Post-Covid World


What will Wanstead look like in a post-COVID-19 world? In the second of a series of articles, Chair of Wanstead Society Scott Wilding, who is exploring these issues as part of his job, offers his thoughts

Dealing with the new normal of a post-COVID-19 world is still a challenge for all of us. The virus has not gone away. People are still dying from this disease. And we all find ourselves coping with the challenges of daily life in many different ways.

Yet, we have to consider what our lives will look like. The below might give an indication of what’s to come.

Pollution and the environment
One of the side effects of lockdown has been better air quality. In the City of London, nitrogen oxide (the most harmful pollutant) fell by 35%, and in London as a whole, some pollutants were down 60%. But with shops and City Airport reopening in June and with those who can being encouraged to drive to work rather than take public transport, we could see a return – or even an increase – in some pollutants.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are indications we can keep the better air quality we have enjoyed. Firstly, many of us have noticed, and liked, the change. And for those with severe lung and breathing difficulties, a reduction in pollution means a better quality of life. Secondly, lockdown gave us all a chance to pause and reassess how we live. The council and TfL are both examining ways in which they can encourage walking and cycling. Wider footpaths and segregated cycle lanes are a must, but investment in existing high streets to make them pleasant places to walk in are also vital. And this leads me to the next point.

Local economy
The OECD predicts the world economy may shrink by 6% in 2020, with the UK hit hardest. So, it’s clear times are tough for all of us. But many of us have been shopping locally during lockdown and it’s now vital that we continue to support Wanstead High Street as much as we can. Our shops need our custom more than ever or many could face closure.

But the economy and the environment are closely linked. By shopping local, walking or cycling to the shops, we are helping to keep the lower pollution levels we have enjoyed. With many of us working at home, the opportunity to shop local has never been so obvious. A post-COVID-19 world could – hopefully – see a high street renaissance.

This month could see the wider opening of pubs and restaurants across the UK, and Wanstead has some top-quality eating and drinking establishments which need supporting. I’ll definitely be heading to the pubs when they open. And my reason? Go to the pub. Drink beer. Save local businesses. Possibly the only time you will ever get away with that excuse. So, let’s make sure we use it.

For more information about how you can help your neighbours during these difficult times, visit

Floating ideas

DSCF6178©Geoff Wilkinson

Rising at Molehill Green in Essex, the River Roding passes through the Wanstead and Woodford area en route to the Thames, bringing with it a very real flood risk to local homes. In the 10th of a series of articles, Nina Garner from the Environment Agency reports on the River Roding Project, which aims to reduce that risk. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson

We maintain a wide range of flood and coastal risk management (FCRM) assets which reduce the risk of flooding to people and property. These assets could include, but are not limited to, embankments, pumping stations and flood gates.

The channel maintenance we currently have in our 2020/2021 programme for the River Roding in Redbridge is an annual check to be carried out in December 2020 to January 2021.  This involves our field teams walking the river, cutting back any overhanging vegetation to just above bank height or to allow reasonable access to the channel. They also remove woody debris from the channel to reduce the risk of snagging and clear any blockages larger than a football.

Due to coronavirus, the timing and nature of the maintenance works may change so we can adopt safe ways of working. In line with government advice, we are continuing to deliver all of our flood risk management projects where it is safe for our teams and delivery partners to do so. We are following the latest guidance from Public Health England regarding safe working.

We will publish an updated programme every three months to show progress (visit You can view the programme as an interactive map to see what is going on near you. To use the map, enter the desired postcode, then click on a feature to find information about the asset and planned work.

The Water Resources Act 1991 grants statutory powers to the Environment Agency to maintain main rivers for reduction of flood risk (sections 169 to 172), irrespective of channel ownership. These powers are discretionary and are exercised according to resources available and the flood risk pertaining in any locality. The legal duty to maintain a watercourse rests with the riparian owner (normally the owner of the land adjacent to the watercourse), irrespective of whether the Environment Agency chooses to undertake works.

Since our last article, we have received an indicative programme of works for the River Roding Project which outlines what will be carried out and when.

Back in October 2018, we carried out ground investigation works at four locations in Woodford on existing flood embankments along the River Roding. After analysing the information obtained, we were able to determine that works are required at two of the four locations to ensure the defences are fit for purpose. To determine exactly what works are required, we will be doing further ground investigation works in August.

We will also be conducting various surveys along the River Roding. These will include ecology surveys at both the flood storage area (FSA) site and Woodford defences and geophysical surveys, including trial trenching at the FSA site, which are proposed to be conducted between August and December 2020. These surveys will inform what work needs to be undertaken and inform the planning application, which we aim to have granted by August 2021.

