Kind words…


In the fifth of a series of articles documenting the thoughts of anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold, the founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative talks about her exciting trio of festive projects

This Christmas is going to be very different for all of us, and a lot more challenging than we are used to. As part of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative, and to follow on from a few projects we launched in 2019 as a way to combat loneliness at this time of year, I am organising a few things to help keep the spirit of Christmas alive this winter.

Community advent calendar
This year, we are designing a Spreading Kindness at Christmas family advent calendar for everyone to get involved with. Each day there will be a new challenge to complete as part of the calendar, from supporting local businesses and initiatives to self-care days and staying connected with others. It’s a great way to get the whole family involved with completing a fulfilling task each day in the run-up to Christmas.

Please contact me to order a physical, or digital, copy of this advent calendar.

Festive Friends
I am also working closely with Cambridge Nursing Home in Wanstead on their new initiative called Festive Friends, to bring the amazing festive Wanstead community spirit to their residents. “Sending a letter, Christmas card or even a drawing will go a long way to make our residents’ Christmas extra special, especially after this difficult year. We look forward to being dazzled by your creations!” said a spokesperson for the home. It is another amazing thing all the family can get involved with, and it will really make a big difference.

Virtual community Christmas concert
I am so excited to be launching Wanstead’s first virtual Christmas concert this year! It is going to be filled with performances from members of our wonderful community and celebrating some of the incredible and inspiring work that has been going on locally throughout 2020.

This follows on from our work to combat loneliness around this time of year. Sadly, our usual events are not possible this time around, so this is an alternative for us all to enjoy. The concert is going to be widely shared with local care, nursing and residential homes, many of which would usually have children’s choirs and visitors as we approach Christmas.

We are working with the production company 2b Media on this project, which will be premiered via a private link on 17 December from 5.30pm. To watch the concert, you will need to book your free tickets, which will provide you with the link to the event.

I know this is a particularly difficult time for so many of us and I hope some of these small things will add a little extra cheer to the alternative Christmas festivities this year.

To get involved, email
To book tickets for the Christmas concert, visit

Over 500 local tree pits adopted in 2020: apply now for 2021 and receive free seeds

190522-Halstead-Road-croppedAdopted tree pit on Halstead Road, Wanstead

A total of 570 tree pits were adopted across Wanstead and Aldersbrook in 2020, and residents are now encouraged to reapply for 2021.

“It’s that time of year when residents can adopt tree pits to stop them being sprayed with chemicals and grow wild flowers instead. This can help bees and other creatures when they’re moving about – especially in places where lots of gardens have been concreted over. Adoptions are now an annual process – so even if you’re an old hand, you need to reapply… Just fill out a quick electronic form and the council will be in touch to provide a label for your tree,” said a spokesperson for Wild Wanstead.

Redbridge Council also has 400 packets of wild flower seeds to give away with adoptions, each sufficient for two or three tree pits. The deadline to apply is 31 December.



Wanstead resident’s annual Christmas gift appeal for sick children


Wanstead resident Frank Charles is once again collecting toys and gifts for the children at Acorn Ward, Whipps Cross Hospital this Christmas.

“Ali at Wanstead Pharmacy (75–77 High Street) has agreed that unwrapped presents can be dropped off there. All donations must be new and suitable for ages 0 to 16 years please,” said Frank, whose annual appeal is now in its 17th consecutive year. The last day for dropping off presents at Wanstead Pharmacy will be Saturday 12 December, until 5pm.



Warm clothing and pot noodles needed to show Wanstead CARES

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 12.09.51

Residents are invited to contribute to the Wanstead CARES (Community Appeal Rough sleepers Emergency Survival kit) appeal.

“Sadly, there is going to be an ongoing need to replenish our stocks of clothing, toiletries and sleeping bags as the demand will continue to increase in winter. We need men’s trainers, ski jackets, sweatshirts, hoodies, sweat pants, jeans, pot noodles and lots of (new) socks and pants,” said Julie Harvey.

A collection will take place at Wanstead Cricket Club on 5 December from 11am to 2pm.


Redbridge Council and the police to co-host crime webinar


The Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, and Borough Commander Stephen Clayman will be hosting a live webinar on 1 December to discuss their approach to tackling crime.

Councillor Athwal and Mr Clayman will highlight the initiatives the police and the council have rolled out to tackle local crime hotspots and update residents on how they have been dealing with domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour in the borough.

They will also be joined by Stephen Addison, founder of the social enterprise BoxUp Crime and the police burglary prevention team, who will be sharing their top tips on protecting your home this winter.

