Park life


In the first of a series of articles featuring the images of local photographers who document the wildlife of Wanstead Park and the surrounding area, Alessandro Riccarelli presents a montage of his shots of a kestrel in flight

I never used to be interested in photography, although my father made a living out of it. Until my father retired, I never thought I would spend time and money on it as a hobby. But in life, what you don’t find interesting now may well become a future passion!

That’s what happened to me. I love nature, so wildlife photography became my primary interest, although I shoot street scenes and portraits occasionally as well. Recording wildlife is challenging; you don’t know what you’re going to see and when, or if you are going to see anything at all!

I am based in Gants Hill and like to visit local parks. Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats are regular destinations. You can see a good variety of species in Wanstead, although unfortunately (for reasons we all know), many have disappeared. Wanstead Park is home to woodpeckers, kingfishers, herons and, of course, parakeets!

Kestrels are also fairly easy to spot, often seen hovering over grasslands hunting small rodents or large insects. Rarely do they miss a catch, so if you notice one diving, wait and you might be able to see something tucked in its talons as it rises. Pointing a camera up a tree with a kestrel perching for prolonged periods can be very tiring, and holding your equipment steady becomes difficult. When this happens, I think about professional wildlife photographers spending days, if not weeks, to get one shot, so I shouldn’t complain about half an hour!

I’m always intrigued by what will happen next and I like challenging situations. Birds of prey don’t have an easy life out there; in fact, just moments after I captured the female kestrel opposite catching her rodent prey, magpies started to chase her, trying to steal a free meal.

I thank the editor for choosing these pictures and I will be taking many more in Wanstead Park, where every outing can be unique.

To view more of Alessandro’s wildlife photos, visit


Wanstead resident explores TfL services in a series of YouTube videos


A young Wanstead resident has launched a series of YouTube videos documenting Transport for London services by postcode region.

Beginning with E11, 12-year-old Riku Fryderyk – who is also a published author – explores the landmarks of the area alongside an overview of the Tube and bus network. “Sometimes, I need to take a break from writing! Whilst my mum is looking for a literary agent for my newest book, I like to indulge in my passion for trains,” said Riku.V



Snaresbrook development: ‘we need to learn from Brent decision’

RST21How the development will compare to surrounding homes

Residents who oppose Pocket Living’s plans to build flats on Snaresbrook Station car park have drawn attention to the rejection of a similar proposal in Brent last month.

“The Planning Inspectorate upheld Brent Council’s decision, and we need to learn from this. There’s a failure to meet housing mix requirements, and road and fire safety concerns remain. This scheme is deeply flawed,” said a Real Snaresbrook campaign spokesperson. Redbridge Council will make a decision this month.



Campaign to save Wanstead Youth Centre as council considers its future


Redbridge Council is considering the future of Wanstead Youth Centre, which it claims is in need of over £2.4m of refurbishments.

A campaign to save the Elmcroft Avenue site and register it as an asset of community value has been launched.

“This is a vital facility and there is simply nowhere to relocate all the groups that meet there. We reject the council’s claim that the venue is no longer fit for purpose; the flooring and lighting have only recently been improved,” said a campaign spokesperson.

A consultation on the future use of Wanstead Youth Centre runs until 13 March.



New map shows all Tin in a Bin foodbank collection points


A new map has been released locating all the Tin in a Bin foodbank collection points.

“We now stretch to Newbury Park in the east, Forest Gate in the south and Woodford in the north. We are always looking for more collectors, so if you live in a road or area not already covered on the map and would like to join our 50-plus network, please let us know,” said James Paterson.

Current foodbank requirements include tinned food, rice, pasta, pasta sauces, jams, peanut butter, cereals and long-life milk.



More than words


Art Group Wanstead member Stella de la Sauce presents her leaf poetry artwork, which makes a statement about human language and existence

The poet RM Rilke said: “If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.“ One could argue Homo sapiens have risen. Humankind’s ingenuity has allowed us to shelter ourselves from the inhospitable sides of nature, but the unkind and destructive way in which we dominate the natural world has come at a cost. We have removed ourselves so far that we have started to regard ourselves as distinct from that of which we are ultimately a part. While we may appear to stand tall, without roots to ground us, will we eventually fall? 

