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Features

Wild Wanstead

089Local botanists Iain Ambler and Tricia Moxey survey rewilded areas of George Green

In the 16th of a series of articles charting the Wild Wanstead project – which aims to transform Wanstead into a multi-garden nature reserve – Iain Ambler provides an update on work to rewild parts of George Green. Photography by Alex Deverill

Lots of Wanstead residents will be familiar with the term rewilding. It’s a concept that’s gaining increasing currency in the UK in the conservation debate. It refers to the restoration of an area of land to its natural state, particularly to reintroduce species of animals or plants.

The most famous example is the Knepp Estate in Sussex, which since 2001 has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife. Rare species like nightingales and purple emperor butterflies are breeding well there and populations of common species are growing at an astronomical pace. Rewilding is bringing hope that the UK can reverse the, frankly, alarming trends of biodiversity loss seen over the last 70-plus years.

So far, so good… but could a form of rewilding happen in an urban environment? Say, in the middle of urban Wanstead? What would happen if nature was allowed to just do its thing here?

Wild Wanstead has been working with Redbridge Council to undertake a trial to find out exactly that. Areas of parkland and several road verges have been left unmown to see what might emerge naturally, and to allow native wildflowers and plants to grow taller over the summer, providing nectar and habitat for insects, and to set seed by the autumn and be dispersed, spreading biodiversity. The trial site at George Green was surveyed to see what had emerged and the value of this approach for wildlife. And the signs were quietly encouraging:

We recorded over 80 species of trees and plants, most of them native (not garden escapes). Just think about that for a second. Would you have said even 10 species existed on the Green?      

Many native British wildflowers grow tall if left unmown, and these have flowered as a result of the project. Some examples: the beautiful pink of common mallow, the tall spear-like shape of goat’s beard (or Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon), lemon balm and common ragwort, which will provide food for the caterpillars of the cinnabar moth.

We found some nice insect species in the long grass areas, including the Essex skipper butterfly. Why are they here? Their caterpillars will typically eat grasses such as cocks-foot, Timothy and common couch, all native grasses which have grown tall in central areas of the site. Butterflies like the understory the long grasses provide as shelter from predators.

We found indicator grass and plant species, evidence that all but confirms that George Green is a likely fragment of old acid grassland, the sort of place where highwaymen and bandits of old might have hidden out.

Then there’s just the sheer beauty – at least to this eye – of the wind blowing waves through stands of wildflowers and long grass of different colours, forms and heights against the backdrop of local residents enjoying the Green on a hot summer’s day.

So, overall, there are signs that, when left alone, nature returns, even to the middle of an urban environment.

If you have enjoyed George Green and like the idea of areas in Wanstead being left to return to nature over the summer, do let the council know via their parks email, (parks.enquiries@visionrcl.org.uk). It’s vitally important they know we care, so we can continue and extend this experiment. Let’s rewild Wanstead!

Find out more about the plants and insects found during the George Green survey in next month’s issue. For more information on the Wild Wanstead project, visit wnstd.com/wild
Features

Bravo, Wanstead!

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The big news for last year’s Wanstead Fringe was the event’s first professional theatre production. This year, there are three. Chloe Longstaff takes a look at each

Truly celebrating diversity in theatre, this year’s Wanstead Fringe is hosting three contrasting performances, offering something for all ages and interests.

First up is The Border, an outrageous Brechtian parable that explores the lines we draw between ourselves and other people. Staged by Theatre Centre, which was founded in 1953 and has decades of experience at bringing new writing to audiences, The Border is a timely and thought-provoking contribution to our questions of identity; life is about to be turned upside down for one small town as the border crossing is sealed shut, dividing here from there, us from them, this from that. In the midst of it all, Stranger, a young girl’s beloved dog, has gone missing. Will Stranger be found before the border closes, or will he be trapped forever on the ‘wrong’ side? This play is suitable for children aged 13-plus and will be particularly useful to young audiences, though relevant to everyone. It’s a must for anyone studying drama, citizenship and PHSE.