“Tackling crime in Redbridge is one of our council’s top priorities. We are working closely with the local police to prevent criminal behaviour and to catch perpetrators but we want to hear from local people. This public virtual meeting is a great opportunity to hear about new anti-crime initiative and tips to keeping safe over the winter and to ask any questions you might have. Everyone is welcome to ask questions during the meeting but to make sure we get a chance to answer them all, please submit questions in advance if you can,” said Councillor Athwal.

To submit a question, email by 27 November.

Residents can watch the webinar on 1 December, from 6 pm to 7 pm.


Memorial bench for Jill Stock on Wanstead High Street

001_Jill_Stock-copyJill Stock (22 May 1947 – 25 May 2019)

A fundraiser has been launched to pay for a bench on the High Street in memory of former Wanstead resident Jill Stock, who was tragically killed following a road traffic collision last year.

“As many of you know, Mum was one of the most community-minded people you could ever meet… Mum was a friend to so many, she would do anything to help someone in need,” said Jill’s daughter Kate Gloudemans.

Any money raised in excess of the £2,000 target will be used for other local community projects.



Wanstead’s Christmas tree lights switched on early

L1220859©Geoff Wilkinson

The lights on Wanstead’s Christmas tree on George Green were switched on early this year.

“The trees are normally installed with the lights ready to be switched on at community events. As there are no organised events this year due to government restrictions, it was decided to switch them on as they were installed,” said a Redbridge Council spokesperson.

Last year, more than 150 residents attended the switch-on event, when local milkman Steve Hayden flicked the switch to illuminate the tree opposite the station.


Amazing grazing


John Philips, Grazing and Landscape Projects Officer at Epping Forest, reports on the City of London Corporation’s successful cattle-grazing trial in Wanstead Park. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson   

In our modern world, there is a huge disconnect between the natural world, farming activities and the end-users who benefit from them. A generation or two ago, the memories will be stored of working the land, if only in the summer holidays as a reprieve from city life. This transmission of custodianship and behaviours around these land-based activities have sadly become a distant memory.

The social impact of the cows’ presence in Wanstead Park surpassed our expectations.  We had a huge response from local people wanting to get involved with the cows and have been continually taken back by the positive response from regular park users and visitors alike.

The park is not only a refuge for wildlife in an urban area but also for its local people. Getting to work with these large animals daily, it is not lost on me, the calming effect of seeing them in a natural environment, existing, free from the trappings of the human’s higher sense of self and expectation.   

The cows’ main job while in the park was to remove vegetation created from the carbon cycle and return it as plant and insect food. This removal around the anthills is especially important to allow solar energy to penetrate the earth to warm up the hills.

Acid grasslands are at risk and diminishing due to nitrification through air pollution and dog faeces, which allows more aggressive, faster-growing plant species to proliferate. The cows help reduce the vegetational mass in a patchwork, reducing competition for sunlight, which allows for slower-growing plants and grasses to survive. This patchwork of varying heights also creates habitat for insects to breed, hunt and perch.

The cows – Quinine, Nina and Nuru – have moved on now, having completed their work. Quinine – who is pregnant – will head back to our farm in Theydon Bois and will graze in adjacent fields to the buildings until she calves. Nuru and Nina are not pregnant, so will travel to Chingford Plain to graze until ground conditions start to deteriorate.

The trial has been a huge success and has secured grazing becoming an annual fixture at Wanstead Park, managed by the City of London Corporation. We would like to thank everyone involved, especially volunteers and local park users, including dog walkers who have had to modify their use of the park to help make this a success.

For more information on cattle-grazing in Wanstead Park, visit

Deep roots


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 first of a series of articles, Jean introduces Heartwood, a poem inspired by a special Wanstead tree

I have lived in Wanstead for 60 happy years. I first came to Wanstead as a newly-wed, having been married at St Mary’s Church. My husband’s uncle, Jack Medcalf, was then the parish priest.

When we first came to live in Wanstead, I discovered what a friendly place it was; like a village where everyone knows everyone. I never gossiped about anybody, as I was probably speaking to their relative or friend! It is the kind of place where people know the names of each other’s dogs.

When I first went shopping, the lady in the hardware shop asked how I was settling in. I wondered how she knew I’d just moved in – she turned out to be a neighbour. When I was expecting my first baby and went shopping in  Webster’s, the butcher whispered to me: “Just come to the front of the queue, and I’ll serve you first.”

