationwide, government-led programme to upgrade the UK’s inefficient housing stock, not only would this bring millions out of fuel poverty, but it would go some way towards tackling the climate crisis. In addition, with the reduced costs of fuel subsidies, the improved health impacts and the stimulus to a UK green economy, the costs of a street-by-street insulation programme would more than pay for itself. This would be win-win, as we cannot get to net zero carbon emissions without tackling our leaky homes.

The total cost of insulating low-income UK homes to a suitable standard (EPC grade C) is likely to be around £74.5 billion, or £6 billion a year over 12 years, which was the original commitment proposed by Labour as part of its warm homes plan before it backtracked on this recently. Wanstead Climate Action has been taking part in a Friends of the Earth campaign called United for Warm Homes to raise awareness of this situation. 

Locally, a shocking 69% of homes in Ilford are heat-inefficient. In Leyton and Wanstead, (John Cryer’s constituency) the figure is only slightly better at 66%, and in Chingford and Woodford Green it is 65%. Due to the high percentage of leaky homes and high fuel poverty in Ilford, we met with the shadow health minister Wes Streeting MP (Ilford North), who supports the campaign. However, we are asking all local MPs to pledge support and do all they can to ensure the introduction of policies to tackle this crisis so none of their constituents suffer from fuel poverty or a cold home. John Cryer, are you listening?

Last year, over 40 Redbridge people came together to make two beautiful quilts that highlight this situation. If you have a suitable public place to display the quilts for a few weeks, do get in touch.

For more information, visit wnstd.com/ch. To contact Wanstead Climate Action, email info@wansteadclimateaction.com


Medical Emergency

IMG_2664Patient participation group members picketed outside NHS North East London’s Integrated Care Board HQ last month

In the second of a series of articles charting the challenges facing Aldersbrook Medical Centre, Paul Wildish from the patient participation group explains the fight to maintain the same level of GP provision

Ever since a letter from Sarah See – the NHS manager responsible for commissioning GP Primary Health Care in the Redbridge area – dropped through our letterboxes in February, the residents of the Aldersbrook and Lakehouse estates have felt let down. The letter announced that our current, well-respected doctors at Aldersbrook Medical Centre (AMC) were leaving, to be replaced by others, not yet known, providing a level of service not yet determined. And all this to happen by the end of March (later extended to June). 

The NHS Primary Care team implied our doctors had made a voluntary decision to hand in their notice, but AMC’s patient participation group knew different. After months of negotiations with local NHS managers, our current providers found the continuation budget they were being offered amounted to a 10% cut, making the service they currently provide economically unsupportable. The patients of AMC came together and decided we would resist this new settlement being imposed upon us.

Of course, when you are just an ordinary patient it’s one thing to want to have your voice heard and quite another to do something about getting NHS managers to listen. Well, AMC patients are working hard and learning fast, because we know that patients expressing their distress at decisions made ‘up there’ at NHS North East London’s Integrated Care Board HQ in Unex Tower, Stratford, don’t count unless you gain the support of those who carry the gravitas and influence that NHS managers take notice of. 

Fortunately, the justice of our case to keep the same level of GP provision and no cuts at AMC has won the support of our local Wanstead Park councillors, our MP John Cryer and Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, chair of the NHS Confederation. They have added their voices to ours and continue to negotiate with local NHS managers on our behalf because the decisions the ICB is making, based on a 10% reduction in the budget, can only bring about a worse service.

We know the NHS is struggling. We know there is not enough money to go round. And we understand equity is a fundamental principle of NHS provision. However, we also know telling us we are getting more than we deserve and that we should be grateful with a reduced service does not wash. What they are really telling us is you can’t have excellence. It seems innovation and good practice must be limited by the cuts the government insists the NHS managers make, regardless of the specific needs a GP surgery must address.

Is this the story we want to hear or should patients in every surgery start demanding more?

For more information on the Aldersbrook Medical Centre patient participation group, email ppg.aldersbrookmedicalcentre@nhs.net


Ready for the bluebells: what Wanstead Park visitors should know


A statement from the Wren Wildlife Group about the bluebells in Wanstead Park:

“We have worked hard lining the paths with logs, which make it clear where people should walk to enjoy the bluebell vista. People often don’t realise they are damaging the plants when they tread on the leaves – next year’s growth will be impacted. Peak flowering time is at the end of April, and Chalet Wood will get very crowded, so visitors should be aware there are other areas in the park which have lots of bluebells, so be adventurous and find them!”


Worth a watch: presentation on the management of Epping Forest

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A presentation about new developments in the management of Epping Forest – including Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats – is available to watch online.

“At our recent AGM, Ben Murphy, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, gave a fascinating window into the scale of challenges and opportunities facing Epping Forest. If you have an interest in these open spaces, it is well worth a watch,” said a spokesperson for the Wren Wildlife Group.

Visit wrengroup.org.uk