Wanstead Climate Action conducts plastic survey at local coffee shops


As part of the Plastic Free July campaign, Wanstead Climate Action carried out a survey of nine coffee shops on or near the High Street to rate their efforts in reducing plastic waste.

“Responses ranged from ‘couldn’t care’ to ‘you won’t find plastic here’. La Bakerie, Bare Brew and City Place Coffee came out on top, offering discounts if you bring your own cup. Some shops have plans to source glass bottled drinks, and City Place even grow their own micro herbs,” said a spokesperson.



Summer of Kindness


Elsa Arnold, founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative, talks about her summer projects in aid of charity and invites local children to spread joy in the community over the holidays

This summer, I am organising three key projects, each of which will help raise much-needed funds for Haven House Children’s Hospice, which looks after children and young people from birth who have life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.

First up, I have launched a new Spreading Kindness Summer Challenge 2021. This is aimed at four- to 13-year-olds who would like to get involved with spreading some joy, positivity and kindness through our community over the summer holidays by completing six tasks over six weeks. It’s a chance for kids to get creative, help support the local community, get their voices heard and have some of their work showcased in our community kids’ magazine at the end, which will celebrate some of the wonderful tasks completed by the children over the holidays.

We will provide lots of tips and resources along the way to help the young participants complete each task and enjoy taking part. It’s definitely something not to miss! And as a thank you and congratulations for joining in, everyone who gets involved will receive a bag full of treats and surprises, as well as an awesome medal and a certificate.

To take part, we are asking for a minimum £6 donation towards the Haven House fundraiser. Please make sure you only use the links we provide to donate so your contribution can be tracked.

I really hope to see as many children taking part as possible. We are also very grateful to Martin & Co for sponsoring this new project.

Secondly, I am very excited to be able to bring back my Year 6 to Year 7 transition workshops for 2021. These sessions are returning for their fifth year and I’ve got a few more options this time, which include: online (via Zoom) mixed workshops, online workshops with a group of friends and garden workshops with friends. Spaces are filling up fast, so do get in touch if you would like to take part.

The workshops are free, but voluntary contributions to the Haven House fundraiser would be gratefully received.

And last but not least, I am also taking on a three-day trek of Mont Blanc for the wonderful hospice, which will see us walk through France, Italy and Switzerland at the beginning of September. I am so excited about this and to be able to do it for such a fantastic charity, which I know is hugely admired throughout the community.

I’ve got lots going on this summer and can’t wait to see lots of you involved!

To sign up for the summer challenge, visit To contact Elsa, email


Epping Forest committee authorises cycling throughout Wanstead Park

DSC_0071©Haydn Powell

The Epping Forest and Commons Committee has approved a decision to allow cycling throughout Wanstead Park.

It follows a consultation earlier this year in which over two thirds of respondents (675 responses) were in favour of allowing cycling across the whole park. Previously, a 1930s byelaw restricted cycling to one path. “We ask cyclists to observe the cycling code of conduct, stick to the paths and note any areas that remain restricted, such as historic or ecologically sensitive areas,” said a spokesperson.



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 fifth of a series of articles looking at each species in turn, Susie Knox is in awe of the stag beetle

As insects go, stag beetles are about as impressive as they get – easily holding their own against some of the weird and wonderful invertebrates found in tropical parts of the world. They live in woods, hedgerows, parks and gardens. Stag beetles look scary but pose no threat to humans! They’re rare to see, so if you spot one, you are very lucky.

Adult male stag beetles are 3.5–7.5cm long, with large, antler-like jaws. The females don’t have these mandibles but still grow up to 5cm in size. The males display their massive jaws to attract females and duel with their rivals. Stag beetles can live up to seven years, but they spend most of that time underground in their larval stage. Even the larvae of male stag beetles have large jaws!

When ready to mature, stag beetles build an egg-shaped cocoon in the soil, up to 20cm below ground. It can be as large as an orange and take up to three weeks to construct. Within the cocoon, the larva pupates and turns into its adult form. After spending winter and spring in the soil, adult beetles emerge above ground from mid-May onwards to mate. By the end of August, most of them will be dead. Look out for females on the ground searching for a place near rotting wood to lay their eggs. Males tend to be seen flying on the hunt for a mate.

Stag beetles have declined in Europe and are red-listed in many countries. They are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and are a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Stag beetles are suffering from loss of habitat. The UK has lost much of its native broad-leaved woodland and the decaying wood they need is often removed to make things look tidy. Stag beetles are found in areas of southern England, but fewer are recorded in east London than other parts of the capital, particularly in the south and west. In Wanstead, they are rarely seen, and are less frequently encountered than their not-quite-so impressive cousins, the lesser stag beetle. The City of London is aware of the need to leave decaying wood, a key habitat for so many species, including the stag beetle. As such, stag beetle sightings are probably a good indicator of the health of many other species locally – which is why the lack of them in Wanstead is so concerning.