Please keep an eye out for upcoming engagement events in March or April 2021 prior to the submission of our planning application. This will give you and your community an opportunity to comment on the proposals.

To find out if your property is a flood risk, visit
To register for flood warnings, visit
To check the River Roding webcam, visit
For more information on the River Roding Project, visit or call 0370 850 6506

Ice blast from the past


Local resident Jim Reynolds (back row, centre) shares two photos from his teenage years taken in the early 1950s, when he would play ice hockey on the frozen lakes in Wanstead Park

These photos were taken at the Shoulder of Mutton Pond in Wanstead Park one wintry Sunday, circa 1951. They show a few friends from a group of about 18 ice hockey enthusiasts who would meet up on Saturday evenings to watch Harringay Racers ice hockey team playing their home games at Harringay Stadium. 

We would catch the number 25 bus from Ilford Broadway to Woodgrange Park Station. From there, onto the local train bound for Harringay Stadium where we would join some 8,000 spectators.

After the game, we would don our skates for a session on the ice, re-enacting the game! Then off to the chippy in Green Lanes for a bag of chips and a pickled onion! A dash up the stairs to catch the last train back to Woodgrange Park and walk back to Ilford Broadway, having always missed the last bus. Another enjoyable Saturday!

The skating at Wanstead Park, shown in the photos, would have been arranged whilst at Harringay Stadium one Saturday night.

And the gentlemen taking an icy dip were regular all-weather lake swimmers. They were taking their daily dip as my mates and I were on the lake for our ice hockey game!


Look up, Wanstead

DSCF3256Wanstead High Street photo by Geoff Wilkinson

Lockdown provided London tour guide Chris O’Donnell with an opportunity to learn more about Wanstead, subsequently imparting this knowledge via his virtual tours and encouraging us all to look up. Wanstead High Street photo by Geoff Wilkinson

“Look up.” That’s the first piece of advice you are given when training as a tour guide. It is so you can show people things they haven’t seen before. Or tell them something about a building, a tree, a hill they didn’t know.  And people walking to work, to the shop, to the pub, never look up. 

Lockdown happened 48 hours after I launched my Hidden in Plain Sight London Tour Guide business. I had plenty to do in terms of ever-broadening my repertoire. Even when they are shut, there is plenty to read about on the Tower, St Paul’s, the Abbey, for my exams there next year.

But I needed something else to do. Locally, obviously. But with no people. Zoom meetings and lectures quickly raised the idea of a virtual tour. A virtual local tour. But the problem I had was that 25 years of living in Wanstead hadn’t taught me anything about the place, really. I mean I have my favourite places. The Ginger Pig, the fishmonger, Luppolo’s. And I know all the pubs. The High Street has everything but clothes shops. And even then my new second-hand policy was beginning to work in the charity shops.

But I didn’t know Wanstead like I know the City. Or Soho. Or the South Bank. How to guide it, how to explain it? How to delight and surprise people here? So, I looked up.

I saw the sundial at the Allan Burgess Centre.  I saw what looked like bits of old houses behind the British Heart Foundation shop I bought my black shirt from. I saw just how amazingly massive and majestic the sweet chestnuts on St Mary’s Avenue are. I saw what looks like the fragment of an ancient forest at the bottom of the High Street abruptly end next to the beautifully manicured memorial green. Opposite, the shops, like above Boots, are noticeably younger than… wait… above the Italian deli, “1888”.

What’s going on here?

And then I listened. “At the first tee,” said my mate, “are the craters where the wine cellars were for the old house.” What? Wine cellars at the golf club?

When you have seen things that look interesting, you know where to look then. The old houses turn out to be old Georgian houses, just like the Manor House. And the City of London runs the crazy forest, not Redbridge. The trees on St Mary’s Avenue are famous in horticultural circles. And the sundial? Well, you might have to come on a virtual or walking tour for that one!

So, I have now engaged with around 200 Wansteadians I had never met before and told them things they never knew about their home urban village. All because I looked up.  And so should you.

Chris will host a virtual tour of Wanstead on 15 July from 8pm (£5). For more information, email or follow him on Twitter @hipstoursldn

Where to now?


Wanstead Village councillors Jo Blackman, Daniel Morgan-Thomas and Paul Donovan invite you to drop a pin on the Redbridge Active Travel map and submit your thoughts about shaping a greener Wanstead and Woodford

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused terrible loss of life across the country. These have been challenging times for our community, but it has been fantastic to see people stepping up to help out in so many ways.

