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Features

Aldersbrook gardens

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Four gardens on the Aldersbrook Estate will be open to the public on 4 July as part of the National Garden Scheme. Ruth Martin, Chair of the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society, takes a look at each

My own garden at 4 Empress Avenue is divided into two sections by a laurel hedge. The bottom part of the garden, which was previously a vegetable patch, is being rewilded with a bramble area, log piles and wild flower patches. It also has a pond, fruit trees and bushes, and a cutting garden. The borders in the top section are designed on the basis of colour, with a hot border of reds, oranges and purples. Opposite, there is a blue and yellow bed, and beside each of the coloured beds is a white bed, which do well as these areas are more shady.

The garden at 1 Clavering Road is an end-of-terrace garden that benefits from having a sunny aspect for the majority of the day. Additional space to the side has allowed the opportunity to create a kitchen garden using reclaimed wood for raised beds. A redundant children’s play area has provided ample space for a chicken coop, and several surrounding mature trees give plenty of shade and protection for the hens in all weather conditions. Excess produce from the kitchen garden and fruit trees is much appreciated by the hens, who reciprocate by laying eggs daily and producing manure for the compost bin, which is recycled back into the garden.

The 80-foot garden at 21 Park Road comprises three ‘rooms’. The first, nearest the house, has a tear-shaped lawn surrounded by beds containing evergreen shrubs for structure and perennials in mainly blues, mauves and purples. The fences are covered with climbers including white roses, jasmine and clematis. A curving brick path then leads you through a long pergola covered with more roses, clematis and vines beside a magnolia tree, which provides shade for pulmonaria, white foxgloves and other shade-loving plants. A gravel seating area surrounded by pots contains colourful bedding plants and a decorative log pile. The final ‘room’ has three wigwams of sweet peas, varied tomato plants and plentiful raspberries, leaving some room for more shrubs, flowers and climbers. A hotbin, erected this year to provide speedy composting, lives in the corner.

The final garden at 47 St Margaret’s Road is a typical north-facing suburban garden, full of colour all the year round, with a design based on curves. The garden demonstrates how a scruffy family garden can evolve, for example where the trampoline was is now a patio. The beds are tightly planted with an eclectic mix of semi- and shade- loving plants. The small, south-facing front garden demonstrates how off-street parking can be shared with sun-loving shrubs, perennials and edible produce, including a prolific olive tree.


The four gardens are open from 12 noon to 5pm on 4 July (adults: £7; children: free). Pre-booking advised. Visit wnstd.com/ag

Features

Home of art

Epping-Forest-House©David Kavanagh

Local artist David Kavanagh introduces his latest work and urges others with a creative streak to take part in Art Group Wanstead’s nature-themed challenge this summer, by displaying their own art in front windows and gardens

I am a local artist who has lived in Wanstead for the past 11 years, but originally come from the West Midlands. Drawing and painting have been passions of mine since an early age, having studied A Level art, then moving on to do a foundation art and design course, followed by a degree in interior architecture.

Unfortunately, in more recent times, I neglected my creative side a little, but like many people, the events of 2020 forced me to change course, and fortunately, this resulted in me rediscovering my passion for art. I have worked in architecture and design for a number of years, and continue to do so, which is reflected in my art; my favourite subject is the built environment.

Living in Wanstead provides a lot of inspiration for me; it has such an interesting architectural heritage and wonderful open spaces. In fact, I take a local walk almost every day, and often go out with my sketchbook in hand.

I was recently commissioned by City Place Coffee (the new café on Clock House Parade) to produce a series of artworks depicting local landmarks. It was a real pleasure to produce these, and great to have the opportunity to work with an independent local business.

My favourite medium is acrylic on canvas, but I also love producing ink drawings (as you will see if you take a look inside City Place Coffee).

Over the last six months, I have also produced a number of paintings of local landmarks, such as Snaresbrook Crown Court (featuring Bruce the black swan) and Christ Church, which you may have seen on local social media.

I have joined Art Group Wanstead and my most recent artwork is shown here, an acrylic on canvas painting entitled Epping Forest House. The subject of this painting is a dilapidated house on the edge of Epping Forest, which has been abandoned and is in the process of being ‘taken over’ by nature. I really enjoy the idea that man-made structures can be very quickly reclaimed by nature in the absence of human intervention. I think this creates a very interesting visual juxtaposition.

