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Features

Cows come home

DSCF3300©Geoff Wilkinson

Quinny, Nina and Naru are the first cows to be allowed to step hoof in Wanstead Park in 150 years. Geoff Sinclair, Head of Operations at Epping Forest, explains why the City of London Corporation’s cattle-grazing trial is good news for wildlife conservation. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson   

Cows began roaming in Wanstead Park last month for the first time in 150 years. Residents may recall cows in the area more recently, but that was on Wanstead Flats, where they roamed freely until the mid-1990s, although occasionally some may have ventured into the park before being moved on by the keepers. The park is not common land, so there was no right to graze in it. The City of London Corporation, which manages the Grade II* park, has now put selected cattle from its 200-strong herd out to graze as part of a two-month trial, continuing this month.

The pilot is part of a plan to use cattle to better manage and to restore the acid grasslands in the area for wildlife conservation.

Initially, three cows have been introduced: Quinny, Nina and Naru. Two of them are in calf, with the births expected in November, when they will be back in their winter quarters (on a farm near Theydon Bois). If all goes well, the eastern part of The Plain could carry up to 10 cows in future years for late-summer grazing in August and September. The Glade is another potential site.

Although acid grassland is scattered across 27 of the 32 London boroughs, it is mostly now in small fragmented and vulnerable remnants. Wanstead Park, taken together with nearby Wanstead Flats, is one of only four remaining large sites in London (which include Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath).

As well as rare plant species, Wanstead Park’s acid grassland supports a great diversity of insects and spiders. Butterfies abound – especially small heath, small copper and common blue. These species like the hot ground conditions in the summer and autumn and rely on a mix of tussocks, short grass, bare ground and overwintering dead stalks and leaves to complete their life cycles.  Grazing is the best form of management for this type of habitat to maintain this variety and prevent loss to scrub encroachment. Although such encroachment can take many decades because of the drought-prone, nutrient-poor soils, it is now at a point in Wanstead Park that the core of the acid grassland could be lost. Once scrub like broom establishes, it can change the soil and pull in nutrients, which allow in taller, commoner grasses. Grazing is particularly important for the park because to mow with machinery would destroy one of the main features of wildlife interest, the yellow meadow ant hills.

A team of volunteers and staff will be closely monitoring the cows’ welfare and encouraging visitors to admire – but not feed or approach – the cattle.

GPS-collar technology is being used, which helps contain the cows by emitting audio signals when they reach a virtual boundary. Location reports are provided at 15-minute intervals, with instant push notifications if the alarm is activated. The boundaries of the area for the cattle follows natural barriers, such as the Perch Pond and lines of trees, which the cows will learn to recognise.

This pilot will help identify better ways to protect Wanstead Park’s historic views at the same time as conserving a wide range of species and supporting an even better ecological balance at the site.

For more information, click here
Features

Why can’t you see me?

gw-1Grace during one of her perfomances

Wanstead teenager Grace Wolstenholme invites you to watch her YouTube channel for an insight into her life with cerebral palsy. In the second of a series of articles, the aspiring actor talks about Chicken Shed Theatre

I’ve been acting from the age of seven at Chicken Shed Theatre. I started in children’s theatre and took part in some Christmas shows, then I moved up to youth theatre and took part in a few more performances. My favourite show was Feel The Love because it was about all kinds of love and saying everyone’s equal, but I especially enjoyed the nightclub scene because I love a good party!

Chicken Shed changed my life. Before joining, I hated leaving the house as I was embarrassed for people to see me because I was ‘different’. Every time my mum tried to get me out of the house I would have a meltdown. I actually remember her forcing me to sit in my car seat to get me to my primary school, and one day, I was so strong she couldn’t physically get me in the car!

Then Chicken Shed called saying there was a space for me. My mum was in shock because she heard the waiting time can be up to 10 years. The reason I got in so quickly was because my mum took me to the children’s workshops on the weekends and they saw how bad I was. They thought Chicken Shed would really help build my confidence so they invited me to a week called Summer Shed. I remember kicking, hitting and biting my mum when she was trying to get me into the room. The lady in charge was expecting me, so when she heard screaming and crying, she knew I was there and came over. I even kicked her. Then she introduced me to my one-to-one and I went to the group, but I didn’t join in.