We Must Throw The Cows Down The Ravine is our next production, by an award-winning theatre company, adapted from the best-selling book Voices of the Labyrinth by Spanish author Ricard Ruiz Garzon, where the reality of schizophrenia is explored. Told from the view of both patients and family members, these true testimonials challenge the stigma and discrimination experienced by people dealing with mental health issues and help us realise each individual’s journey is a very personal one. The show was first produced in Caracas, Venezuela and is now touring Europe. In June, it opened at Teatro La Maquina in Valenica before moving to the renowned Teatro Español in Madrid. In July, it transferred to London where it was performed at the Cervantes Theatre, and it will now be performed (in English) at the Wanstead Fringe!

Last but not least is The Railway Children. This heart-warming tale is set to a stunning new musical soundtrack, bringing a touch of magic to the stage. When Roberta, Peter and Phyllis move to the country with their mother, they discover the joys of the steam railway and make new, unexpected friends. The only thing missing is their father. Brought to the Wanstead Fringe by the company who last year delighted audiences with sell-out performances of The Secret Garden and performed in the impressive Deaton Theatre at Forest School, this is an opportunity to see a West End-style musical right on your doorstep.

The Border: 13 September, 7.30pm at Aldersbrook Community Centre.

We Must Throw The Cows Down The Ravine: 13 and 14 September, 8.15pm at Our Lady Of Lourdes Church Parish Centre.

The Railway Children: 14 September, 3pm and 7pm and 15 September, 3pm at the Deaton Theatre, Forest School.

To book tickets, visit wnstd.com/fringe19

News

Stargazing evening to kick off Wanstead Fringe 2019

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An evening of stargazing in the grounds of Wanstead Cricket Club will mark the start of this year’s Wanstead Fringe.

“There are two chances to see the night sky through powerful telescopes with experts on hand to show you what to look out for,” said organiser Ricardo Cerezo. The free event will take place on 6 September from 8pm to 9pm, and will be repeated the following evening. “One of England’s great astronomers, James Bradley (1693–1762), is buried in the churchyard next door.”

Visit wnstd.com/fringe19

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Storytime with a difference: family drag queen performance at local libraries

d1931Mama G of Petite Pantos, which produces ‘pantomimes with a social conscience’, championing LGBTQ+ issues, feminism and positive representation of race and gender

The magic of panto and storytelling will come to local libraries this autumn with a series of performances by drag queen Mama G.

“Created by popular panto dame Robert Pearce, Mama G tells stories about being who you are and loving who you want, to children and their families, and anyone who’ll listen! She has spread her message all over the UK at libraries, theatres, museums and festivals, as well as making appearances in America and Canada,” said a spokesperson for Petite Pantos.

The ‘storytime with a difference’ will take place in Wanstead (2 October, 2pm), Woodford Green (4 October, 10.30am) and South Woodford (8 October, 2.30pm) as part of Redbridge’s annual Fabula Festival, which celebrates the arts and libraries and their power to transform lives. Suitable for children aged three and over, all shows are free to attend.

“These performances will feature published works and new writing that will make you laugh, think and love.”

Click here for more information.

News

First-ever large-scale history of Wanstead House

hosue-1Wanstead House, by Richard Westall ©Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands has commissioned Dr Hannah Armstrong – an expert in 18th-century architecture and landscape design – to write the first-ever large-scale history of Wanstead House.

“In existence for just 100 years, Wanstead House was regarded as one of the most magnificent palaces in Europe and the estate originally stretched nearly as far as Woodford. Tragically, in June 1822, every item within the house was sold at auction, prior to the house being demolished,” said a group spokesperson.

Due for publication in 2022 to mark the 200th anniversary of the ‘grand sale’, the book will tell the story of the house, its grounds and its larger-than-life owners, complemented by over 70 illustrations, some of which will be published for the first time.

News

The Railway Children: search for local child actor

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The producers of The Railway Children – to be performed at Forest School in Snaresbrook as part of the Wanstead Fringe festival – are searching for a local actor to play the role of Jim.

“It would suit a young person with acting and singing ability, who wants to work with a professional theatre company,” said producer Katherine Mount.

Rehearsals commence 9 September, with performances on 14 and 15 September. If the successful candidate requires time off school, the company will apply for licences and supply a registered chaperone.

“For audience members, this will be an opportunity to see a West End-style musical on your doorstep… This heart-warming tale is set to a new musical soundtrack, bringing a touch of magic to the stage.”

Email info@hordernciani.com

News

Family event: learn how to identify trees in Wanstead Park

Wanstead+Park+1©Geoff Wilkinson

The Field Studies Council (FSC) in partnership with the Friends of Wanstead Parklands will be running a tree identification course for families in Wanstead Park this month.