This painting was inspired by the title of Art Group Wanstead’s nature-themed challenge for local residents, which is ‘The Year Nature Took Centre Stage’. This project urges residents to use their creativity and show their own works of art in front windows and gardens this summer, and will become a ‘trail’ if enough people take part.


To view more of David’s local artwork, visit wnstd.com/kavanagh or follow him on Instagram @david.kavanagh.161. For more information on commissions, email kavanagh453@outlook.com

For more information on Art Group Wanstead’s nature-themed challenge for the summer, visit wnstd.com/art

News

Over 4,000 sign petition to save Wanstead allotment site

IMG_20210519_193033©Stephen Lines

A petition to ‘save Redbridge Lane West Allotments from Cadent’ has received over 4,000 signatures. 

“At the end of March, more than 40 plot holders at Redbridge Lane West allotments in Wanstead were left devastated by the news that global giant gas company Cadent was seeking to remove them and use the allotments to build a compound and car park to ‘upgrade’ their adjacent gas works. Almost three months later, Cadent have still not submitted any plans for the ‘critical’ and ‘essential’ work they say they need to do. From the outset, plot holders have been united in their opposition to Cadent’s proposals and quickly set up a petition to seek public support in taking their case to the Council. The petition attracted more than 2,000 signatures in less than a week.  With the petition today standing at over 4,000 signatures, the plot holders are now submitting the petition to the Council,” said a spokesperson for the plot holders.

Councillor Paul Merry added: “I urge Redbridge Council to reject Cadent’s plans to seize the entire Redbridge Lane West allotments to undertake work on their adjacent site. I call on Redbridge Council officers to urgently negotiate alternative proposals with Cadent Plc.”

The many supportive comments on the petition include:

  • “Plots cannot be put on hold temporarily. This proposal would require the plot holders to start again and spend years recreating their space. It must be rejected.”
  • “Using this allotment site for construction work will destroy it for gardening. Soil structure is built up over years and years and will be destroyed by heavy equipment and pollution. The community that nurtures the allotments is also something that can and will be destroyed. You can’t take away their land for two years and expect them to be able to come back to a stripped landscape and still be the thriving community they are now. This is outrageous.”
  • “This is a central part of our community, with both individuals and families benefiting, learning about nature and producing their own produce. To take this away from the individuals that have spent years maintaining their plots and disrupt local wildlife is to diminish their importance. Now more than ever our green spaces and well-being needs to come first and foremost.”
  • “The allotments have proved invaluable for plot holders mental wellbeing during the Covid pandemic, combining fresh air and exercise, locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables with no air miles or environmentally damaging processes.”
  • “The largest single allotment is taken up by the much-praised charity ‘Sprout There!’ project, run by the charity Uniting Friends. They provide a therapeutic horticulture programme for adults with learning disabilities.  The potential loss of this vital resource is causing huge distress. Our son comes here with Uniting Friends. They all have a learning disability and it gives them a feeling of being involved outdoors, gaining confidence & a great opportunity to learn new skills.”

To view the petition, click here.

Features

Deep roots

Gordon-&-baby-Wanstead-ParkJean’s late husband Gordon with their baby son in Wanstead Park

Wanstead resident Jean Medcalf published her first poetry book last year. To Everything There is a Season is a collection of lyrical, spiritual poems about nature. In the eighth of a series of articles, Jean – who celebrated her 90th birthday last month – reflects on memories of her late husband and the birth of her children

The month of June is, of course, when Father’s Day falls, and brings back memories of having my three babies. I had my first baby in Wanstead Hospital, and it was not a happy experience. Hospitals at that time were very strictly run, ruled with a rod of iron by a stern matron, and it was rather intimidating.

Fathers were not allowed to be present at the birth in those days. Babies were kept in the ‘nursery’, separate from their mothers, and we were not allowed to go in there. We were not allowed to bathe our babies or change their nappies. There was a strict regime: we mothers were only permitted to see our babies at four-hourly intervals when it was feeding time. They were fed and taken away again. If the babies were hungry between these times, they were left to cry. We all knew the cry of our own baby, and it felt very sad not to be allowed to go and comfort them.

What made the hospital birth so awful for me was the fact that, having given birth, my baby was taken away to be cleaned up and weighed. The nurse then returned alone, so I timidly asked: “Can I see my baby?” She snapped: “I haven’t time to play bloody silly games. My shift’s finished and I’m going home!” I didn’t hold my baby until hours later for the appointed 9am feeding time.

