Other Locations

Names, links and information about the various localities within the study area



Introduction to the Study Area

Epping Forest is an historic woodland lying in the west of the county of Essex on the ridge of high ground which separates the Lea Valley on the west from the Roding Valley on the east, and which extends southwards into what are now the London Boroughs of Redbridge, Newham and Waltham Forest. The map is a wildlife recording map of the study area.


Map of Southern Epping ForestMap of Southern Epping Forest


In the early 1970's I began to take an interest in plants as well as birds, and began to discover the wealth of other wildlife that may be found in the area. At about the same time members of the local Wren Conservation Group began gathering records of the flora of the southern end of Epping Forest.

The Group had a commitment to biological recording in the Forest south of the Waterworks Corner roundabout on the North Circular Road on behalf of the Epping Forest Conservation Centre. For the purpose of biological recording, the Epping Forest Conservation Centre divides the forest into 38 areas, of which the four most southerly comprise the area of study of the Wren Conservation Group. The Epping Forest areas the Group has studied include Wanstead Park, Wanstead Flats, Bush Wood, Leyton Flats, Gilbert's Slade and the Exchange Land - the disused Redbridge Southern Sewage Work which is now part of Epping Forest.

In addition members of the Group have taken an interest in other sites in the area. These include St Mary's Churchyard at Wanstead; the Friends Meeting House grounds in Bush Wood; the City of London Cemetery in Manor Park; the Alders Brook area between the City of London Cemetery and the River Roding, Manor Park Cemetery; and just outside of the Forest area, St Mary Magdalene's Churchyard nature reserve in East Ham.

In more recent years, the Group has tended to restrict its area of prime interest to Wanstead Park. Records of the areas wildlife - always thought to have been an important area of the Group's work - have become sparse due to lack of recorders, but practical work takes place usually each month in Wanstead Park. Similarly, field trips to other areas take place.

Aerial view of Wanstead area

Aerial view of part of the study area. Whiskers Island and Wanstead Park are in the forground, with the Exchange Lands and City of London Cemetery to the left. Beyond the Aldersbrook Estate is Wanstead Flats


Wanstead Wildlife's study area includes all of those above with the exception of East Ham Nature Reserve, but I have incorporated some other local areas instead.

With the lack of contributors to the Wren Group's records, and the demise of its database, I collated old Wren Group records into my own database and have continued to add to that whenever possible. I felt that these should be accessible to any that wish to view them, and the Wanstead Wildlife website might help that aim. Similarly, it may be useful for people to be able to see what some of our local wildlife looks like, so a collection of photographs is available on the site.



The Wren Group's website is at www.wrengroup.org.uk

A good site for photos of local wild-life is East London Nature

For more information about the Parklands of Wanstead - its history, archaeology and the people that use it - try the Friends of Wanstead Parklands website


Other Locations

Though called Wanstead Wildlife, as explained in the introduction, the website looks at plants and other wildlife not only in Wanstead, but in nearby areas. The photograph below puts this in perspective - the hart's-tongue ferns Phyllitus scolopendrium that grew under the arch of Wanstead Park Station were a nice natural touch until renovation of the damp brickwork caused them to disappear, but Wanstead Park Station is very much part of Forest Gate rather than Wanstead. It might perhaps have been better called Wanstead Flats Station as the Flats are just a few hundred metres away! Near Wanstead Flats, at the corner of Woodgrange Road and Capel Road and at the edge of the lawn by Capel Point, common stork's-bill Erodium cicuarium and dwarf mallow Malva neglecta have been found, neither of which are well known elsewhere in the area. These may serve as an illustration of what may be found in our streets.

Hart's-tongue Ferns

Wanstead Park Station, Forest Gate. The arch had a good population of Hart's-tongue Ferns

Manor Park Station, also near to Wanstead Flats, did have a nice selection of ferns in an open drain channel on Platform 1. These included hart's-tongue fern, black spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum and male fern Dryopteris filix-mas. Hart's-tongue fern does remain (in 2017) on the brick wall to the south of the station platforms, but the rest are now gone as the drainage channel has been covered over. In more recent years - certainly from 2012 and through to 2015 - between the rails at the station was a good crop of tomato Lycopersicon esculentum - the result of someone's sandwich, perhaps?