One of the things I love about Wanstead is its beautiful trees. The avenues of trees, once part of the grounds of Wanstead House, the plane trees along the High Street that provide welcome shade as people stop to chat, the horse chestnut trees on the green that provide little boys with conkers every year.

And in particular, the 300-year-old sweet chestnut trees on George Green, some of which were sadly destroyed to build the M11 link road. I remember the people of Wanstead linking arms around the tree, defying the bulldozers and chainsaws. When it was felled, a great cry of grief went up from the watching crowd. I took a tiny piece of wood from its fallen trunk and kept it as a sacred relic.

I have loved poetry since childhood and have been writing poetry since the age of 14. I found it allowed me to express my deepest emotions, whether of joy or of sorrow.

When I was about 40, I discovered I had the gift of hearing trees speaking to me. This has happened to me several times and always with oak trees.

One very special tree stands out. Many years ago, I used to cycle to work through Wanstead Park each day, always passing a magnificent old oak tree. It was the ancient Repton Oak, which is 200 years old and dates back to the time when Wanstead House was a grand mansion surrounded by landscaped gardens. One day, I stopped to rest beneath it, sheltered beneath its spreading branches, quietly listening. I heard this poem in my mind – it was as if the tree was recounting its life story.

This is the story it told me…

by Jean Medcalf

Upwards soars my head to Heaven,
Deep my roots dug firm in clay;
Squirrels eat my acorns dropping,
In my branches build their dreys.
Lovers carve true-love upon me –
Hearts and tokens in my bark.
Sun and Moon pour brightness on me;
I am the same by day or dark.

I saw crowned Queen Boadicea
Saw the Romans come and go;
Humans change, but I am constant;
Tree above, and they below.
Springtime sees my youth upon me,
Dropping autumn leaves me bare.
Winter lends me hoary fingers –
I change only with the year.

Humans: know my powers to comfort;
Know that I can bring you peace.
Tranquil rest your soul within me;
From all cares I give release.

If you put your arms around me,
Hug me round my crusty bark,
Troubled head to dusty roughness,
Touchwood close to unquiet heart –
Then my Heart-Wood self will bless you,
From your heavy fears absolve,
Draw them deep into my own roots,
Strengthen you with oak resolve.

Know then: we are one forever.
You shall be ours when you are clay.
Abiding, loving, green in spirit,
Remaining Dryads all our days.

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

All heroes

L1160875© Geoff Wilkinson

With the cancellation of Wanstead’s Remembrance commemorations this year, Colin Cronin is encouraging local children to create Wanstead’s first Poppy Trail and for us all to remember our fallen heroes

As Remembranctide approaches, our community’s thoughts turn again to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Their names are forever etched in stone on Memorial Green and their memories held in the hearts of so many family members and friends who still live in Wanstead today. They are true heroes who, for our tomorrow, gave their today and remain worthy of the respect and honour we pay to them each year with the familiar words “at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them”.

Heroism very much envelopes us in the same abundance today as it did during those past conflicts. Our NHS and frontline workers fight against a foe that is equally deadly, stealthier and perhaps far more lethal. Like the fallen on our war memorial, many of them have given their lives during this battle to protect us and should be considered in the same heroic light as those who have gone before them.

We as a community must do our bit too, through social distancing, wearing face masks and to curbs that can sometimes seem cruel, unnecessary or frustrating to our normal ways of living. However, it is these curbs that will help us stem the tide, prevent spreading the virus and allow us to support our NHS workers in ultimately defeating this foe.

With that in mind, it is my profound regret that there will be no official Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day commemorations in Wanstead this year. There is no way to adequately maintain social distancing, prevent overcrowding or create a safe environment where this virus cannot spread amongst us.

We should still remember our heroes, however, so I am asking the children of Wanstead to please paint, draw or colour in poppies and place them in your front windows, next to your NHS rainbows, to create Wanstead’s very first Poppy Trail. The Memorial Green will also remain open for people to pay their respects and lay their poppies throughout Remembrance Sunday. However, we will operate a socially distanced queuing system this year with the entrance at the front of the memorial and the exit behind it.

I remain confident that Wanstead will come through this virus safer and stronger as a community from having worked together to defeat it. Until that bright dawn, for this year, let us remember in our own way all heroes who have given their lives for us and offer the prayer that we will all be able to come together again soon to commemorate them.

“As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust; Moving upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.”

The Wanstead War Memorial is located on Memorial Green – also known as Tarzy Wood – opposite Provender Brasserie, 17 High Street, Wanstead, E11 2AA.