We expectant mothers attended the antenatal clinic, which was in a large house on the corner of Hermon Hill and Eagle Lane. After our babies were born, we went to the baby clinic in Cromwell Hall at Wanstead Congregational Church. There the babies would be weighed, and we were given free welfare cod liver oil and orange juice concentrate.

I had a large heavy pram; in those days, it was considered safe to leave a baby in a pram outside a shop, and it was thought to be healthy to leave a baby outside to get fresh air in all weathers, even when it was snowing!

After my time in Wanstead Hospital, I vowed my future babies would be born at home. We had the community midwife, Nurse Turner, who will be remembered by many, as she attended all the local births from the 1940s onwards, even during air raids. She was a little, round, grey-haired Welsh lady, who arrived on her bicycle with a basket in all weathers.

Giving birth in my own home was completely different, with kind Nurse Turner to look after me, my husband there and no need for pain relief, except a couple of aspirin and some gas and air. My child was born late one night in the bedroom of the house where I still live, which was warm and cosy with a glowing coal fire, and put straight into the arms of her father, to be welcomed into the world.


For Father’s Day
by Jean Medcalf

If you can keep your head when babes beside you
Are screaming bright blue murder through the night;
If you do not despair when new wives panic
But make them think that things will turn out right;
If you can wash a pile of dirty nappies
And, smiling, ask if there are any more;
If you can hold your child and not disown it
When bachelor friends come knocking at the door;
If you can bath your daughter without drowning
Though soapy slippery limbs are all awhirl;
If you are full of love towards your daughter
And think she is a most delightful girl;
Yours is a family and all that’s in it
And, what is more,
You’ll be a Dad, my dear.


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

Features

A lot to lose

Acr323073787729282959150Section of the 1915 Ordnance Survey map showing the allotment site

In the first of a series of articles by plot holders at Redbridge Lane West allotments in Wanstead, Ged Heeney reflects on the site’s long history and emphasises how devastating it would be to lose it

I was recently sent an old map of Wanstead as a gift from my sister. It was an Ordnance Survey map, compiled in 1915 during the First World War. Wanstead was still in Essex, and much of the land to the east was rural. I found it fascinating to see so much that I recognised from having lived in Wanstead for the past 25 years, but also to see how much has changed.

The Hainault branch of the Central Line had not yet been built, so there was no Wanstead Station. The A406 and the A12 did not exist. Instead, the road leading east from The George pub was known as George Lane and went as far as what is now the footbridge over the A12, before turning left into what later became Nutter Lane.

The site which is now Wanstead High School was occupied by the rectory of St Mary the Virgin, Overton Drive, and the land opposite was ‘glebe’, used to support the parish priest. This use is reflected in the roads in that area, which were named after former rectors. Wigram and Drummond Roads were the only ones in 1915, but would later be joined by Corbett Road and Rectory Crescent.

There was no leisure centre either, and Redbridge Lane curved through the fields to the Red Bridge, which crossed the River Roding, and eventually gave its name to the local borough.

One thing that has not changed in over a hundred years, however, is the use of the land at the bottom of Redbridge Lane West, next to what is now River Close. The map shows this area as allotments. However, this could all change. The gas company, Cadent, which has a site adjoining the allotments, have said they wish to take over the allotments to use as a base for upgrade work. This would involve paving over the site for turning HGVs or for employee parking. This would be a devastating blow to us plot holders who have spent years nurturing the land.

Cadent met with the tenants to present their plans and listen to suggestions. I fear that if the planned developments take place, the land may never be returned to its original use.

If you value the green spaces in your neighbourhood, where wildlife such as toads and newts can live undisturbed, where people with learning disabilities are provided the chance to grow their own produce by local charity Sprout There!, and where the best fruit and vegetables in Wanstead can be found, then please sign our petition and pass it on!


For more information and to view the petition, visit wnstd.com/rlw

Features

City limits

bluebells--1©Collette Curry

John Sharpe of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands reports on the Wanstead Park Action Plan and the group’s ongoing collaboration with the City of London. Photo by Collette Curry

Once again, regular and casual visitors to Wanstead Park have been marvelling at the compelling display of bluebells this spring, and during last summer, a similar level of widespread entrancement was induced by the magical arrival of long-horned cattle in the park.

Many people using the park give little or no thought to the machinations underpinning the staging of these activities, which fundamentally rely on City of London management (through Epping Forest) and the stakeholder groups which interact with them.