Road-sides and the front-walls of gardens harbour a variety of plants, either spontaneously occurring or escaping from adjacent front gardens. Near to Manor Park Station, in Manor Park Road and adjacent streets, shaggy soldier Galinsoga ciliata grows, particularly near the bases of roadside trees. Considering that this has not been found in areas surveyed more in depth than the streets, this was thought worthy of a mention. A millet, as yet unidentified, grows profusely in Manor Park Road also. At the base of St. Nicholas Church in Gladding Road, and also by old walls elsewhere in the vicinity, grows pellitory-of-the-wall Parietaria judaica. This species has been seen to increase during recent years, perhaps helped by a lessening of the pavement plant-poisoning routine nowadays. Along Capel Road, at the Manor Park end and by the tall wall between Gladding and Whitta Roads, a specimen of cotoneaster Cotoneaster sp. has persisted for a couple of years - at least until 2017 - despite the occasional weed-killer sprays that the council use to control unwanted street-growth. Further east along the road, towards Forest Gate, a healthy specimen of polypody Polypodium vulgare was noticed growing on top of the wall of the Golden Fleece pub in January 2016, and further down the road a specimen of black spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum was growing on a front-garden wall in March 2012, with more of the same species as well as wall rue Asplenium ruta-muraria by 2016 - the first of this species recorded in the area. These houses face north, and are therefore shaded from much of the Sun, which may help the development of ferns. At the base of my own wall in Capel Road, mind-your-own-business Soleirolia soleirolii has occurred, and may be seen in similar locations by other houses.

To the east of Manor Park station, across what is known either as the Triangle or Manor Park Flats, lies Rabbits Road bridge, carrying Aldersbrook Road across the railway to Romford Road. Here, incidentally, is the tree - a London plane - that is the most south-easterly in the whole of Epping Forest. Close by, between the railway and the City of London Cemetery railings, is a footpath known locally as the Bridle Path - though officially it is not a horse-ride. This path is adjacent to the City of London Cemetery railings for all of the cemetery's southern and eastern boundary, and for much of the northern boundary. The southern section eventually widens considerably as it drops down to the Alders Brook (see here), and close to the brook - growing on the railings by the railway - is a mass of hop Humulus lupulus. This is not common in the area and perhaps it is relevant that in Little Ilford just across the railway lines used to be Whitbread's Brewery? For more details about the Bridle Path, click here. To cross the railway lines, it is better to take the foot-tunnel that gives access to the Bridle Path from Little Ilford. Emerging from the tunnel, you are in Aldersbrook Lane, evidently an old route which connected the small settlement of Little Ilford (now part of Manor Park) to Aldersbrook Manor. Unfortunately it is not possible to continue alongside the brook itself - though it should be. The brook and its banks from here to its confluence with the River Roding is quite choked with vegetation including a substantial amount of Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica and nearer the Roding, traveller's-joy Clematis vitalba.

Still in Manor Park, but separated by Wanstead Flats, is the Edwardian housing estate of Aldersbrook. Here, near to Wanstead Park, garden escapes have included garden lobelia Lobelia erinus growing from a crack in the pavement of Wanstead Park Avenue and tobacco plant Nicotiana sp. growing by a garden fence in Northumberland Avenue, although this did not persist. Front-garden walls harbour a few species, too - frequently herb-robert Geranium robertianum, Ivy-leaved toadflax Cymbalaria muralis and yellow corydalis Pseudofumaria lutea. In May 2017, the attractive large quaking grass Briza maxima was noted growing at the base of walls in Wanstead Park Avenue. grass At the east end of this road access may be made to the area which I have called Aldersbrook Wood. Passing the last house at the end of the road - detached and with something of a country feel about it - a wooden gate appears to bar the way into the wood area, although I have found it to be unlocked. There is a Lombardy poplar Populus nigra 'Italica' in the wood nearby, and small groups of snowdrops Galanthus nivalis and hybrid daffodils Narcissus sp. are present in spring. More information about Aldersbrook Wood is available here.


Aldersbrook WoodAldersbrook Wood

The gate from Northumberland Avenue into Aldersbrook Wood


The wood may be also accessed from a depressingly small gap in the railings at the end of Westmorland Close. This route, muddy and much-strewn with rubbish, leads through the wood past a Corsican pine Pinus nigra ssp. laricio to a gap in the fence of Wanstead Park, by the Perch Pond. The site was that of an isolation hospital and is now mainly woodland with very much a bramble understory and some small area of rough grassland. The wildlife of the area needs to be investigated more thoroughly for the last (and somewhat cursory) plant survey was done in 1980 (for list, click here). Its main value is that it is there and forms an important buffer between the Park and the housing estate. With some tidying and some maintenance it could be a very valuable addition to the Forest. The forest's "Buffer Land" is all in the north - is it not about time that an area such as this could not be given permanent status before it becomes just another housing area to the detriment of Wanstead Park?