After a few months of going, I started getting more confident. After a year, you couldn’t get me away from Chicken Shed. I was enjoying it so much. I was only seven, but from that age, I knew I belonged and fitted in and I went to my primary school saying I was leaving and going to school at Chicken Shed, but that wasn’t true because it’s a college.

I went to a special needs secondary school,  which at the time was the best school, but after two years of being there it really changed. When I started, most people were like me, physically disabled, not mentally disabled. But that changed and most people were mentally disabled, so again, I just wanted to study at Chicken Shed. I was 14, so I still couldn’t go, and it got to a point where I wouldn’t go to school because I didn’t fit in.

Because my school was attached to a mainstream school, I used to talk to the ‘mainstream’ pupils through the fence. Then at the age of 15, I applied for Chicken Shed, and one day after school I got home to a letter saying I had an interview. My school did everything they could to help because I was quite naughty there, so the staff couldn’t wait to get rid of me! Three months later, I got another letter saying I got in. So, June last year I left school and started college. I finally felt I was getting somewhere in life.

To watch Grace’s videos about life with cerebral palsy, visit wnstd.com/grace
Features

Park & ride?

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Redbridge Cycling is keen to hear your feedback on proposals to open new cycle routes through Wanstead Park. Gill James and Haydn Powell report on an often contentious subject

The last few months have been tough for everyone, so it is good to have silver linings. During lockdown, Wanstead Park was a haven to those wishing to get some fresh air and exercise. Park wardens report a 122% rise in visitor numbers.

For the climate crisis, the exponential growth in the popularity of cycling has been another real positive.

At present, a 1950s by-law restricts cycling in the park to a 200m stretch from the entrance at Wanstead Park Avenue up to the tea hut, then bearing left along the north-eastern edge of the Heronry Pond. Cycling is forbidden in all other parts of the park, but the signposting is, at best, erratic.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands Facebook page witnessed some lively discussion, including complaints about cyclists not sticking to the sole designated route. Offline, users have also reported more serious incidents, including an altercation between a cyclist and a dog walker, and bikes being ridden in Chalet Wood, home to a notable colony of bluebells, which are easily damaged by trampling.

Since the park’s keepers began returning to work, the by-laws have been more rigorously enforced, notably around the Ornamental Water, where cycling is off limits.

At a meeting in July, the Friends of Wanstead Parklands committee members discussed the possibilities of expanding cycling in the park. The current situation is an area of dissatisfaction for all parties. Cycling has become a free-for-all, which is antagonising some pedestrians. In contrast, government and local council support for increased use of bikes has stoked demand for improved cycle routes through the park.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands committee supported, in principle, the opening up of a shared-use route between the gate at Wanstead Park Avenue to the gate at Warren Road. This would make a good general ‘artery’ route for crossing the park.

Other proposed shared routes which Redbridge Cycling would like considered are:

The wide path between the River Roding and the Ornamental Water, connecting Warren Road with an entry from the Ilford side of the park. This route is good for family cycling.

A small section of pathway from the southern tip of the Ornamental Lake to the tea hut, north of Perch Pond. This would complete a circular leisure cycle route, which would be a tremendous benefit to safe family cycling. Resurfacing would also improve access for wheelchair users.

Redbridge Cycling wants to hear your views on the concept of new cycling routes around Wanstead Park.

To submit your views on the concept of new cycling routes around Wanstead Park, email wansteadpark.org.uk@gmail.com or leave your comments on the Friends of Wanstead Parklands Facebook page at wnstd.com/fwp
Features

The power of fed-uppery

L1220631©Geoff Wilkinson

When Wanstead residents get fed up with something unsightly in their neighbourhood, they do something about it. It’s the power of fed-uppery, as Marian Temple knows only too well. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson

The only reason Wanstead has its cottage garden at the Corner House is that someone got fed up. That someone was me in April 2003. Just once too often, I walked past the patch of waist-high weeds and takeaway rubbish bin the garden had become. Something had to be done. It was. Just me and my mates at first, with the agreement of the council and backup of the Wanstead Society. A garden emerged that has been Wanstead’s iconic High Street cottage garden for the past 17 years.