Both the Friends of Wanstead Parklands and the Wren Group make significant volunteer contributions – for example, the Friends through supervision of cattle grazing and monthly litter picks, and the Wrens through seasonal briar clearance from the bluebell wood and other vegetation removal.

An equally important role of the Friends is our ongoing collaboration with the City of London concerning the management of the park. For over 10 years, the Friends of Wanstead Parklands has been urging the City to invest in Wanstead Park to remove it from the Heritage at Risk register and provide it with a sustainable future. A consistent perceived barrier has been the plethora of City committees through which park improvement proposals have to travel to reach approval.

In September 2020, the City of London was presented with a highly critical “warts and all” report by Lord Lisvane, criticising its model of governance, and specifically, the number of committees. This report is ostensibly already having an impact on how the City, through Epping Forest, interacts with the Friends. Three nominal City of London committees dealing with Wanstead Park have now been condensed into one, with options for ad hoc strategic meetings as and when necessary. This may turn out to be a positive development, which provides the opportunity for Wanstead Park business to be streamlined and associated actions speeded up.

Immediate indicators are good. The single stakeholder meeting for Wanstead Park is now headed up by a Park Verderer, and for the first time, this liaison group has been presented with a Wanstead Park Action Plan, scheduling what will be done and when for the period 2021 and 2022. This includes operational and capital works covering water management, entrances and paths, and major and minor projects, including renovation of the Grotto. A real statement of accountability.

So far so good… The potential reality, though, is that this will not be an easy transition for the City, as engrained cultures and working practices are difficult to change with any degree of speed.

Some staging points targeted on the action plan are already looking stretched. Initial work to the Grotto landing stage supported by the Heritage of London Trust is delayed, as is the replacement of park signage. The progression of both these projects and the works identified in the action plan will be a genuine test as to whether the City can become a more fluid and responsive organisation, which will enable them to meet their own objectives and get things done.

The other main challenge continues to be access to City funding. The risk to future park funding has now been exacerbated by the uncertainties arising from the impact of Covid-19 on City of London income, which has caused a brake to be applied to all but the most essential capital expenditure. This has been equally frustrating for both the Friends and Epping Forest management who – in addition – have had to manage the environmentally damaging consequences of an estimated 350% increase in Wanstead Park and Epping Forest users over the last year.

In the present environment, it is possible future projects will have to consider alternative mixes of private and public funding, with additional working party support from volunteer groups very much part of the package.

On behalf of Wanstead Park users, the Friends will be closely monitoring developments.


City Limits is a regular column featured in the Friends of Wanstead Parklands’ newsletter. For more information and to join the Friends, visit wnstd.com/joinfwp

News

Mobility hub to be installed on Wanstead High Street this summer

ssssThe hub will replace four parking bays on the High Street. Residents gave their backing to the scheme in a consultation earlier this year

A mobility hub designed to encourage sustainable travel will be installed on Wanstead High Street this summer.

The hub – a small-scale transport interconnection – will include an electric car club bay and an electric vehicle charging bay, as well as an outdoor seating area, cycle parking and plants.

“We’re keen to promote active travel in Redbridge, as well as supporting the transition from diesel and petrol to electric vehicles, and providing more street space for residents and local businesses,” said Councillor Jo Blackman.

News

Women and girls invited to share views on making Redbridge safer

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Women and girls in Redbridge are invited to attend a virtual ‘listening event’ to share their thoughts on what they want and need to feel safe.

“The aim is to provide local women and girls with a comfortable space to share their experiences and their views on how our borough can be made safer, for example by identifying areas that need to be better lit or pathways that feel unsafe to walk along,” said a spokesperson for Redbridge Council, which is hosting the sessions on 2 June at 7.30pm and 9 June at 5.30pm.

Visit wnstd.com/listen

News

Save the date: Wanstead Festival to return this September (hopefully)

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Plans are being made for the return of the Wanstead Festival on 12 September, subject to government guidelines at the time.

“We’re looking forward to this year’s festival and accompanying events, including the Wanstead Fringe. It will be great for the community to come together after all the challenges of the pandemic,” said Councillor Jo Blackman.

The annual community event has been running since 2003 and attracts thousands of residents and visitors to Christchurch Green for a day of music and activities.