I have always been fascinated by this dichotomy of the human existence and when, after a first career as a dancer, I embarked on a new creative career as a visual artist, it was this fascination that inspired my work. Nature’s resilience, the implications of our lost connection to nature and what it would take to reconnect are reoccurring themes in my art.

We don’t get wet in the rain.
We have umbrellas.
We don’t get mud between our toes.
We have shoes.
We don’t feel the storm.
We have houses.
We don’t smell the grass.
We have a job.
We don’t hug trees.
We have a life.
We have…
Lost, so much.

When I wrote this poem and typed it directly onto leaves, it was to create a symbol of the missing dialogue between us and nature, wondering if the very language that humans tend to regard as the most sophisticated form of communication around, may, in fact, be a barrier when it comes to connecting with the natural world. Since nature doesn’t speak to us on our terms, do we fail to even make an effort to understand?

Having recently joined Art Group Wanstead, tirelessly run by the fabulous Donna Mizzi, I have had the wonderful opportunity to show, amongst other works, the piece Leaf Poetry: Lost at the Wanstead Festival and at The Stow Brothers. I have been able to experience first-hand how supportive Wanstead and the Wanstead Village Directory are of their local arts community. The openness with which locals have engaged with my work has been a huge pleasure. I am looking forward to many more future conversations about art and nature with the lovely people of Wanstead.

To view more of Stella’s work, visit For more information on Art Group Wanstead, visit


History comes home

tv© Redbridge Museum

Redbridge Museum will open a new permanent exhibition in spring 2023 exploring 200,000 years of local history. In the 11th of a series of articles, Museum Officer Nishat Alam looks at some of the items on show

Happy New Year from Redbridge Museum! While we remained closed in 2022, it was a very busy year for our team. We spent time meeting with local people and collecting more stories, writing text labels and panels, and working with designers to come up with some brand-new displays telling the story of the people, places and events that make up Redbridge’s history.

Through this column, I’ve explored various themes that will feature in the new museum, from Wanstead’s Roman past and local women’s history to the difficult stories surrounding historic figures and houses in the Woodford area. While it seems as though I may have covered nearly all of Redbridge’s history in the past year, there’s still plenty I haven’t mentioned. Some of the new displays to look forward to are a new and bigger early history section, a Mini Museum for under-5s and a new roomset featuring one of the most unique objects in our collection: a 1970s Keracolor ‘Space Age’ television, pictured here.

The museum redevelopment wasn’t the only thing we were working on in 2022, of course. We opened our Asian Roots in Redbridge exhibition in April, celebrating the history of South Asian life in Redbridge, and Royal Redbridge to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in May. In June, we worked with an app developer to create an exciting augmented reality experience with a Victorian mangle from our collection, combining history and technology for Redbridge Central Library’s Tech Ilford festival.

A personal highlight for me was People Powered, a major project in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. In the summer, we held workshops with local young people and acclaimed photographer Eddie Otchere, exploring photography and the history of Ilford Limited, the world-famous photographic company. The project ended with the Ilford Limited: Analogue Stories exhibition, which opened in December and remains on show until March 2023.

Schools and families can also continue to enjoy Redbridge Museum programmes while we’re closed. Teachers across the borough can still book our popular education sessions for their year groups, taking place online or in the classroom. And anyone with children to entertain can view and download a variety of Museum from Home activities from our website. 

The good news is we don’t have too long left to go! The new Redbridge Museum, complete with old and new stories about the borough’s past, will reopen this spring. We hope that Wanstead and Woodford residents will join us to celebrate this new chapter.

For more information on Redbridge Museum and to complete a survey about the new displays, visit


Make 2023 work


This time of year, many people set self-improvement goals. But what about your business? Here, Wanstead resident and business coach Rachel Jarvis offers some guidance for New Year business resolutions

The holiday period is the perfect time to step back and plan activities to grow your business. Here are my top reasons why you should set goals to improve your business as well as yourself.

Set direction
Goals are the milestones towards your bigger vision and provide a clear roadmap to your final destination. Setting goals in all areas of your business clarifies what you are aiming for and the time frames. Once you have defined your business goals, the natural next step is to work out how you are going to achieve them. Breaking each goal down into actionable steps, and identifying who will do it and when, forms your business plan.