In 2017, Daniel Slipper got fed up with the litter strewn over Wanstead’s greens and open spaces. He did something about it. The monthly litter picks were born and are now continued by our local councillors. What a difference that has made! How much better it would be if the strewing didn’t happen in the first place, but that’s another story.

In April this year, in the middle of a heatwave that has been waving for most of this summer, Peta Jarmey, one of our community gardeners, got fed up with walking past a derelict patch of weeds and rubbish that could have been a delightful flower bed. Déjà vu? Certainly.

The patch in question is the one pictured here – a long bed, 20 metres or so, that runs along the footpath connecting Cambridge Park with the roads that were cut off when the new road was put into a tunnel under George Green. It’s the Belgique end of the green and is backed by a rather handsome wall beneath which the traffic plunges into the tunnel.

Transport for London built the road, the tunnel, the wall and the flower bed. They forgot to do anything with the flower bed, and for the past 20-odd years, footpath users have walked past a strip of weeds and rubbish. Enter thoroughly fed-up Wanstead Community Gardener Peta, who walked past this dismal patch just once too often. The power of fed-uppery kicked in.

A hot April is not an ideal time to create a new flower bed, especially where there is no source of water. However, you can’t keep a good gardener down. Litter and weeds out, soil dug over, easy-going plants put in from Peta’s own garden, the Corner House garden and those of various locals who left their donations on the patch. Against all the odds, the new plants thrived, watered by a pocket army of well-wishers who brought water in plastic bottles  at the end of each hot day. They wanted this patch of flowers to do well… and it did.

It doesn’t take very long to create a garden. In less than three months, the Belgique bed was up and running. Thanks to the nearby Kindred Nursery we now have a source of water. Good-tempered plants are flowering and golden hop scrambling up the wall. There are a few empty spaces. They will be filled. Welcome to Wanstead’s latest perennial border.

Let’s drink a toast to the power of fed-uppery.

For more information on the work of the Wanstead Community Gardeners and to get involved, visit wnstd.com/wcg
News

Wanstead Kinema to return with a screening of The Lorax

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Despite the Wanstead Fringe being cancelled this year, the popular Wanstead Kinema will return on 11 September.

“Every year, the Kinema is the most atmospheric event in the Wanstead calendar. We’re showing Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, which, I think, is a modern classic. It has a powerfully inspiring message for young and old about the difference everyone can make,” said organiser Giles Wilson. The screening will take place at Wanstead Cricket Club on Overton Drive from 6.30pm (adults: £7.50; children: £3.50).

Visit wnstd.com/lorax

News

Healthwatch Redbridge: coronavirus information gathering survey

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Healthwatch Redbridge is seeking feedback from local residents about their experiences of NHS health and social care services during the pandemic.

“We are in regular contact with hospitals and adult social care services across Redbridge, receiving updates on how they are working during this time and what systems and changes they are making to services. We will use the responses to ensure local concerns are identified early and passed on to the appropriate services. Let your voice be heard,” said a spokesperson.

Visit wnstd.com/hr

News

Lockdown neighbourly chats give rise to new Snaresbrook grow zone

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A new grow zone has been established in a private communal garden in Snaresbrook as an extension of the Wild Wanstead project.

“Our zone is on the Rivenhall Estate opposite Eagle Pond. It was inspired by seeing other grow zones and through setting up a neighbourly WhatsApp chat during lockdown. It didn’t take much for the residents of Brooksglade to agree to leave an unmowed area on the communal lawn and we look forward to planting some wild flowers in the spring,” said resident Tina Nieman Da Costa.

