Swan lakes

IMG_3288-copy©Don Taylor

In the fourth of a series of articles celebrating the swans that reside on the lakes of Wanstead, Tracey Adebowale-Jones has tragic news from Wanstead Flats. Photo of Snaresbrook’s visiting black swan by Don Taylor

It has been a time of tragedy and excitement. As the cygnets start to develop their full white feathers, it is time for mum and dad to think about their new family ahead – sadly, this means a chasing off of last year’s brood.

Our Perch Pond family in Wanstead Park have managed to shoo off one of their offspring (to Jubilee Pond) but, at the time of writing, the other six are reluctant to leave home. Maybe they know all about lockdown!

On Alexander Lake on Wanstead Flats, we were distraught to find a long-standing mate badly injured from a dog bite. The back of her neck was severely gashed, and because of the complexity of her rescue, the Swan Support team had to come out with their boat in the darkness of night. She was rescued and taken poste haste to the Swan Sanctuary, but her injuries were severe and she died the following day. There has been no insight into the owner of the dog. But this is a crime and we hope they will one day be held to account.  This swan was a long-term partner and the cob was heard calling for her days afterwards.  Please, if you are a dog owner, keep your dog under control.

Then, of course, there is Bruce, the black swan who appeared to have taken advantage of the relaxed rules of lockdown and came to visit some long-distant relatives on Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook. Black swans are native to Australia – hence the imaginative name Bruce – and their habitat requirements are similar to the more common mute swans.

Bruce was also seen on Hollow Ponds and at Walthamstow Wetlands for a few days’ holiday, and prior to that he was at Greenland Dock, Surrey Quays. Quite possibly, he made his way from Regent’s Park. His arrival caused traffic jams and photographers to go wild. At the time of writing, he had left his Eagle Pond residency, but his whereabouts are a closely guarded secret.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to our swan rescuer Louisa Green – who stepped in to cover Gill Walker when she fractured her shoulder – and to all the people who have been amazing in their support of feeding and watching, and to Swan Support. Also to Sandy Hamberger, who is tireless in her support and feeding regime.

For more information on The Swan Sanctuary, visit To report any concerns about the health and safety of a local swan, call 01932 240 790

Endangered in Wanstead


The Wren Wildlife Group, London Wildlife Trust and Wild Wanstead have compiled a list of 10 species at risk of local extinction. In the first of a series of articles looking at each species in turn, Tony Madgwick, London Natural History Society Recorder for Bees and Wasps, explains how to help the tawny mining bee

Of the more than 270 species of wild bees in the UK, the furry and orangey-red tawny mining bees are one of the more distinctive and recognisable species! You will see them on the wing from early April until mid-June.

Females are a little bigger and stockier than honey bees, with thick reddish hair on the thorax and dense orange hair on the abdomen. Their legs and heads are completely black. The males are less distinctive, being a little smaller, thinner and browner, and with a white moustache over their long mandibles.

Tawny mining bees are a solitary bee – looking after themselves rather than living in a colony with a queen like honey bees and bumblebees. The females make an underground nest where they lay their eggs and store pollen for food so that the young bees can develop before emerging the following year. Each nest has a little volcano-like mound of soil around the mouth of the burrow with a four-millimetre hole in the top. Each female works alone to create her family home, although it’s common to see many nests close together.

Tawny mining bees are important for humans because they pollinate garden plants, fruit trees and crops like oil-seed rape. Indeed, their flight season peaks to coincide with spring-blossoming shrubs.

Tawny mining bees are common nationally, but they can only thrive in places where their habitat is protected. In Wanstead, the sunny, grassy areas where the bees need to nest are under pressure from the paving of gardens, use of artificial grass, and building and development. Bees are thought to be at risk from climate change because rising temperatures can disrupt the synchronisation between when the insects emerge and the flowering of their food plants. Wild bees in cities compete with urban honey bees for early season forage. The growing numbers of urban bee hives means that we should be providing more early and diverse flowering plants and shrubs to support our wild bees. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the population of tawny mining bees in urban Wanstead has declined, although there is a stable population in Wanstead Park.