“Join us on a walk and learn how to identify our trees using their leaves, bark and seeds… Discover how trees contribute to our environment,” said an FSC spokesperson. Suitable for children aged 18 months to 11 years, the workshop will run from 10am to 12 noon and from 1pm to 3pm on 21 August (meet at the Temple; adults: free; kids: £5).

Visit wnstd.com/trees

News

Wanstead Fringe 2019 will be ‘bigger, better and more fringe-worthy than ever’

kinemaOpen-air cinema, a popular Wanstead Fringe event. ©Geoff Wilkinson

Organisers of the seventh annual Wanstead Fringe – which will run from 7 to 15 September – say this year’s event will be ‘bigger than ever’.

“The week-long Fringe will include more live professional theatre, comedy, music, demonstrations, talks and assorted cultural activities than ever before. Not to mention established favourites like the open-air Wanstead Kinema and the jumble trail,” said a spokesperson.

Last year, the Fringe attracted thousands of local residents as well as visitors from further afield. This time, organisers are expecting an even higher level of interest – especially with more events taking place in Aldersbrook, including a new play to be staged at the Aldersbrook Community Centre. A musical production of The Railway Children at Forest School promises to be another highlight.

Visit wnstd.com/fringe19

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Trouble above

36223643076_8152d92529_o©ChiralJon

London City Airport’s Master Plan, released on 28 June, proposes to double the number of flights each year. Steve Wilks looks at the effects of the new proposals on Wanstead and its environs

With an increasingly global and networked world, travelling in our jobs is becoming more commonplace. At London City Airport, in the last five years, its passenger numbers have grown by 40%, hitting 4.8 million in 2018. It expects demand to rise to 11 million by 2035, but its current capacity is limited to 6.5 million passengers, according to the London Borough of Newham.

London City CEO Robert Sinclair has stated the airport does not plan to build a new runway, extend the length of it or expand beyond its current site boundary. The airport wants to emphasise that it will focus on sustainability while expanding and using fuel-efficient aircraft and making its grounds operations carbon neutral.

The airport has tabled a Draft Master Plan 2020–2035 – it proposes to double the number of flights from 75k to 151k by 2035. It is also looking to relax a restriction that sees it close between 1pm on Saturdays and 12.30pm on Sundays, as well as an eight-hour overnight curfew and greater flexibility in its operations in the first and last 30 minutes of weekdays, meaning more early morning and late evening flights. A feedback form has been released for public comment until 20 September.

With this in mind, the plans are likely to face some opposition from environmental groups and neighbouring residents in the outer boroughs. John Stewart, chair of campaign group Hacan East, has warned that “flight numbers could almost double from today’s total.” Local communities will be concerned about the huge increase in the number of planes proposed and in the early hours of the morning and late at night when many people find aircraft most intrusive. Even the safeguards the airport will put in place to reduce noise will have only a marginal effect by 2035. There are also the increased environmental effects – a 2010 MIT study suggests you are more likely to die from exposure to toxic sulphur dioxide pollutants from plane exhausts than in a plane crash.

There is also very limited consultation by the airport – no consultation events are being held in some of the most heavily overflown boroughs, like Redbridge. This risks ignoring a significant proportion of residents who will be most affected by the proposals and this does not bode well for transparency in its dealings with key stakeholders.

While we have to accept the commercial realities of business, and the fact people need to travel, it is essential trips are only made if they are necessary. Technology now allows us to have conference calls online, thus enabling people from different locations around the world to connect. This surely must be cheaper for companies to invest in and less disruptive to employees and their lifestyles.

A public meeting on the proposed changes will take place at Buxton School, Cann Hall Road on 30 July from 7.30pm.

To take part in the consultation, visit wnstd.com/lcaplan or call 020 3858 9911

News

Work underway to upgrade water network in Wanstead

L1220044©Geoff Wilkinson

Work to replace 5.3km of water pipes across 20 roads in Wanstead began last week and is expected to continue until March.

“This is an important piece of work and we’re investing £2.2 million in the scheme to provide a safe and reliable supply for future generations… A range of techniques which do not require open trenches will be used to lay the new pipes, with trenches being used only as a last resort… We don’t plan to remove any trees, but any that do have to be removed will be replaced,” said a Thames Water spokesperson.