Features

Endangered in Wanstead

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The Wren Wildlife Group, London Wildlife Trust and Wild Wanstead have compiled a list of 10 species at risk of local extinction. In the third of a series of articles looking at each species in turn, Nicola Steele offers tips for saving our sparrows

The RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch 2021 revealed that sparrows remain the UK’s most frequently spotted bird. Yet their numbers have declined dramatically in recent years. Wanstead’s streets must have been alive with their noisy conversations when hedges and front gardens were the norm, and the species was able to flourish on our doorsteps.

House sparrows are social birds and live together in big groups called colonies. They build their nests in the eaves or crevices of buildings, and in ivy, bushes and hedges. Nests are made from a variety of materials like dry grasses and feathers. They lay around three to five eggs and will have at least two clutches a year. The chicks are fed on regurgitated insects.

Sparrows are on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern and are a priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Around 60% of house sparrows have been lost since the mid-1970s, and declines have been particularly acute in large cities like London. Research is underway to find out why. Starvation of chicks due to a lack of insects may contribute to the problem. High nitrogen dioxide levels from traffic pollution have also been linked to declines. There are colonies of sparrows peppered around Wanstead. There is anecdotal evidence that some may be increasing from a low base, but in other locations, they continue to be lost as people remove the hedges and other places where they live. If you’re lucky enough to live near a colony, sparrows can seem ubiquitous because of the number and the energetic and noisy nature of the birds. However, there are huge gaps around our local area where you walk for long periods without encountering a single sparrow; this would likely have been unthinkable until recently.

How to help:

  • Provide food and water for sparrows in your garden. They’ll happily visit bird feeders, but if you can, feed them mealworms or waxworms, especially when they’re rearing their chicks in late spring and early summer (April to August).
  • Make your garden a haven for insects – that means one thing, lots of foliage. Large areas of paving for drives and patios, along with plastic grass, are disastrous for city insects and wildlife more generally – dig some of it up or cover it with planters to re-green your plot. Ground-dwelling insects, such as beetles, generally benefit from dense vegetation, including evergreens. Flying insects need flowers across the year – look out for ones with the Plants for Pollinators logo. Find ideas at wildwanstead.org/star-plants.
  • Other great habitats for insects are long-grass areas, mini wild flower meadows, leaf and log piles and bug hotels. Never use slug pellets or pesticides.
  • Plant hedges and shrubs to provide shelter and foraging habitats for sparrows, such as hawthorn or viburnum.
  • Have a bird bath – sparrows love a communal splash-about when it’s warm.
  • Install a sparrow nest box terrace.
  • It’s really important to protect colonies, as house sparrows can take a long time to return to areas from where they’ve disappeared. If you’re lucky enough to have sparrows living nearby, work with your neighbours to ensure everyone understands how important it is not to damage their nest sites.

For more information about the 10 species under threat of extinction in Wanstead, visit wnstd.com/the10

Features

Art, Past & Park

ba-obj-14682-0001-pub-print-lgWanstead House by Richard Westall (1765–1836). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Historian and author Dr Hannah Armstrong talks about her earliest memories of Wanstead Park and her personal journey to writing Wanstead House: East London’s Lost Palace

My mum tells me that she took me to Wanstead Park just days after I was born. We lived in Langley Drive, just a stone’s throw away; in fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t going to the park as a child! I have a very vivid memory of looking up at the Grotto and my mum telling me about a house. I remember thinking the Grotto was the house and then later feeling surprised at how large it actually was. My dad’s job took us overseas and I left Wanstead at eight years old, so it was not until about 15 years later that I was reunited with this interest.

I have always loved art and design, so it seemed only natural to me to apply to art school. I studied at Camberwell, specialising in textile design, specifically embroidery and screen printing. In my second year, I wrote a dissertation about William Morris and his ideology of art for all. That really set something alight for me. From that point, it became clear I wanted to turn my attention to the history of design and so applied for the MLitt in Decorative Arts and Design History at Glasgow University. That year changed everything for me.

During my Masters, I developed an interest in 18th-century interiors and domesticity, specifically, how they were represented in conversation pieces (informal group portraits). I would occasionally come across references to Wanstead, and I was amazed and excited to learn that such a significant house once stood in the park I used to visit as a child. Realising it was relatively understudied in academia, I applied for funding and was delighted to be accepted to study for my PhD at Birkbeck College, University of London. I was incredibly fortunate to be supervised by Kate Retford, a wonderful historian who has written much on Georgian conversation pieces and the country house.