There are several ways you can help tawny mining bees:

If you see nests in your garden or the park, leave them be. These bees love to nest in managed lawns or flower beds. The small mounds typically only last for a few days or weeks every year and do no lasting damage to lawns. It would be great if you could help us to record these nest sites.

Plant the spring-flowering shrubs and flowers that tawny mining bees love, such as salvia, galanthus (snowdrops), echinacea, cosmos, verbena, willow, raspberries, fruit trees and wild flowers. There are varieties of fruit trees and flowering shrubs for gardens of every shape and size, and many can easily be grown in tubs.

Never use pesticides or weedkillers in your garden. Instead, aim to attract lots of different wildlife to keep things in balance, using biological pest control if necessary.

Lift plastic grass and paving slabs and replace with a lawn. Go no-mow in May to encourage dandelions and buttercups. In a south-facing part of your garden, construct a small earthy bank – the perfect real estate for a variety of different wild bees to build their nest holes.

To contact Tony for information on recording tawny mining bee nest sites, email

For more information about the 10 species under threat of extinction in Wanstead, visit


Safer Neighbourhood Team seeking members for Wanstead ward panels

IMG-20210212-WA0013PC King (left) and PC Bryant

Local police are seeking new members to join the Wanstead Village and Wanstead Park ward panels.

“In order to ensure the work of each Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) is focussed on resolving problems in the ward, each ward requires a panel, made up of people whose role is to assess local concerns, identified through community engagement and analysis. The panel gives direction and local advice to the SNTs. This allows us to establish priorities for policing in that ward,” said a police spokesperson.



Consultation on electric vehicle charging points across Wanstead


Redbridge Council is proposing to install new electric vehicle charging points (EVCPs) and associated bays on streets across Wanstead.

“The main objective of the proposed on-street EVCPs is to support the transition to cleaner cars. As the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030, the council is working on providing sufficient infrastructure to meet demand,” said a spokesperson.

A total of 36 EVCPs are proposed for the west of the borough.

A consultation runs until 18 March.



Fence to be installed to protect the skylarks on Wanstead Flats

13C8C595-FF72-4D83-A572-B2C5EE56A67A_1_201_aSkylarks on Wanstead Flats earlier this month. ©Mary Holden

The City of London will be installing a fence around the skylark nesting area on Wanstead Flats.

“Many of you may have heard the skylarks on the Flats singing as they soar into the sky. Unfortunately, they have been unable to breed successfully for several years due to a number of factors, including unintentional disturbance from humans and dogs. We are at risk of losing the last of this endangered species. The fencing will hopefully protect any that remain and allow them to breed,” said Gill James from the Wren Wildlife Group.


Deep roots

Gravatts-window-cropped-contrastGravatt’s shop window by Sally Medcalf

Wanstead resident Jean Medcalf has published her first poetry book at the age of 89. To Everything There is a Season is a collection of lyrical, spiritual poems about nature. In the fourth of a series of articles, Jean introduces her poem entitled February, which prompts her memories of Nightingale Lane in the 1960s. Background artwork of the old Gravatt’s shop window by Sally Medcalf

February was the month I gave birth to my second child – having just moved into our new home in Wanstead weeks earlier in December 1960! Shopping with a pram and a toddler was tiring, so it was very useful to have small shops nearby on Nightingale Lane.

There was a little grocers run by Arthur and Kath Chumbley, who sold cheese the old-fashioned way – cut with a cheese wire and weighed on the scales – and ham and bacon sliced on a machine. There was Gilbert’s, the greengrocers run by Mr George Gilbert, who used to sit outside on a chair and chat to passers-by. If you had a surplus of apples, pears or plums from your garden, he would buy them from you.

Carver’s circa 1950s.
Photo courtesy of
Kevin Palmer, whose grandfather Charles Reddy Palmer (right) worked at the butcher shop on Nightingale Lane

There was also Carver’s the butcher and a fish-and-chip shop called Capital Fish Bar, which was so popular they often ran out of fish! In the mid-70s, it was called Michael’s and then it became the first Chinese takeaway we had ever seen, which was quite exciting. We even had a small hair salon near the Duke of Edinburgh pub.