Beyond Aldersbrook Wood to the east is Aldersbrook Riding School and to the south a newer development of Aldersbrook Estate adjacent to Aldersbrook Allotments. The allotments of course harbour a variety of plants not deliberately associated with those grown there, and of particular interest was butchers broom Ruscus aculeatus. Whether this was a deliberate planting is not known. On the other hand, the hard-surfaced lane which is a continuation of Empress Avenue and provides access to the stables and to the Aldersbrook Exchange Lands (see here) finds itself populated with plants that originate from the allotments. One such is love-in-a-mist Nigella damascena which is grown ornamentally on one of the plots and has found its way not just immediately through the allotments' chain link fence but across the tarmac to the opposite grass verge. Californian poppy Eschscholzia californica, on the other hand, has remained closer to where it is grown! Other plants that have been found growing in this area - the ground of which can be quite disturbed for a variety of reasons - include common poppy Papaver rhoeas and - in May 2017 - a specimen of dwarf elder Sambucus ebulus. This is the only one known in the area - the nearest others being north of the Redbridge roundabout - but by mid-June, however, the verge adjacent to the allotments had been strimmed and the plant was gone.

Wanstead Park itself forms the basis of the study area covered by Wanstead Wildlife, but east of the Park and on the Ilford bank of the Roding north of Ilford Golf Course is a considerable tract of land between the river and the A406 North Circular Road. This, together with the golf course, is the flood plain of the Roding and because of its association with the Alders Brook area and Wanstead Park should be considered here - at least as far as the houses near to Redbridge roundabout. Indeed part of Wanstead Park itself lies in this bank of the river, the area called Whiskers Island. There is a vehicle bridge that crosses the Roding from the Exchange Lands area, and, nearby, a footbridge close to the south-east corner of Wanstead Park that link the west bank to the east bank. Both of these lead to an area of mown grassland - Wanstead Recreation Ground. Along the river, a raised flood-protection bund continues northwards along the river, passing Whiskers Island, and then an area that was once allotments. These were closed down and the area became an incredibly over-grown waste of bramble, almost inpenetrable but probably a good site for nesting birds and other wildlife. Beyond the old allotment site, an area of mown grassland comprising football and sports grounds stretch as far as the houses of Royston Gardens.

The embankment and the terrace above the river supports an attractive and varied flora, with some species that are not common in nearby Wanstead Park. These include lady's bedstraw Galium verum, meadow cranesbill Geranium pratense, and lucerne Medicago sativa. The latter may have originated from the disused allotments, as may a double-flowered variety of soapwort Saponaria officinalis, though this may as easily have originated from garden-plantings in nearby houses. Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria grows along here and a cut-leaved bramble Rubus laciniatus was found growing at the edge of the bank above the river in 2008.

For a long time it has been possible to walk alongside the River Roding on the east bank by means of an unofficial footpath which is in great contrast to the woody aspect of the west bank of the river in Wanstead Park proper. However, when the back gardens of houses in Royston Gardens are reached there are no provisions to access either Wanstead Park or - at least officially - this part of Redbridge, its station and the riverside walk along the Roding Valley Way northwards. Unofficially though, it has been possible to walk along the edge of the playing fields here, with the back gardens of houses to the left, and to reach the Redbridge roundabout. An unofficial break in the high wire fence has provided egress. In early 2016 a broken link in the Roding Valley Way was eventually made good in the form of a cycle/foot path that followed the river as far as the sports fields, then dog-legged right then left towards the A406 and the Redbridge roundabout, thus creating an official route. The hole in the wire fence was repaired.

It may be noted that Page 99 of The London Rivers Action Plan proposed 'Realigning of the flood bund against the A406 to reconnect the Roding with 12 Ha of its floodplain and to create wetland features'. This is the area that we have just looked at, but at least in 2016 it looked as though the idea of realigning the flood bund had been dropped.

For the whole length of the riverside we have just looked at, Wanstead Park has been on the opposite bank of the river - the west bank. Beyond the housing estate of Royston gardens lies a water works, and then the A12 road near to Redbridge roundabout. Opposite the water works - on the west bank - is a detached part of Wanstead Golf Course, which has not been surveyed for wildlife potential. It is sad that a west-bank footpath along the edge of the golf course and the river could not be made to allow immediate access to and from Wanstead Park at this point. Beyond the golf course, near to the A12, are the Roding Lane South Allotments. Some aspects of the wildlife of this site has been obtained from Roger Snook who, together with David Wright, has a plot here. Roger and David are wildlife photographers who maintain the East London Nature website. One plant found here that may be mentioned here is Valerianella locusta common cornsalad - not recorded elsewhere in the area. A list of their finds on the allotment can be seen here.