How to help:

  • When out and about, leave old stumps and deadwood alone. Female stags lay their eggs in rotting log piles, old fence posts and the roots of various rotten trees, including oak, apple, ash and cherry.
  • Build a log pyramid for stags in your garden. Find out how at
  • If you’re mulching any of your flower beds, use untreated woodchip, which can also provide ideal habitat for females to lay their eggs in and a food supply for the larvae.
  • Create an area of wild lawn. Mow once a year in late summer and remove the cuttings (this will help wild flowers naturalise).

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


Coming out of the shadows

20210529_182646©Leila Skye

Moving to Wanstead four years ago was a creative turning point for Art Group Wanstead Member Leila Skye, who takes inspiration from local scenes

I was born in Forest Gate 72 years ago. I come from a creative background and very much lived under the shadow of my father’s artistic family. My Uncle Maurice was an artist in Whitechapel in the 1930s. His sketches appeared in the Evening Standard and his paintings are in the Cardiff Museum, highlighting the miners’ plight during the war years. His commercial work also appeared in the comics Eagle, Bunty and Judy in the 1950s and 1960s.

My life as a young artist, from the age of nine, was disrupted many times due to my parents’ own restless lifestyle, until the age of 16. I had been to eight different schools by the age of 15, with undiagnosed dyslexia.

At 17, I followed in my uncle’s footsteps and enrolled in evening classes at St Martin’s School of Art. My charcoal life drawings were very well received. But life took over and in those days I had to work. I feel I never found my voice educationally until 1994 when I was in my late 40s and gained a BA Hons in social and developmental psychology with the help of a scribe. After bringing up my daughter, I returned to work, but encountered mobility issues by the time I was in my late 50s.

I dipped in and out of the art world, but never found my way creatively until 2017, when I moved to Wanstead. My life, I guess, was character building.

Since living in Wanstead, I have revisited my interest in art. During lockdown, I enrolled in mixed media painting online courses and that kept me busy whilst still learning. I’m also on the patient panel at Whipps Cross Hospital, my way of giving something back over the last 14 years because of what I gained in mobility through numerous spinal surgeries and hip replacements there.

Lockdown had a silver lining for me. I have since found my creative voice and a distraction from my chronic pain conditions. It’s been – and still is – a marvellous therapy. I’ve undertaken virtual courses and workshops to develop that voice. Despite my life’s challenges, I love experimenting with painting.

Much of my art is of the High Street or other local areas. I’m developing a body of work in expressive and intuitive mark-making as a way to respond to my surroundings. The local community may see me around on Tarzy Wood or in Wanstead Park, sketching.

I sold four paintings in two weeks when Lillies of Wanstead kindly allowed me to use their window to display my work during the last art trail. The experience gave me the confidence to continue well into lockdown. I also enjoy designing greetings cards for family and friends.

I’m now a grandmother as well as a mother, and am pleased to say both generations have a stable lifestyle, unlike mine. But since moving to Wanstead, I’ve never been so happy. I’m coming out of the shadows. And sometimes, that takes a lifetime. And now?… I’m staying in one place.


Character building

Acr801471757464961503562Aldersbrook Conservation Area

As Redbridge Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Planning Enforcement, Councillor Sheila Bain (Wanstead Park, Labour) explains why the Aldersbrook Conservation Area was extended last year

Redbridge has many areas of historic or architectural interest, and protecting these is an important function of the planning system, achieved through the designation of Conservation Areas.   

Conservation Areas have extra planning rules applied to them to help preserve or enhance their character and protect their settings. The designation of these areas is a vitally important way of protecting and improving the borough’s heritage, and serves to protect the environment and biodiversity. Designating a Conservation Area does not mean prohibiting development but ensures changes are carefully managed to safeguard the appearance of the area.   

There are 16 conservation areas in Redbridge. They are supported by design guidance, which gives advice on how to make improvements to homes in an acceptable way. Local planning authorities are required to periodically review the character and boundaries of Conservation Areas and publish proposals for their preservation and enhancement, and this was most recently carried out in the Aldersbrook Conservation Area and Lake House Estate.

This area of Edwardian housing is one of the most noteworthy examples in the borough.  Our review showed that many alterations and extensions had taken place to properties over the years, resulting in the loss of Edwardian features. Permitted development rights (where planning permission isn’t needed) had allowed owners to undertake additional works to properties which had a major negative impact on the character of the area as a whole.

Following consultation with residents, the boundary of the Aldersbrook Conservation Area was extended to include the Lake House Estate, and the council introduced an Article 4 Direction to tackle the adverse impacts on the area by household development. This was the course of action most supported by residents, many of whom had strong concerns about the condition of the area.