The local children used to congregate around Ann’s, the sweet shop, with its shelves of tall glass jars of gobstoppers, sherbet lemons, aniseed twists and rhubarb and custards, all about sixpence a quarter. On the wooden counter were the cheap sweets: flying saucers, pink shrimps, black jacks and fruit salad chews at four for a penny. She also sold blocks of ice cream – the only choice back then was Neapolitan or raspberry ripple.

The other favourite was Gravatt’s, which repaired typewriters and sold toys, run by Mrs Long, a kindly, grey-haired lady in a navy overall. It was rather dark inside as the window was completely crammed with toys: catapults, jigsaws, fuzzy felt, pea shooters, cap-guns, little dolls, puzzles and metal paintboxes for half a crown – several weeks’ worth of pocket money!

The Nightingale pub was run by a landlord called Jock. The corner door of the pub was for off-sales; it led through to a tiny wood-panelled corridor, where there was a jar of arrowroot biscuits, a penny each. The landlord kept white doves in a dovecote in the little garden behind the pub.

There was B. Forster the builder further down, and at the bottom of Elmcroft Avenue was a rag and bone yard with a horse and cart. The horse was called George and the children used to give him apples.

Going up Nightingale Lane, on the right-hand side was a junkyard called Cardy’s run by an elderly chap, and on summer days, he would often close early and hang up a sign to say ‘GONE FISHING’!

Further up, near the top of the road, was S.E. Bamforth, the clock and watch mender, a little, venerable white-haired man with a collarless shirt, who peered over the top of gold-rimmed specs. The shop was tiny – filled with ticking clocks – and very dark, illuminated only by a hissing gaslight.

So, we could get most of our shopping just around the corner. Once a week I would push my heavy pram up Nightingale Lane to the big High Street shops. I will tell you about them next time.

by Jean Medcalf

February: lipchap nipnose dripnose
Frostbite chilblains and boys’ mauve knees;
February: steam breath ice crack hoarfrost
Fern windows leaf rime and falling silent snow.

February: crunchgrass snowcreak stiffmud
Stonesong on iceponds; sheets rigid on the line;
February: hot toast warm slippers muffins
Coalfires scorched legs and pictures in the flames.

February: hotmitts earmuffs greatcoats
Balaclava helmets and warm woolly vests;
February: snowdrops primrose crocus
Blacktwigged almond blossom, pink before the leaf.

February: candlemas purify expiate
Barebranch stripbare nothing to hide;
Daffodils greenspear upthrust through the earth
Trees deciduous decide to bud again.

Jean’s book To Everything There is a Season is available in paperback (£4.75). Visit


Walks past Wanstead

ba-obj-14682-0001-pub-print-lgWanstead House by Richard Westall (1765–1836). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Russell Kenny and Paul Hayes have devised a series of self-guided history walks around the Wanstead area, which can be followed on a phone or from a printable map. In the second of a series of articles championing these tours through time, we rediscover Wanstead House

Wanstead Park, as we know it today, was designed as a setting for the grand Palladian Wanstead House, built in the reign of George I, and which replaced the previous house on the site, the Tudor Wanstead Hall. Our Rediscovering Wanstead House walk looks at some of the features, still in and around the park landscape, that remind us of its grand origins.

Today, we can still walk down Evelyn’s Avenue, named after diarist John Evelyn. It was first planted in the late 17th century by Sir Josiah Child, who purchased the original Wanstead Hall and improved the parkland around it.

The alignment of key features in the landscape show us the grandeur of the Hall’s replacement, Wanstead House. The Straight Canal is a stretch of water that lines up with the Glade, a grand avenue of trees rising towards the site of the House, now marked by a sizeable dip in the ground near Wanstead Golf Club. The trees on either side of the Glade hide two ‘mounts’, small hills built for viewing the gardens. Viewed from the rear of Wanstead House, the canal gave the impression of a much larger lake system. Continuing on past the site of the House leads us to the Basin, a large ornamental lake designed to add to the grandeur of the approach to the front of the House. This approach lay along part of the current Overton Drive, the end of which is flanked by the original gate posts of Wanstead House, and bear the initials of the man who completed it in 1722, Sir Richard Child, the 1st Earl Tylney, and the son of Josiah.