News

Keeping Wanstead Park’s lakes filled is ‘simply impossible at present’

The-Grotto-2020cmykThe Grotto on the west bank of the Ornamental Water last month and, inset, in 2015. ©Jennifer Baptist

The state of Wanstead Park’s lakes has prompted an increasing clamour on social media in recent weeks.

“Local people have watched in dismay as the Ornamental Water is drying up,” said Richard Arnopp of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands.

Water is currently being pumped into the lake system from the park’s borehole for 16 hours a day, alternating between Heronry Pond and Perch Pond.

“Despite this pumping, levels remain low in the Heronry Pond, and not enough water is reaching the Ornamental Water via Perch Pond even to stabilise it. Sadly, there are no easy fixes. A few years ago, the City of London commissioned a survey of the lakes, and an assessment of dams is due soon. This will form the core of a proposed project to restore the park, but this is not expected to start until 2024. Massive leakage and inadequate water inputs mean keeping the lakes filled is simply impossible at present.”

News

Spruce up the area with the council’s Big Bulb Giveaway

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Redbridge Council is giving away over 40,000 spring-flowering bulbs to help improve local neighbourhoods.

“The bulbs are being given out in time for Redbridge’s Big Planting Weekend, taking place between 16 and 18 October. The borough-wide planting movement encourages people to plant their bulbs in spaces that benefit the local community,” said a spokesperson. Community groups, residents and schools can request the bulbs by completing an online form by 20 September.

Visit swvg.co.uk/bulbs20

Features

Ward off Crime

JN-SNTOfficers from Wanstead SNT

Ward Panels in Wanstead and South Woodford are keen to welcome a wider diversity of members from their respective communities to help support neighbourhood policing. Elaine Atkins reports

At the end of July, Redbridge residents were invited to attend a live webinar hosted by the Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, and the Borough Commander, Stephen Clayman. 

The importance of the partnership between the police and the council in tackling crime and antisocial behaviour was highlighted – but so too was the vital role of the general public in being the local ‘eyes and ears’ for reporting issues.   

Across the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), each ward has a dedicated Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT) – a team of MPS officers who work closely with our communities to be able to establish local policing priorities and keep us safe. The wider area of ‘South Woodford’ covers both the Churchfields and South Woodford wards, while ‘Wanstead’ includes the Wanstead Village and Wanstead Park wards. Each ward has its own SNT, with three Dedicated Ward Officers, consisting of two Constables and a Police Community Support Officer – all supervised by a Sergeant and an Inspector.

Each ward has its own Ward Panel drawn from those who live, work or learn in the ward. The panel sets out to represent the whole community, including residents’ associations, faith groups, schools, businesses and community groups, to be able to engage with the SNT. Problem solving is at the heart of all neighbourhood policing, and engagement with the community helps to provide long-term solutions to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. The aim is for the diversity within each panel to represent the diversity within each ward, to be able to give everybody a say in deciding local policing priorities that affect us all. This can be a challenge, however, and attracting panel members from all age groups, genders, faiths and cultures isn’t easy.

Our Ward Panels normally meet four times a year. Our SNT officers attend as observers – bringing data on crime and general information – as do ward councillors, Neighbourhood Watch ward coordinators and officers from Redbridge. Residents and community representatives are often invited to observe the work of the panel, especially if they are considering becoming a member.

At each Ward Panel meeting, opinions and concerns are expressed by the community through the panel members and the sectors they represent. Crime statistics and police reports are considered for the panel to be able to agree on a priority for their SNT, which is reviewed at the next meeting.

We are encouraging people from all cultures, faiths, genders and age groups to learn more about the panels and, hopefully to join us in shaping the local area. There are varying levels of involvement available, with the Wanstead Park panel currently seeking a new chair.

South Woodford Ward Panel
Chair: Sadayeen Khan
Email: sadayeen.khan@gmail.com

Churchfields Ward Panel
Chair: Elaine Atkins
Email: atkins@btinternet.com

Wansdtead Village Ward Panel
Chair: Mairéad O’Riordan
Email: oriordan_m@yahoo.co.uk