The Article 4 Direction requires that planning permission be obtained for certain, normally exempt, building works. For example, replacing windows, roof coverings, work to porches and removing boundary walls with loss of front gardens. The aim is to prevent further erosion of the area’s Edwardian character, to encourage restoration and to ensure new work preserves or enhances the character and appearance of the area. The objective is to keep the area’s architectural heritage intact and the environment green, which has added benefits for biodiversity.

As Cabinet Member for Planning and Planning Enforcement, I’m proud to be involved in protecting our architectural heritage and environment for the enjoyment and benefit of the community and future generations.

To contact Councillor Sheila Bain, email


Bluebell review: small tweak for next year to better protect the flowers

bluebells--1©Collette Curry

A review of the bluebell season – with specific attention to protecting the flowers from being trampled – took place at a meeting of the Wanstead Park Liaison Group last month.

“Given the large visitor numbers this year and the impossibility of policing the area, the consensus was that the informal barriers had worked well. However, licenced bushcraft activities in the wigwam area had led to some local trampling, so that may be moved elsewhere in future years,” said a spokesperson.


Gardens are back

fullsizeoutput_3dcMerlin Road

Judith McCann of the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society introduces the group’s second annual open garden event, with 17 creative spaces to explore across the Aldersbrook and Lakehouse Estates

On Sunday 11 July, Aldersbrook Horticultural Society will be holding its second open gardens. The event – postponed from last year – will see 17 gardens across the Aldersbrook and Lakehouse Estates open from 12 noon to 5pm.

We are excited to be extending the trail to the Lakehouse Estate and have three gardens opening on Belgrave Road, ranging from a small garden that has evolved naturally, to larger gardens with trees, shrubs, lawns, flower beds and a pond.

On Aldersbrook Estate there is a range of gardens opening, many for the first time. Neighbours Sonya and Ray in Wanstead Park Avenue are opening their gardens together; a testament to their friendship is the open access to each other’s garden through a gap in the fence. Both spaces are beautiful and individual, while linking well together.

In Westmorland Close (entrance via Arran Drive), you will find a small garden – designed by Gosia Rokicka and her friends from Permablitz London – created with dogs, wildlife and a good use of space in mind: it has fruit trees, climbers, herbs, a lawn, a frog and hedgehog area, bird box, bicycle racks, table, hammock, and even a foldable desk for the summer office. Come and see for yourself!

Old favourites from our first garden trail include the pop-up pizza restaurant. “We are looking forward to welcoming you again to Aldersbrook’s own pop-up, open-air pizza restaurant serving simple but delicious homemade pizzas from the wood-burning oven in our garden, with all proceeds going to the day’s charities. Pizza eating is not compulsory; you are welcome to come and enjoy the curves, texture, sound and scent of our garden, and to see what has been done to this typical terraced house plot,” said Carolyn Jones of Empress Avenue.

Sunderland Community Garden at the end of Empress Avenue has evolved enormously over the past year and is always worth a visit. This communal allotment provides a social space for local residents to meet, share knowledge and grow plants. Individuals use the space at their own leisure but the group meet twice a week (Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm and Sunday from 12 noon to 2pm) to grow things together. If you’d like to get involved, come and join us.

Many of the open gardens will also be selling refreshments and plants, and all money raised will go to charity: Cancer Research, CHAOS (an East End charity that sends local children on holiday), Allotments for the Homeless and Seeds for Rwanda.

Gardens will open from 12 noon to 5pm on 11 July. Tickets: £5 (accompanied children free; single ticket for all gardens; buy tickets on the day from the first garden). For a list of gardens, visit


New electric vehicle charging points across Wanstead and South Woodford

IMG_6763Halstead Road

A total of 18 new electric vehicle charging points have been installed across Wanstead and South Woodford, adding to the 13 already in place.

“The move is designed to encourage the wider use of electric vehicles to help reduce levels of air pollution in the capital and reduce the borough’s carbon footprint,” said a Redbridge Council spokesperson. A community electric charging hub has also been installed in the Mulberry Way car park in South Woodford.



A lot to lose

b62727b5-e7e8-4322-a3e9-33b149907500Members of Sprout There! on their allotment

In the second of a series of articles by plot holders at the Redbridge Lane West allotments in Wanstead, Deborah Williams of Sprout There! explains the importance of the site for adults with learning disabilities

Sprout There! is a plot to plate horticultural project for adults with learning disabilities – part of Ilford-based charity Uniting Friends – situated at the Redbridge Lane West allotments. We share this historic site with other allotmenteers, tending our plots adjacent to the A12. It is a hidden gem, important not just for our vegetable growing but for the incredible biodiversity it supports.