And many people have spent more time exploring their local area on foot and by bike.

Now, as we come out of lockdown, there is the possibility of shaping a whole new way of living. The chance to draw on some of the positives of the past three months – the reduction in pollution and carbon emissions. Silence all around. The chance to hear the birds and see the stars.

We must not let all of these gains be thrown away, with a rush to fill the skies with planes and the roads with cars in an effort to make up for loss of economic activity over the pandemic period. There is the chance now to move to a way of living that preserves and builds on some of the gains of the past three months. A transition to a way of living that helps confront that other great crisis in our midst – climate change.

We are keen to find a way to maintain and promote more forms of sustainable transport beyond the current pandemic as part of a green recovery.

The trial closure of some streets in Wanstead Village to enable social distancing could pave the way for street spaces that promote and encourage cycling and walking. Changes such as these could help us achieve those goals of a cleaner, greener way of living. An environment where both young and old can move around more freely, breathing cleaner air.

We know there is much more the council can do to improve cycle paths, walkways, junctions, improve bike storage and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

Redbridge Council wants to hear residents’ views about how we can make our streets safer and promote cycling and walking. So, please share your views and suggestions on the Redbridge Active Travel project’s interactive map.

We know from our inbox and advice service that local residents have lots of ideas about how to make our streets work better for pedestrians and cyclists. Now is the time to share those views to shape the future design of our streets, pavements and cycle paths. If you don’t speak out, nothing will change.

Covid-19 has shown how we can work together to build our communities and support each other. Let’s build on that to ensure a positive legacy for our streets, ward and borough.

To submit your suggestions on how to make Redbridge’s streets healthier and safer, visit

Community Pioneer


Diana Varakina reports on her new job as the first Co-op Member Pioneer for the Wanstead and South Woodford area, a position she believes can improve our wellbeing and build community resilience

My name is Diana, I moved to Wanstead two years ago. Right from the start, I loved the area, from the vibrant High Street to the local swans, the neighbourly and community feel, the green open spaces and Epping Forest.

After lockdown started, and with more time on my hands, I wanted to help during the pandemic. I found that Co-op was actively looking to employ people to support their local community. I applied, was selected and am now excited to be the very first Co-op Member Pioneer for the Wanstead and South Woodford area.

Co-op values and principles resonate strongly with me. People over profit, contribution, self-responsibility, democracy, equality and solidarity – these all meant I could do something for my community with a partner who believes in the same things as I do.

The Member Pioneer role is designed to increase cooperation and participation in the community, working with local colleagues, causes and members to enable great things to happen. My aim is to be a genuine local voice in the community, promoting Co-op member involvement and the Co-op values and principles. What this means in practice is connecting people and building relationships, listening to what matters to people and identifying issues affecting the community and then using Co-op’s reach and resources, as well as other local initiatives, to make a positive difference.

Co-op is the world’s largest consumer co-operative, owned by its millions of members and recognised for its social goals and community-led programmes. It’s also the UK’s fifth-largest food retailer. Many people do not know that every time members buy Co-op branded products and services, 1% of their purchase is donated to local causes in their community.

As a Member Pioneer, I am in a great position to listen to the needs of the Wanstead and South Woodford community and work alongside the residents to reach solutions that not only solve the issue, but do so in a way that empowers the local community and respects equality, human rights and the environment. Now more than ever, we’re seeing the difference these Co-op member donations are making to some amazing causes, especially those supporting people through the current crisis.

Whilst I’m new to the role, I’m excited to play a part in the community and connect with local residents, business and organisations. As we collectively face a challenging period, it is community and togetherness that can make such a difference to people’s lives.

For more information on Co-op’s Local Community Fund, email

Watch this space

DSCF6488©Geoff Wilkinson

No one can fail to have noticed something happening on the traffic island between The George pub and Wanstead Station. The strings of bunting make it look a bit like a village fete. Hardly likely! This is the final stage of a project Wanstead Community Gardeners have had in mind for some time.   

Three years ago, we took over the wider empty part of this patch with the idea of planting wild flowers there. We had a degree of success, but problems with couch grass and ivy threatened to overwhelm the area. Also, the concrete-like soil didn’t help. Last year, our councillors advised us to apply for a council grant for help with this difficult patch. We were successful but there were complications.