To the west of the allotments is Wanstead proper. Wanstead golf course and the "Warren Estate" was surveyed by the local naturalist Gulielma Lister in the late 1930's. A copy of the plant list from her work on this area is available here. Gulielma Lister presented her paper on the flora of Wanstead Park District in 1941, and it is interesting to compare the plants that she listed with those found today. She appears to have only recorded species native to this area, apart from trees. She did not list traveller's joy Clematis vitalba, a species not found hereabouts except - as already mentioned - at Little Ilford (pic) although there is a record of it by the east side of Wanstead Golf Course fence in Blake Hall Road. Nor did she record purple toadflax Linaria purpurea which grows at the edge of Overton Drive by the golf course, as does snowberry Symphoricarpos albus. In nearby Warren Road, by the railings and overlooking the golf course towards Redbridge, a specimen of pot marigold Calendula officinalis was nicely in flower on 22nd January in 2008, and a hollyhock Alcea rosea on 17th June 2009. It may well be that these have been deliberately introduced rather than self-sown. It is interesting to see how long garden plants such as these may persist. On the grass verge that separates the houses from the east side of St. Mary's Avenue in Wanstead, early crocus Crocus tommasinianus was found flowering on the same day.

At the corner of Wanstead High Street and the road called New Wanstead is an area of woodland known locally as Tarzy Wood. This unusual name is said to have derived from the tar-covered fence that a person erected to enclose an area of the wood - which is part of Epping Forest - and which he was forced to take down. The Tarzy, as the area is also known, deserves a more thorough investigation of its wildlife, but we could pick out greater celandine Chelidonium majus, yellow corydalis Pseudofumaria lutea, hazel Corylus avellana, cowbread Cyclamen hederifolium, green alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens, buddleia Buddleja davidii, pendulous sedge Carex pendula, early crocus Crocus tommasinianus and purple garden crocus Crocus purpureus. Many of these, it may be noted, will have originated from adjacent gardens. On the pavement beneath the bridge that carries the Central Line tube trains, a specimen of garden pansy Viola x wittrockiana was found in 2008. It should be said that in subsequent years a number of apparently casual flowers have appeared in streets around this area, but many are probably the results of "guerilla gardening" that has taken place, and indeed is now condoned in an attempt to make the area more attractive.

In the grounds of nearby Snaresbrook Crown Court is a population of common fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica. The lawns of the court also harbour harebells, but a mowing regime does not enhance these. There are some lovely specimens of planted trees in the ground - the cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani is a fine example. Unfortunately, presumably due to security concerns, the grounds are not made encouraging for casual visitors, and photography is frowned upon if not prohibited. There has been suggestions of the creation of some form of wildlife trial, but as yet this has not been forthcoming. (August 2008)

South again to Wanstead, west of the Green and parallel with the link-road which is in a deep cutting here, is a cycle/pedestrian route which connects Blake Hall Road with the Green Man Roundabout, and hence to Leytonstone. By this route is a created meadow, sometimes called Wanstead Meadow or Blake Hall Meadow. A regime of grass cutting has been instigated by Redbridge Council to enhance the wild-flowers that were seeded here at its creation. Perhaps the glory of the site is the host of cowslips Primula spp. that flower here during May. These are not of the wild variety, and many will have crossed with other primulas, but they certainly look lovely. Many other flowers are also here, including ox-eye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare. The area merges into the wood at the end of Woodcote Road, and Bush Wood itself, near the Green Man roundabout. In Woodcote Wood may be found much three-cornered garlic Allium triquetrum, outcast no doubt from nearby houses, but taking a strong hold. The link-road is separated from Bush Wood hereabouts by a wire fence, behind which is a planted embankment. Through this are creeping one or two patches of pot marigold Calendula officinalis. How persistent these are remains to be seen.