We began 10 years ago as a lottery-funded initiative to engage people with learning disabilities in the entire process of fruit and vegetable cultivation, harvesting, eating more healthily and learning skills for personal development. We offer art and craft activities on site and create cosmetics incorporating some of the plants grown. We have also led workshops for children from local special schools. The service we run on this site is a key part of the charity’s business, which supports its running costs, including the employment of staff and trainees with learning disabilities.

The benefits of gardening and nature have been well researched for mental and physical well-being, and for our members, it is a vital ‘green gym’ for individuals who can have an array of complex support needs. For some, it is learning about gardening and provides employment opportunities; for others, it is being part of a supportive social group in a relaxing and beautiful environment.

During lockdown, coronavirus impacted us all, but for some people with learning disabilities, it was disproportionately devastating. They were six times more likely to die from covid-19 than the rest of the population. As an organisation, we were very aware of their vulnerability, and the project was able to provide a safe space to counter boredom and feelings of social isolation by reconnecting with each other and nature.

Now, we are under a different threat from the gas company Cadent, who want to use the allotment area while they make repairs on their adjoining site. As I write this, we are still unsure of the details, but many of the plots could be destroyed. The ramifications for all of us and the wildlife would be catastrophic.

The charity’s members, staff and volunteers are all anxious about the potential loss of the site. Mark thinks: “There won’t be anything left. No plants, no veg. We have a fox den and the birds and the nests would be gone.” Mike has been at Sprout There! from the start: “It’s been brilliant. I’m always learning and pick up ideas.” Tony, who is an experienced gardener, loves nature: “Animals have a right to live. You would kill their habitat.” He also thinks the plot is: “Great for… meeting people and chatting. It helps with anxiety.” And Daren speaks for many: “We’ve been coming here for years and we can’t turn our back on it. Everything we’ve done here would count for nothing.”

For more information on Sprout There!, visit To view the petition to save the allotments, visit


School Streets scheme to launch in Wanstead and Aldersbrook


Redbridge Council’s School Streets scheme is to be introduced at Wanstead Church School and Aldersbrook Primary School.

“Under the initiative, streets surrounding the schools taking part will be closed to vehicles for approximately one hour at the start and end of the school day, during term time, to eliminate dangerous traffic hotspots,” said a spokesperson. Cameras will be installed at School Streets sites over the summer to assess traffic flow, and enforcement will start from September.



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 fourth of a series of articles looking at each species in turn, Liz Ranger explores how to help the beautiful common blue butterfly

It’s depressing when a butterfly that used to be so abundant it has the word ‘common’ in its name now needs our help to survive and thrive. But that’s the situation in Wanstead for the common blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus).

The common blue takes its name from the male of the species, which is bright and easy to spot with vivid violet-blue upper wings with a grey-beige underside. Their wingspan is about 3.5cm. The females are less obvious, and in southern England, their upper wings are often almost completely brown.

Although the common blue butterfly is widespread and its conservation priority is classed as low, in places around the UK there are local declines in its range – and Wanstead is an example of that.

Locally, the best places to see it are areas of unmown grassland in Wanstead Park and on Wanstead Flats, but numbers in both locations have declined. Common blues need plenty of long grass where the wild flowers on which both the caterpillars and adults rely for food can thrive. They can live on road verges, meadowland, woodland clearings and in gardens and cemeteries.

In places like Wanstead – where residential gardens are one of the main habitats for local wildlife – common blues are up against it as more and more land is developed and lawns are swapped for paving and artificial grass.

Now is a good time to see common blues. There are two broods of butterflies each year (or even three if it’s warm) flying in May or June and again in August or September. Before emerging, the butterflies spend around two weeks in their chrysalis, which is olive-green or brown in colour and is formed on, or very close to, the ground by a food plant. The adults may live for around three weeks and females lay eggs that hatch after a week or two. The caterpillars are short, green and furry and may pupate either in late summer or not until the following spring – so are around for much of the year. Like many other species, common blue caterpillars secrete substances containing a nutrient that attracts ants. In return, the ants help protect the caterpillar from predators.

How to help:

  • Plant bird’s-foot-trefoil and white clover in your garden for the caterpillars – they’re pretty wild flowers that will tumble out of pots or can help spread over paving to green it up.
  • Let an area of your lawn grow long and naturalise with wild flowers.
  • Create a beautiful ‘butterfly border’ packed with flowers loved by the adult insects. Find out how to do it at Adult common blue butterflies drink nectar from flat-headed flowers, white and red clovers, knapweeds, ragworts and thistles.
  • Use the edges of your garden to create a habitat where the caterpillars can shelter during winter. Grow ivy over fences – it’s a wonderful plant for wildlife – or add a row of native shrubs along your boundaries.
  • Never use pesticides and lobby the council to stop using them.

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