You better watch out for Santa… on his milk float

santafloat©Geoff Wilkinson

Wanstead will welcome Santa early this month as he embarks on a pre-Christmas tour of local streets on 20 December from 4.30pm.

“You can’t beat seeing how much children enjoy seeing Santa. It’s a fun community event that injects a bit of extra magic into Christmas. Please have some change ready for the elves’ charity collection buckets,” said organiser Amy Moore.

In what is now an annual Wanstead tradition, Santa will pass through the streets aboard Elf Steve Hayden’s Parker Dairies milk float.

The route is as follows:

Gordon Road, Cambridge Park Road, Dangan Road,Addison Road, Spratt Hall Road

Wanstead Place, Wanstead High Street, The Avenue,Gloucester Road, Buckingham Road, Hereford Road,Leicester Road

Warwick Road, Rutland Road, Grosvenor Road,Nightingale Lane, Rodney Road

Elmcroft Road, Deynecourt, Eaton Rise, LorneGardens, Cowley Road, Wellesley Road, HalsteadRoad

Nelson Road, Wellington Road, Wanstead HighStreet, Herman Hill, Alexandra Road


Tree ring plan


Local resident Delia Ray, a volunteer for countryside charity CPRE London, explains how the people of Wanstead and Woodford can help with a bold plan to mitigate the impact of climate change on the capital

Imagine a ring of trees providing shade and tranquillity in a seamless circle around London. Linking with existing areas such as Epping Forest, the woodland would absorb pollution, cool the environment and provide safe passage for local wildlife. 

It sounds like a dream, but countryside charity CPRE London is working with expert partners (such as The Woodland Trust) to make this ‘M25 of trees’ a reality. By planting saplings or reforesting neglected sites, gaps will be filled and access enhanced across the green belt.

We now need help from people in outer London areas such as Wanstead and Woodford with the first step: mapping areas which offer potential for planting. These places could include overlooked plots of land near existing woods, empty borders of a park, or fly-tipped scrubland. They could be council land, privately owned or part of the estate of schools or churches.

One site already highlighted to the team in Redbridge is the stretch of the River Roding near Chigwell Road (as pictured here). Borderland such as this could host new trees linked to neighbouring woodland, reducing run-off and flood risk. Other possible locations are the patch of overgrown land behind Eagle Pond, within the grounds of Snaresbrook Crown Court, and the land between Wanstead Park and Valentines Park, especially the overgrown spaces adjacent to the Roding. Can you identify any more locations? At this point, we’re simply mapping possible sites, and we will find out who owns them in follow-up stages. 

The next step will be planting. Like a natural forest, the new tree ring community forest will contain native trees, but also hedgerows, open plains, and even cultivated areas such as orchards, areas of nut trees and wooded margins for nature-friendly farming.

The forest will build on existing woodland in the green belt. The project directly addresses key requirements of the London Urban Forest Plan to create more woodland, especially species-rich woodland, in London. It encourages biodiversity, supporting vulnerable species such as the hedgehog and Pipistrelle bat. It will also help residents to enjoy access to nature – essential for the 1.8m Londoners with no garden, including an estimated 100,000 in Redbridge.

Currently, swathes of London’s green belt are under threat. The tree ring will therefore also help the green belt do its job. Without it, London could have spread out like Los Angeles, potentially sprawling across an area from Cambridge to Brighton.

Can you help bring this vision to life? If you know of possible locations for new woodland creation, please get in touch. There are also lots of opportunities to donate or get involved in other ways.

For more information and to submit your ideas, visit wnstd.com/treering


Twenty-year milestone for the Frank Charles Give A Gift Appeal


Wanstead resident Frank Charles BEM is collecting gifts for his annual appeal.

“This year marks 20 years since I began delivering Christmas presents to children at Whipps Cross Hospital who are too sick to go home over the festive period. As usual, I welcome your support with donations of new toys, books or games. I would like to thank all Wanstead residents who have donated over the last 20 years,” said Frank.

Unwrapped presents can be left at Wanstead Pharmacy (75–77 High Street) until 6pm on 13 December.


Who do we think we are?

Flats-and-shops-in-AldersbrookImage courtesy of The Wanstead Image Archive

The Friends of St Gabriel’s has invited local historian Jane Skelding to host an event exploring the history of the Aldersbrook and Lake House estates. Georgina Brewis finds out more. Photo looking across Alexandra Lake, Wanstead Flats (circa 1910) courtesy of The Wanstead Image Archive

How many servants lived on the Aldersbrook or Lake House estates in 1911? What sorts of ‘modern’ jobs were residents doing in 1921? Why were there so many teachers? And what on earth was the Aldersbrook Parliament? These questions, and many more, will be answered at an event entitled Who Do We Think We Are? 

Jane Skelding is an Aldersbrook resident whose long volunteer involvement with heritage organisations, including the East End Women’s Museum, Redbridge Heritage Centre and the National Trust, has now led to a PhD funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in collaboration with the genealogy website FindMyPast. Her research explores language use and marginalised histories in the census. For this event, Jane has been delving into local history, using the 1911 and newly-released 1921 censuses to discover who we were then. 