The Green Man Roundabout complex, which separates Bush Wood from Leyton Flats, was rebuilt and subsequently landscaped and seeded in 1999. Whether part of the seeding or plants that have taken advantage of the situation, the system is quite rich in a variety of wildflowers. A species abundant here that is not found elsewhere in our study area is chicory Cichorium intybus. Wild parsnip Pastinaca sativa is also common here, as is wild carrot Daucus carota. Lady's bedstraw Galium verum is another nice plant to be found here. In June 2012 a few plants of bee orchid Ophrys apifera were present just east of the roundabout and adjacent to Bush Wood North. More were found in the same location during 2016. On the pavements outside the Green Man pub (not its present name), shaggy soldier Galinsoga ciliata has been seen. More information about this area, including a plant list, may be found here.


Green Man roundaboutGreen Man roundabout

A stormy view of the Green Man roundabout underpass. July 2007


In August 2008, a superstore nearby concreted over some of the wildflower areas adjacent to the roundabout. This was on the pretext of rat problems, but probably was intended to enhance parking for deliveries to the store. Intervention by local wildlife conservation people managed to have at least some of this stopped. The land that was to be concreted over was believed to be actually part of Epping Forest, given as part of the exchange deal relating to the creation of the Hackney Link Road. The photograph above shows the aspect of some of the land that could have been lost.

Elsewhere in Leytonstone, in the conservation area of Browning Road, one or two gardens have successfully grown good specimens of banana Musa sp., visible towering over garden walls. Further afield, between the Central Line railway by Leytonstone Station and Gainsborough Road, is a created area of grassland, kept mown as something of a meadow. This area, which I have called Leytonstone Meadow, also has a wonderful display of cowslips Primula veris, first noted in May 2006.

Local parks, gardens, churchyards and allotments are also worth looking at. A visit to West Ham Park concentrated on looking at the collection of trees in the park. These, of course, are all planted, but apparently the Park Office did not have a list, so a partial one - of those specimens noted - is available here. Subsequent to that visit, at the end of 2008 a leaflet was published by the City of London Corporation  entitled 'Tree Trail - West Ham Park Walks'. A visit to the park is recommended to anybody interested in trees and shrubs. Another park worthy of a visit is Little Ilford Park, at the Ilford end of Manor Park. Somewhat tucked away, nevertheless this recreation-style park covers a fairly large area and Newham Council have evidently done well in planting a number of ornamental tree-species to enhance the variety. There are some interesting ones to be seen here, and further details are available here. Adjacent to and accesible from Little Ilford Park is an area known as Webster's Land. This is managed as a meadow by the London Borough of Newham and as it has been seeded contains a wide variety of flowers, shrubs and trees, some not found in the area otherwise. More information is provided here.

Gardens, with their deliberate plantings, should be considered. In the small garden of a house in the newer part of the Aldersbrook Estate nearby, there was a fine example of a loquat Eriobotrya japonica. In this sheltered position, the tree flowered and fruited profusely, but was cut down. Slightly nearer to Wanstead Park is a large blue gum Eucalyptus globulus, in flower at Christmas.  At the other end of the Aldersbrook Estate, in the grounds of St. Gabriel's Church, is a specimen of black mulberry Morus nigra, and by Blake Hall Road a fine mimosa Acacia dealbata grew in a front garden until damaged by severe weather in the winter of 2009/2010. This was replaced by a new tree, although of course substantially smaller!

Also what should be mentioned in this section are some of the trees that are to be found as roadside plantings. These can include the likes of some good specimen trees of more common species, but also some perhaps more unusual ones. In Wanstead Park Avenue are one or two specimens of claret ash Fraxinus angustifolia ssp. oxycarpa 'Raywood' - striking in the Autumn colours which give the common name. Monkey puzzles Araucaria araucaria have long been a favourite and are well known, and the loquats have already been mentioned, but there are also some palm trees including Chusan palm Trachycarpus fortunei and Canary palm Phoenix canariensis, for example. When will somebody plant the first Wollemi pine in Wanstead? (see here)

In building up a picture of the plant-life of the Wanstead area, particular attention has been paid to areas such as Wanstead Park, and very little to some of the localities mentioned in this section. It is hoped that this may gradually be rectified, but it is likely that this will be a slow process!



 Leyton Flats - an introduction

For a List of plant species found on Leyton Flats - click here

For a Map of Leyton Flats - click here

For photos of plants found on Leyton Flats - click here

For other aspects of Leyton Flats - click here

The majority of Leyton Flats lies within the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Because of the overall similarity between Leyton Flats and Wanstead Flats to the south-east, some comparison is made between these two areas in the text and further comparisons may be made by referring to "Wanstead Flats".