The part of my PhD I most enjoyed were my archive days at the Essex Record Office and the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Centre. It is an incredible experience to hold a letter in your hands written by someone you have spent so much time thinking and writing about. I find those moments very moving, as if we are connected in time through one artefact. Other highlights included having access to visit a house in Hills Road, Cambridge where I could finally encounter real fragments of building fabric from Wanstead House.

If I could go back in time, I would love to meet Richard Child, 1st Earl Tylney, and watch Wanstead House being constructed and see its interior flourish. I would be really interested to see the Elizabethan manor that stood on the site prior to the building of Colen Campbell’s classical mansion. And I wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall when Richard and Campbell met!

I have really enjoyed writing about the furnishing of Wanstead House, transporting myself into Wanstead House and imagining how it must have felt to experience the house. It was great fun piecing together its interior through reading visitor accounts, studying floor plans and analysing famous portraits by Hogarth and Nollekens.

My plans for the future include giving some talks later in the year at St Mary’s Church, Wanstead, the Copped Hall Trust and at Wanstead Fringe. I am also excited about the new developments at Wanstead Park, in particular, the restoration of the Grotto boathouse structure. I hope my book will help to generate interest and support for the park’s long-term preservation.


This article was based on an interview with Nigel Franceschi of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, which commissioned the book.

Wanstead House: East London’s Lost Palace will be published in March 2022. Pre-orders receive 40% off the £45 retail price. For more information, visit wnstd.com/palace

Features

Deep Roots

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Wanstead resident Jean Medcalf published her first poetry book last year. To Everything There is a Season is a collection of lyrical, spiritual poems about nature. In the seventh of a series of articles, Jean – who celebrates her 90th birthday this month – shares a photo of herself in Wanstead Park in the 1950s

The ‘merry month of May’ is my birth month, and this year is a special one as I will celebrate my 90th birthday. May is also one of my favourite times of the year, when nature has sprung into life, the weather is warm, the garden is full of flowers, and summer is on its way. 

May is also my favourite time to visit Wanstead Park. I have loved going there since I was a little girl, when my mother used to take me in the summer and we would meet my Aunt May and cousin Audrey for a picnic of sandwiches and rock cakes. Audrey and I used to climb up a little hill we called the ‘mountain’. This was part of the landscaping of the original grounds of Wanstead House when it was a stately home. I also remember, of course, the Grotto, which is the ruins of the old boathouse and the lovely old Chalet tea house, which sadly burned down.

Later, as a teenager, Wanstead Park was the place where we girls would go for a romantic evening walk with our boyfriends. However, we had to be careful not to stay out too late – the park keeper locked the gates in the evening and we would then have to climb over to get out!

When I had children of my own we would often go there in the summer for a picnic with our wicker picnic basket, a big thermos of tea, sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, and later, we took our little granddaughter. The poem presented here is about the first time she came to Wanstead Park with us and hugged her first tree.

Wanstead Park in May is bursting with fresh new life. Everywhere are the ‘darling buds of May’, the lacy white froth of cow parsley, the delicate bell-like flowers of wood anemones, furry grey catkins, ferns unfurling, brimstone yellow flag irises by the fringe of the lake. The birds are singing their hearts out and “the green woods laugh with the voice of joy.”

But above all, the park is at its loveliest in May when the bluebells are flowering. There is something almost holy about the bluebell woods, which reminds me of the feeling one has when entering a cathedral. The peace and stillness, the tall tree trunks soaring up to the heavens like stone columns, the soft shafts of light filtering through the leaf canopy, and the bluebells in azure drifts of hazy smoke-blue, giving up their fragrance to the air like incense. And, as in a place of worship, I sit quietly, drinking in all the beauty around me, and feel very close to God, who has created it.


Take and Give
by Jean Medcalf

Last Sunday afternoon we took a walk
My family and I
Plus, for the first time, Victoria.

We fed the ducks, then walked into the woods.
I found a chestnut tree – as is my wont
I put my arms around it for loving help.
It took from me my fears and uncertainties
And gave to me tranquillity and love.

I said goodbye and turned to walk away
And as I did I saw my actions copied.
Like a small bright butterfly clinging to the trunk,
Face pressed to the bark, a small girl
Laughed in imitation of her grandmother.

She took nothing from the tree
But gave to it her sparkling love of life
Her joy and champagne laughter.

She was so small as to be near the roots.
Her brightness will be stored
In readiness for future visitors
Seeking hope, and calm, and love.


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