When were the Aldersbrook and Lake House estates built?
Houses in Aldersbrook were built on farmland on the edge of the former Wanstead House estate between 1899 and 1910. The school, parade of shops (pictured here, circa 1910), children’s home and two churches were developed over the same period, and by the outbreak of the First World War, the estate looked much as it does now. Controls on house design, such as a requirement for brick walls between front gardens, resulted in its unique character. The Lake House estate was developed between 1907 and 1916 with a slightly different feel.

What was the social make-up of Aldersbrook and Lake House?
The estates were mainly populated by a class of better-off tradesmen and business owners working in West Ham, Ilford or as far as the City. By 1921, more residents – both men and women – were clerks, but there was also a notable number of teachers. Reflecting the ‘modern’ world of the 1920s, people were taking jobs in cinema, motoring and even advertising. 

What strikes you about the estates in the 1920s compared with life today?
Many things are surprisingly the same, with the school and churches still the hubs of the community. Although we don’t seem to have the same mania for whist drives as they did in the 1920s, events from birthday parties to live music keep the halls booked up. The most striking change can be seen on the parade of shops, with its smart matching awnings housing a bakery-cafe, butcher, post office, bootmaker and draper. Back then, there was probably little need to travel into Wanstead at all, although the 101 bus was ever-present if you did.

Jane’s talk will also offer some top tips for researching your own house history and will be held at St Gabriel’s Church, designed in 1913 by Charles Spooner, an architect heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. There will be stalls by local history groups, including the Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society, alongside a display of archive materials, self-guided trails exploring architectural features of the church, and refreshments. 

All proceeds from the event (which has been kindly sponsored by The Stow Brothers) will go to the church hall refurbishment fund. Plus, there will be chances to win some great history-related prizes, including two hours of family history research and a subscription to Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

The event will take place at St Gabriel’s Church, Aldersbrook on 9 November from 6pm (tickets: £5). Visit wnstd.com/weare


Cows return to Wanstead Park to carry out important conservation grazing

20231024_121923The three cows in Wanstead Park are Nina, Mara and Quinine. ©Gill James

A small herd of English Longhorn cows returned to Wanstead Park in October to graze over the winter months.

“The cows will have an important job to do grazing the main acid grassland to remove course vegetation and young scrub, which improves the biodiversity of this special area of Epping Forest. Grazing is particularly important for Wanstead Park because to mow with machinery would destroy one of the main features of wildlife interest, the Yellow Meadow Ant hills,” said a spokesperson for the City of London Corporation.

It follows a successful trial in 2020 when cows made a historic return to grazing in the park. The project was halted last year because of drought conditions.

“Please walk and act calmly around cattle; sudden movements can scare them. Keep your dogs under control, do not allow them to chase or harass the cows in their temporary home,” advises posters in the park.


Park Life

P1033643©Diane Dalli

In the sixth of a series of articles featuring the images of local photographers who document the wildlife of Wanstead Park and the surrounding area, Diane Dalli presents her macro shot of a Batman Hoverfly

Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park are havens for all forms of wildlife and are ideal places to find subjects to photograph. There is an ever-changing bird population as many species stop off here during migration as well as the resident population of birds of all sizes, including Skylarks, Dunnocks and Kestrels, in addition to the many types of finches and warblers, and many species of waterbirds on the ponds and lakes – too many to list!

During the summer months, the many areas of long grass are alive with butterflies, moths, spiders, grasshoppers and all sorts of other bugs. They are challenging to photograph due to their size and speed. It can take a while to focus on them and often before I can press the shutter they hop, jump or fly off!

It is fascinating to see the amount of detail that is revealed when you look at an image which is larger than life-size, much more than can be seen with a fleeting glance of the naked eye.

I use the long end of a telescopic lens for the larger subjects, such as butterflies, and a macro lens for the tiny creatures, such as ants, crickets and beetles. They are very easy to spook, especially if your shadow falls across them, so better to try to keep a distance. They can be elusive, so it is sometimes worthwhile lifting a leaf or looking closely at the area near a spider’s web to discover tiny creatures hiding away. Sitting still for a while in a patch of grass can also be rewarding as you can spot little insects moving around as they get used to your presence.

Hoverflies are one of my favourite subjects as their habit of hovering in the same spot for a while gives me a chance to focus and snap them. This Batman Hoverfly, so-called because of the shape of the marking on its back, feeds on pollen and nectar from many different plants and is common in the area. There are over 280 species of hoverfly in the UK, about 30 of which can be found in Wanstead Park. As well as their long Latin names, they are often given common names such as Marmalade, Banded, Pied and Long Hoverfly, according to their characteristics.

Insects both flying and crawling can be found all over the Park but the area near the stables known as the Old Sewage Works (so-called because it was a parcel of land that used to belong to a water company) is particularly rich in butterflies, spiders and grasshoppers in the summer months. Even grass snakes have been seen there, although they tend to slither away as soon as they feel the vibration of approaching footsteps!

I really enjoy my visits to Wanstead Park and will continue to explore the area regularly as there is a huge variety of species which is constantly changing with the seasons, and there is always something new to photograph.

To view more of Diane’s wildlife photos, visit wnstd.com/dalli