Leyton Flats is, like the somewhat similar Wanstead Flats, an open area in the southern reaches of Epping Forest, close to, and almost surrounded by, heavily populated residential areas. The borders of Leyton Flats are Whipps Cross Road to the south-west, Lea Bridge Road in the west, Snaresbrook Road in the north and the Central Line railway cutting and Hollybush Hill (road) to the south and the east. The private grounds of Snaresbrook Crown Court are in the north-east corner as is the Eagle Pond, which is part of Epping Forest. More forest land in the neighbourhood of Whipps Cross Hospital is separated from Leyton Flats by Whipps Cross Road.

Leyton Flats proper comprises about 75 hectares of land, of which 38 hectares is flat open grassland, 20 hectares woodland and the rest mainly ponds or wet areas. The whole lies on the Boyn Hill Terrace of pebble gravel and alluvium, for which past workings have produced the pits and spoil heaps to be found in parts of the area. The habitats thus formed account at least in part for a flora that differs to some degree from that of the superficially similar environments of Wanstead Flats, with which some interesting comparisons may be made. The same cattle grazed on Leyton Flats as on Wanstead Flats, though it seems that they had preference for the latter which might be related to differences in the vegetation of the two areas.

Poor drainage of rain-water from Leyton Flats give rise to considerable waterlogging of the grassland, particularly during winter. There are a number of drainage ditches across the area, of which some drain to the Hollow Pond or the Eagle Pond. Numerous other ponds or damp hollows are mostly the result of past gravel diggings and are scattered around the north and west edges. They have a variety of shapes and sizes, and of these only that at the west edge of the Flats by Lea Bridge Road normally has a covering of water for any length of time. At the north end of the large Hollow Pond is a much smaller expanse of water known as the Round Pond, which drains into its larger neighbour. The water that feeds this pond is mainly gathered from Gilbert's Slade to the north. There are some kiosks and a boat-house by the Hollow Pond, the only buildings on the Flats. In a birch wood adjacent to the fence of Snaresbrook Crown Court (once the Royal Wanstead School and before that the Infant Orphan Asylum) and close to the Eagle Pond, is Birch Well. This is a small spring enclosed by a stone surround about five feet across, once used for drinking water. Particularly in the north and west part of the Flats and mainly around the edge are areas of woodland; there is a scattering of trees elsewhere. For an account of water-courses on Leyton Flats in years past, see Wanstead Watercourses: the "River Holt" by Barry Hughes.

There are no deliberately planted groups of diverse species of trees as are to be found on Wanstead Flats, nor roadside lines or avenues. However, towards the east end of Whipps Cross Road there is a copse of trees which contain a number of Turkey oak Quercus cerris, evidently deliberately planted. There is in the south-east part of the area a quite extensive patch of mixed gorse and broom scrub, and another area predominantly of gorse north-east of the Hollow Pond. There are no close-mown playing-fields as on Wanstead Flats, the only mown grass being by Whipps Cross Road and used as a picnic or recreation area. The overall "roughness" of the whole area as compared to Wanstead Flats with its large areas of playing fields seems to put a different emphasis on the recreation and sporting activities which are undertaken. There is virtually no football, cricket or golf practice, nor model aircraft or boats, but there is horse-riding, and the hilly banks of the Hollow pond are used by numbers of motor and pedal-cycle riders as a sort of scramble course. This activity contributes to the sparsity of plant growth around these lakes. For these reasons, and as little deliberate seeding or planting takes place nor apparently is there much casual dumping of garden refuse, Leyton Flats presents a somewhat wilder appearance than does Wanstead Flats.