The Temple and the Grotto, still handsome structures in the park, were built around 1760 by John, the second Earl Tylney. John didn’t get to enjoy them much, however, because around the time they were built, he was embroiled in a homosexual scandal and fled abroad. He lived in Naples for the rest of his life. There is a bit of John still in Wanstead though. His heart was sent back when he died and sits in a jar in the crypt of St Mary the Virgin church.

We can still see the earth bank in Reservoir Wood, which once held back water used to feed the lake system in the park. The area was drained in the early 19th century and new planting took place, including the spectacular Repton Oak, which is also still there. The name references fashionable landscape designer Humphry Repton, who gave advice to famous spendthrift William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley on remodelling the park. It was due to William’s financial mismanagement that the contents of Wanstead House were sold off in 1822 and the house itself demolished and sold for building materials in 1825.

There’s lots more on this walk that show how Wanstead House is still visible in the landscape.

To view or print the walking guides and maps, visit


For the trees

2296©Geoff Wilkinson

Redbridge Council’s Principal Arboricultural and Horticultural Officer Peter Marshall heads up a team responsible for thousands of trees across the borough. With Wanstead’s felled trees due to be replaced over the next two months, Peter explains the scope of his team’s work. Photo of Christchurch Green by Geoff Wilkinson

Did you know Redbridge Council maintains 40,000 trees and 128 hectares of woodland in the borough? It’s a big job and takes a very special team from Redbridge Council to maintain it all.

The borough’s Arboricultural and Horticultural team – made up of specially trained staff –are responsible for the maintenance of the council’s 21,000 trees on the streets, 19,000 trees in parks, schools, housing and welfare sites, grass verges and shrubs on streets, and assisting with maintaining council woodland.

To ensure the trees stay healthy and cared for, my team carry out annual inspections of all street trees to recommend work to maintain them – and once every three years to recommend pruning work.

Inspections on the remaining council trees in parks, schools, housing, welfare sites and woodlands are carried out on a three-year rotation. Trees in the Wanstead and South Woodford areas are due to be inspected for pruning in 2022.

Trees are usually only removed when they are dead or decayed, in line with council policy. When pruning and felling is recommended, the work is normally grouped by borough wards and completed by the end of March the following year. My team normally fell a tree on the street to a waist-high stump and then return to remove the stump just prior to planting a replacement tree.

Planting is carried out between November and March, and planned street planting in Wanstead and South Woodford is aimed at being completed between February and March 2021.

In addition, there is also about 160,000 square metres – equivalent to 22 football pitches – of highway grass cut eight times a year, and 20,000 square metres of highway grass cut once a year as part of the Grow Zone project to create wild flower meadows in the borough to improve biodiversity. A quarter of these Grow Zones are in Wanstead and South Woodford.

Highway shrub beds – covering an area equivalent to seven football pitches – are also pruned up to twice a year, depending on the obstruction they may pose to pedestrians and vehicles.

Where weeds grow up in footpaths, kerb edges and shrub beds on the street, my team carry out a spot treatment with herbicide to control growth up to five times a year, as required.

We also work closely with the Neighbourhood Street Scene Engagement team on numerous community projects to spruce up the borough’s neighbourhoods. These have included:

  • Installing railing planters and troughs outside schools and business.
  • The spring bulb giveaway.
  • Tree planting within schools.
  • Community adoption of shrub beds and adopting street tree pits.
  • Working with Trees for Cities, planting new trees in east Ilford and a new woodland near Seven Kings park.

Green spaces improve air quality, boost wellbeing and make the borough look and feel better. In addition, they can provide healthy spaces for wildlife to flourish.

Redbridge is one of the greenest boroughs in London, and we want to make the most of our green spaces so local people can enjoy them now and for years to come. To help achieve this, the council is currently working on a Green Urban Landscape policy that will create a plan for managing and improving council greenery across the borough.

For more information on the work of Redbridge Council’s Arboricultural and Horticultural team, visit



1KH_8938.jpgSyrian refugees Obama Basheer, 8, holds her sister, Joud, 6 months

In the fourth of a series of articles by Refugee Welcome Wanstead – a community group planning to welcome a Syrian refugee family to the area – Eleanor Taylor reports on the family’s imminent arrival

We are delighted to be able to write this final instalment of our refugee project series, and update readers on the outcome of the initiative. In our last article, we confirmed that our application to resettle a Syrian refugee family in Wanstead had just been successfully accepted by the Home Office, and we are now being matched with a family by the UNHCR.