Prioritise time
I often hear small business owners complain they are ridiculously busy but don’t feel they are achieving anything. Unless you have a clear idea of where your efforts should be focused, it’s easy to waste your time. Having defined goals and a detailed plan focuses you on goal-relevant tasks and helps avoid unnecessary distractions. 

Aid decision-making
Having business goals and a plan also helps you make difficult decisions. Maybe you’re unsure whether to invest more time or money in a particular area of the business, hire a new recruit or develop a new product or service. Identifying your overall business goals for the next year will help in making those decisions. 

Motivate you and your team
Completing every goal, big or small, is a win and that makes achieving goals incredibly motivating for you and your employees. By using goals to shape your business, you allow yourself and your staff to have lots of these victories that keep your business on the right path toward bigger goals.

Create employee engagement
One of the biggest contributors to a lack of engagement is when employees feel like what they’re doing is meaningless. Setting goals improves employee engagement by creating a common purpose and giving employees a sense of ownership over their contributions.

Measure success and track progress
When you have specific key performance indicators, you have a much clearer measure of your success. Having goals in place will enable you to accurately track progress and determine if something needs to change. 

Once you set goals, you can break them down to the individual level. This helps maintain accountability, from leadership level all the way down to individual team members. When team members are responsible for their individual goals, it’s easy to gauge how they’re performing and when they need support.

Rachel Jarvis is an ActionCOACH business coach. Visit or call 07711 193 998


Food for thought

swan2a©Geoff Wilkinson

Friends of Wanstead Parklands member Richard Arnopp reflects on the avian influenza pandemic and addresses the ongoing debate over the rights and wrongs of feeding our local wild birds at this time. Photo of Eagle Pond by Geoff Wilkinson

Avian influenza (bird flu) has been much in the news in recent months. It belongs to the same family of viruses as human influenza (which also ultimately originated in birds and reached us via domesticated pigs). It can infect human beings but, as it is not an airborne disease, does not spread very readily. 

The roots of the present pandemic go back to 1996, when the highly pathogenic H5N1 variant of the virus was first identified in China. This was the ancestor of the variant which spread west across Eurasia to reach the British Isles in November 2021. While there are many strains that are mild, H5N1 has a high mortality rate in susceptible species. There is no vaccine and no effective treatment.

By June 2022, it was being reported that British seabird colonies had been hit hard, with thousands of birds dying and some important breeding sites being left almost deserted. Locally, bird flu was confirmed in Epping Forest in October, and there have since been dozens of fatalities among geese and swans. Epping Forest, after consultation with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), published advice to the public as soon as bird flu had been confirmed:

  • Do not feed wild birds.
  • Do not touch dead or sick birds.
  • Keep dogs away from wild birds.
  • Do not touch wild bird feathers or surfaces contaminated with wild bird droppings.

The request not to feed birds – on the grounds that it encourages flocking – proved controversial, with two local organisations taking opposing positions. The local Swan Rescue group do good work picking up injured swans and geese and arranging for their treatment and rehabilitation. They have been very active during the bird flu outbreak and have encouraged the public to feed birds on the grounds that good nutrition will help them avoid or fend off infection. The Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group, on the other hand, with which the Friends of Wanstead Parklands work closely, agree with the official advice not to feed birds at this time.

The Friends take the official position on feeding seriously. The reason we have not hitherto taken a stronger line on social media is twofold. Firstly, at the time of writing, Epping Forest is not actively enforcing its no-feeding advice. So far, the death toll on the Forest’s water bodies has been lower than feared. Until something changes, it has publicised Defra’s advice but is not taking any further steps. Secondly, although the official no-feeding advice makes perfect sense in general terms, we acknowledge the argument that local conditions may justify a different approach. In the more urbanised south of the Forest, birds have come to expect and depend on feeding, and already live in unnatural population densities because of it. This may suggest a pragmatic case for continued feeding in present circumstances. To give a specific example, the many hungry birds on Eagle Pond, off Snaresbrook Road, can only be supported by additional feeding, as natural resources are insufficient. In the short term, there is possible evidence that the extra food supplies are helping some swans to overcome this infection. However, it is too early to claim it as a success as new arrivals attracted by feeding may bring in further infections. 