The Plants of Leyton Flats

The grassland

The major expanse of grassland lies to the east and south-east of the Hollow Pond and, apart from a small woodland area near Whipps Cross Road, has trees mainly around the edges, with a scattering elsewhere. Scrub, mainly of gorse Ulex europaeus and broom Sarothamnus scoparius, occurs in patches. One large area near Hollybush Hill is a mixture of these species, and another by the Hollow Pond consists mainly of gorse. This scrub gives protection to a number of oak seedlings. Particularly in the south-east part of the Flats, such grasses as perennial rye-grass Lolium perenne, cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata and Yorkshire fog Holcus lanatus are abundant, together with some crested dog's-tail Cynosurus cristatus. Common mouse-ear Cerastium holosteoides, white clover Trifolium repens and yarrow Achillea millefolium are typical common plants to be found amongst these grasses. Some upright hedge-parsley Torilis japonica has also been found here. North of this, in the central part of the Flats, are extensive areas of mat-grass Nardus stricta, as well as brown bent Agrostis canina subsp. montana, common bent A. tenuis and wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa. Amongst these, sheep's sorrel Rumex acetosella is common and heath rush Juncus squarrosus is widely scattered. One patch of heather Calluna vulgaris occurs in the north-east portion. Further north still, the grassland merges into mixed birch and oak woodland, together with some damp hollows in the vicinity of the Eagle Pond. Within the wooded area that stretches along much of Snaresbrook Road are some small areas of grassland that retain a plant community that suggests a possible relic heathland flora. Such species as tormentil Potentilla erecta, heath bedstraw Galium saxatile and many-headed woodrush Luzula multiflora grow amongst mat-grass and brown bent. In slightly damper conditions in these locations are also to be found common sedge Carex nigra, a small amount of carnation-grass C. panicea, some patches of creeping willow Salix repens and heath grass Sieglingia decumbens. This interesting flora is in some danger of being encroached upon by birch scrub.

The woodland and trees

English oak Quercus robur and silver birch Betula pendula are the dominant tree species on Leyton Flats, together with holly Ilex aquifolium and Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna. A mixed birch and oak woodland extends along the northern edge of the area, with oak becoming more predominant at the west end of the Flats. A somewhat isolated wood by Whipps Cross Road further south comprises mainly English oak, but has some specimens of Turkey oak Quercus cerris. Elsewhere, trees are to be found mainly around the edges of the open grassland, while a few, mainly oaks, grow by the sides of the drainage ditches. Within the oak/birch woodland of the north-east corner there is a group of aspen Populus tremula, and a single seedling yew Taxus baccata, a species not otherwise known on Leyton Flats. Although some of the older birch here is dying, as on Wanstead Flats, there are mature trees and an abundance of saplings. Rowan Sorbus aucuparia occurs here as saplings only. It may be noted that this species, in sapling form, has increased over the whole southern Epping Forest study area in the last year or two. The reason for this is not known, but it is thought that an increase in local street and garden planting of this species has given rise to bird-sown seedlings. No mature rowan trees are known in this part of the forest. In places the wood is quite dense, with holly, bramble Rubus fruticosus agg., and bracken Pteridium aquilinum. Both field rose Rosa arvensis and dog rose R. canina occur. In the wet areas, particularly in the north-west of Leyton Flats, willow is common and sometimes abundant. Both great sallow Salix caprea and common sallow S. cinerea subsp. atrocinerea occur, but more work needs to be done on the identification and distribution of Salix spp. Between the site of an old lido and the Hollow Pond, oaks are virtually the only plants to grow on the compacted sandy gravel that occurs here. Near here there is a large common lime Tilia x europaea and a hybrid black poplar Populus x canadensis var. marilandica, as well as a Japanese privet Ligustrum ovalifolium. By Whipps Cross Road and between this road and the Hollow Pond, holly is abundant and there are numerous specimens of wild cherry Prunus avium, some elder Sambucus nigra, and a single small Turkey oak. Further south the trees thin out as the grassland is met, and a specimen of laburnum Laburnum anagyroides is found. By Hollybush Hill both apple Malus sp. and pear Pyrus communis seem evidence of deliberate planting. Although the total number of tree species to be found on Leyton Flats is similar to Wanstead Flats, and the majority of the species are the same in both areas, the distribution differs considerably. Leyton Flats is dominated by large numbers of few species to an extent that Wanstead Flats with its deliberately planted groups of diverse species is not.

The ponds and wet areas

The Hollow Pond is the largest area of permanent water on Leyton Flats. Muddy regions occur in places by the winding banks of sandy gravel, although the compacted soil away from the water is largely devoid of plant growth. Great reed-grass Glyceria maxima and soft rush Juncus effusus, with great reedmace Typha latifolia and yellow flag-iris Iris pseudacorus are typical plants to be found in these muddy waterside areas, as well as spike-rush Eleocharis palustris, duckweed Lemna minor and marsh pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris in places. In the water common plants are hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum and Canadian pondweed Elodea canadensis, while spiked water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum, curly water-thyme Lagarosiphon major, grassy pondweed Potamogeton obtusifolius and hair-like pondweed P. trichoides have all been found. Willow Salix sp. is present but not in quantity, around the edge. The numerous islands of the lake have not been investigated, but it can be readily seen that those particularly at the east end have much gorse cover, and silver birch is common.