Once the final details are confirmed, we are hoping to welcome our matched refugee family at the airport by the end of this month. We will then be working with the family to help them settle into the local area, which will be particularly challenging in light of the current Covid-19 restrictions.

Thank you so much to all of you in the Wanstead and surrounding communities who have given us your well-wishes, encouragement and kind donations over the last year. It has been so heartening to know that our local community is ready to welcome a refugee family. We have received so many generous donations of household items, volunteers’ time and money to pay for the family’s essentials, and we truly could not have achieved this without the help and support of those of you who have followed our journey.

Our family will be moving to safety in London as part of an initial scheme to resettle a limited number of refugees from the Syrian conflict, but a subsequent scheme to resettle another 5,000 Syrian refugees has been postponed indefinitely. It is now up to the Home Secretary Priti Patel to determine whether this second scheme will go ahead, and whether these vulnerable people will be able to restart their lives in the safety of the UK.

The situation for refugees from the Syrian conflict is as precarious as it has ever been. Fires have recently destroyed temporary refugee housing in Lebanon, and the threat of Covid-19 – without access to adequate hand washing and sterilising facilities – continues to worsen.

The good news is that you can still help. A number of organisations have launched campaigns, such as Refugee Action’s Missing Piece campaign, to ensure the Home Office agrees to restart the planned scheme to resettle Syrian refugees in the UK. By writing to your MP, you can ask them to lobby the government on your behalf, and on behalf of Syrian refugees who remain in unsafe, unsanitary camps across the Middle East.

We will be continuing to work with our new family throughout 2021, but as we are sure you will understand, we want to maintain the family’s privacy as they build their new lives here. However, if you have any queries about the campaign, please do get in touch.

For more information, follow the group on Twitter @RefugeeWanstead or email


Number Eight

IMG_81278 Sylvan Road, before the garden was cleared

Residents have united to fight plans to demolish the Victorian house at 8 Sylvan Road and replace it with several new flats. In the first of a series of articles, Kirsty Thomas explains the upset

A network of both local and non-local residents rallied together in recent months to support the objection to a planning request to demolish a beautiful, characterful, 150-year-old Victorian house in Snaresbrook.

The current owners of 8 Sylvan Road have applied to replace this historic building with several oversized modern flats (two one-bedroom, five two-bedroom and two three-bedroom residential units). Over 150 objections have been put to Redbridge Council to oppose this development, including support from the Wanstead Society, the Victorian Society and Councillor Jo Blackman.

This property was built alongside seven others in the 1870s, but sadly, two of them were destroyed in the Second World War. The remaining six distinctive houses, despite also withstanding substantial war damage repairs, continue to stand proud on Sylvan Road.

The Victorian Society – who are ‘the champion for Victorian and Edwardian architecture’ – have written to the council’s Planning Committee to say that: “Number eight [Sylvan Road] is a characterful house in its own right and also has wider group value, being one of six remaining houses of the late-19th century suburban development in the road. Although the road has been infilled with 20th-century housing, the interspersed Victorian dwellings still draw attention and have a positive impact on the streetscape. The loss of number eight would therefore not only constitute the loss of an attractive Victorian building but would also contribute towards the erosion of this character and further obscure the legibility of the initial 19th-century development in the area”.

They have made it very clear, as have most residents in their objections, that the property appears eminently suitable for refurbishment and conversion, if necessary. Demolition should not be a reasonable solution, especially considering Redbridge’s deceleration of a climate emergency in 2019 and the importance of recycling and reusing buildings to help tackle climate change.

The proposed flats are large, overpowering and characterless modern buildings, with both roof gardens and rear balconies which will remove any level of privacy for the neighbours. There is neither provision for parking nor socially affordable housing.

Our whole street feels terribly upset this house and the history associated with it could be completely wiped out in an instant. We are hoping the Planning Committee will listen to the local community and refuse the demolition of this historic building in the heart of our village, as we would like to see it still standing here in another 150 years’ time.

For full details about the proposed development, visit