In principle, the sustained, predictable feeding of wildlife is not a good thing. As well as facilitating the transmission of disease, crowding in response to human intervention has a variety of other undesirable consequences. One is that each breeding pair of swans needs access to a reasonable sized aquatic territory with sufficient natural food to raise a brood successfully. Too small an area may cause territorial battles or prevent some individuals from pairing or successful breeding. Also, swans are large birds which uproot and consume submerged aquatic vegetation. They eat between four and eight pounds of material per day, often uprooting more than they consume. Overpopulation may cause ecological damage and overfeeding may lead to pollution and rat infestations from the dumping of food. 

Of course, the reality is that people like to feed animals and birds, and the wildlife likes to be fed, so trying to stop it is an uphill struggle. In the meantime, the watchword on bird flu is still ‘wait and see’. Ecologists are doing their best to monitor the situation, but data available so far does paint a worrying picture which will only be aggravated by the arrival of more migratory birds from Europe. If Epping Forest concludes that active enforcement of the no-feeding message is required during the bird flu pandemic, we will endorse that, and hope local people will cooperate.

To report dead wild waterfowl to Epping Forest, call 020 8532 1010

For more information on the Friends of Wanstead Park, visit


Wanstead swimming pool delayed until 2024

pool©Stanley Bragg Architects

Redbridge Council has issued a statement about the delayed construction of Wanstead’s swimming pool:

“It was not possible to progress as planned during the pandemic, something that impacted many other capital projects across London. With the current rising costs of construction nationwide, we’ve had to reprocure to find the most cost-effective way of delivering the new facilities, which we expect to complete in 2024.” The 25m pool will be part of an improved Wanstead Leisure Centre on Redbridge Lane West.


Gift appeal: a ‘massive thank you’ to Wanstead from Tin in a Bin


A message from Tin in a Bin:

“A massive thank you to everyone who donated gifts to the Wanstead Christmas Gift Appeal. We would like to give a special mention to the young boy who spent all his pocket money on a present to donate. And thanks to local businesses, especially North London Loft Rooms, who have always supported us. In total, your donations provided 600-plus Christmas gifts for many charities, including Young Carers, Hestia, Mill Grove, Magpie and Alternatives Trust. Thank you, Wanstead!”


Cracking art


Art Group Wanstead member and former teacher Claire Cousins tells the story behind her Nutcracker-inspired festive artwork

©Claire Cousins

Swirling snowflakes, giant, jewel-coloured sweets, a beautiful sugar plum fairy and a proud nutcracker soldier… These are the images conjured up for me when I think of The Nutcracker, the wonderful ballet written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892. I have loved it since I was a child, always being fascinated by the spectacular imagery and the stunning music that transports me to this magical land every time I hear it. I have seen it on stage several times and it is truly captivating. There is certainly nothing better than The Nutcracker to induce that warm, Christmassy feeling!

Of course, nutcrackers were around a long time before the ballet was created and, indeed, the ballet was adapted from Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann’s story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written in 1816.

Nutcrackers originated in Germany, and started off as just that, a tool to crack nuts! Over time, they became more ornate until, one day, someone carved a soldier, and the nutcracker as we know it was born. 

Nutcrackers subsequently became a symbol of strength and bravery, believed to ward off evil spirits if placed outside the door and bringing good luck to the homeowner in turn. But it wasn’t until Tchaikovsky wrote his ballet and brought the story to life that they became associated with Christmas and began to adorn homes over the festive period.

I have had a passion for art my whole life, and my loving dad, who was a wonderful artist, encouraged my artistic talent from a young age. I always dreamed of pursuing art in one way or another, but I also wanted to be a primary school teacher and was lucky enough to achieve this. Of course, as a teacher, I was able to indulge my creative side and did so at every available opportunity. I not only taught art as much as I could, but also became the art coordinator and ran an after-school art club, which I loved.

With a busy career and then two gorgeous children coming along, I didn’t get a lot of time to pursue my passion: painting. Then, four years ago, I came out of teaching to become a private tutor, and alongside that, took up painting again, and I’m so glad I did!

When it came to Christmastime, I wanted to create some festive pieces, and it didn’t take long to come up with the idea of painting nutcracker soldiers. Here is the result, with my signature additions of glitter and collage elements, making them that little bit different and unique.

Wishing you all a very peaceful, nutcracker-filled Christmas!

For more information and to view more of Claire’s art, visit