The real game changer came when the council cut down the shrubs which filled the long neck of the traffic island down to the traffic lights as they had become a drivers’ sight line issue. Suddenly, we realised we could use the whole bed, a much larger area. We wanted to create a flower meadow there but conditions are tough. No possibility of watering and long dry spells. Time was ticking on for seed sowing. Finally, we managed the weed eradication programme and the necessary lapse of time, but we had some serious work to do before seeds could be sown.

With the coronavirus, the traffic on the dual carriageway was minimised and there were lots of people with time on their hands.  People gave what time they had.  Keeping a cow distance apart, they dug out the shrub roots and removed decades worth of rubbish trapped in the shrubs (every spadeful of earth brought up more bits of plastic, silver paper and cellophane). The concrete soil was pickaxed to loosen it and all was raked smooth. What a project! What a lot of hard work!

We had our sights firmly fixed on the date for the next real rain. Our seeds would need that to germinate. On 27 April, the deed was done. A very tough mix of seeds sown and footed in. That night, and for the next two days, it poured with rain. The answer to our prayers. There has been little rain since then but the seedlings are growing and the first ones are flowering: Californian desert bluebell. With a name like that, it has to be tough. Watch this space!

For more information on the work of the Wanstead Community Gardeners, email

Woodford Town FC still optimistic about return to local area


Woodford Town FC’s return to the local area has been delayed by lockdown, but club officials remain optimistic they will be playing at a revamped Ashton Playing Fields by the start of next season.

“Woodford were always a big name when I was growing up, and so many people have told me about the impact the club has had on their lives. We’re doing all we can to get Woodford home and hopefully a major force again,” said club chairman Tony Scott. The club currently groundshare with Harlow FC.



Annual cake sale raises over £21k for local children’s hospice

image7Cake sale outside The Cuckfield, Wanstead

An annual cake sale in aid of Haven House Children’s Hospice raised £21,695 in June, enough to pay for more than two days of care at the Woodford Green charity.

“I am totally amazed and overwhelmed how a little idea only a few weeks ago became such a fantastic event supported by the whole community. I thought I was going to have to cancel the 15th annual cake sale – which is usually held in our house and garden – until I thought about the idea of a virtual cake sale with the possibility of a stall outside so we could confirm to social distancing rules. Almost as soon as I put the idea out on our local neighbourhood group, I was inundated with offers of help. So, very quickly it evolved into a cake trail across Wanstead, Woodford, Walthamstow, Buckhurst Hill and even Australia and the USA! It was an incredible team effort,” said Michelle Vanlint.


Not on hold


Lockdown may have prevented South Woodford resident and Samaritans volunteer Barbara Collins from meeting people face to face, but volunteers are still answering the phone … and listening

When the lockdown began, I wondered how I could continue my volunteering work with Samaritans. I joined Redbridge Samaritans about five years ago after I retired. I really appreciated the chance to meet new people and felt I was contributing something useful to the community.

Since then, I have spent about three hours a week at our Ilford centre, taking phone calls, answering emails and seeing personal callers. I have enjoyed being a leader for other volunteers and leading our recruitment team. Both the update training and the ongoing support from other volunteers have been great.

As many readers will know, Samaritans has, for many years, provided a confidential listening service for people in emotional distress. People of all backgrounds contact us about all kinds of problems. These could be depression, loneliness, stressful situations at home or work, debt or abuse. We listen, give them a chance to get it out, and talk things through. Only about one in five calls or messages are from people feeling suicidal, and the vast majority of these aren’t actively planning to end their lives. Our branch has about 70 volunteers and answers 10,000 calls a year.

During lockdown we have had to make a few adjustments. For example, we are unable to meet callers face to face. Also, some of our volunteers are self-isolating. Across the country, about 30% of Samaritans volunteers have needed to self-isolate. Arrangements have been made to allow some of us to answer Samaritans emails from home, through a secure connection. Most Samaritans have continued to go into their branches to take calls. They have been designated as essential workers, allowing them to travel. In April, Samaritans worked with other organisations to set up a confidential telephone helpline dedicated to support NHS workers.

During this time, we have appreciated the many offers from people who want to volunteer. Due to Covid-19, we had to stop our face-to-face training, but please continue to register your interest online. We will get in touch as soon as we can start training volunteers again, either in person or online.

Fundraising for branches and for Samaritans nationally is a problem as many of our usual activities are not happening: no quiz evenings or other events involving gatherings. If you would like to donate to Samaritans nationally or locally, please do so online.

And most importantly, if you need our help, don’t forget we’re here to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We listen. We won’t judge or tell you what to do.

For more information on Redbridge Samaritans, visit

If you need help, call 116 123 for free or email