Over-flow water runs in the Hollow Pond from a much smaller pond at its north-east corner. There are some patches of low plant growth around its banks, including toad rush Juncus bufonius, jointed rush J. articulatus, and of particular interest, near its north bank, slender rush J. tenuis. Canadian pondweed is also present in this pond, as are lesser pondweed Potamogeton pusillus and hair-like pondweed P. trichoides.

The Eagle Pond is the second largest of the permanent open waters, less natural looking than the others, partially due to the pavement of Snaresbrook Road which forms its northern perimeter. The east end and the south side of this pond, although forming the boundary of the study area, have not been investigated as they are in private grounds. Only the short length of the pond's western end adjoins the woodland area of Leyton Flats. At the water's edge grow pale persicaria Polygonum lapathifolium, water-pepper P. hydropiper, trifid bur-marigold Bidens tripartita and a specimen of white willow Salix alba. Also present are some hard rush Juncus inflexus and the only specimen of remote sedge Carex remota known on Leyton Flats. Nearby there is a spring, Birch Well, with a stone edge, which flows into the nearby Eagle Pond. This spring is about 1.5metres long and slightly less wide and contains much floating sweet-grass Glyceria fluitans.

The third pond in size and which usually has some water-cover is that at the west end of the Flats by Lea Bridge Road. This is closely surrounded by trees except on the side by the road, and willows are abundant particularly at the north-east end. Also at this end great water-grass grows luxuriantly and covers a wide area. Marsh pennywort is common here and in many of the damp hollows in this part of the Flats. Water starwort Callitriche platycarpa is to be found on the mud at the edge of the pond, as is one patch of bog stitchwort Stellaria alsine and some marsh foxtail Alopecurus geniculatus. The area of the North Pond, by Snaresbrook Road, is dominated by Salix, with an abundance of soft rush and great water-grass as well as bulbous rush, Juncus bulbosus, floating scirpus Eleogiton fluitans and velvet bent Agrostis canina subsp. canina. Numerous other damp hollows, ditches and areas liable to flooding exist on the Flats, and various combinations or representatives of the species mentioned are found in them, as well as others that are presented in the species list.

Other plants and environments

Certain plant species persist on Leyton Flats in more restricted environments than discussed above, either within or adjacent to the other areas. A notable example of this, perhaps, is buck's-horn plantain Plantago coronopus which grows in a number of locations on areas of compacted gravel. Such soil exists on the track that lies adjacent to and along much of the length of Whipps Cross Road, on and beside some footpaths, and car parking areas. On the car park to the west of the lido procumbent pearlwort Sagina procumbens and sand spurrey Spergularia rubra are found. On a bank which separates the grassland from the track by Whipps Cross Road, one plant of columbine Aquilegia vulgaris is present, together with such plants as ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata, Oxford ragwort Senecio squalidus and groundsel S. vulgaris. A steep bank leads down to the cutting of the Central Line railway, from the drier grassland above to damp and muddy conditions below. Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara is abundant on the slope at the south end, and here too is some broad-leaved pea Lathyrus latifolius. Along the bottom of the slope where a wire fence divides the Flats from the railway, some plants of common horsetail Equisetum arvense occur, and there are many specimens of willow, as well as hawthorn, bramble and, actually on railway property which has not otherwise been investigated, silver birch.

Adjacent areas

Separated from Leyton Flats proper by Whipps Cross Road is another area of Forest land mostly beside and just to the south-east of Whipps Cross Hospital. Much of this land is wooded, with some clearings. Especially in the south, English oak is the dominant tree, with holly and hawthorn being abundant. Just at the edge of the Forest, near the ambulance station by James Lane, there are one or two patches of stinking iris Iris foetidissima. This may have originated from ornamental plantings just inside the hospital grounds, where there are other specimens. In early 2016 three clumps of stinking iris were noted just in the woodland at the side of James, but across the road from the previously seen specimens. Slightly further north between the hospital and the road, there are a number of specimens of grey poplar Populus canescens, with much regeneration in progress. One locust tree Robinia pseudoacacia occurs by the hospital fence, and this is almost certainly originated from trees within the hospital grounds. Cut-leaved cranesbill Geranium dissectum occurs and goat's-beard Tragopogan pratensis is quite common in the roadside grassland. Just north of the hospital and near to the roundabout is an open area of perhaps somewhat unattractive-looking land, predominantly of grasses and common associated plants such as dandelion Taraxacum officinale agg. and cat's-ear Hypochoeris radicata. This area was wooded until 1979 when it was cleared to provide safe travel at night for nursing staff passing between the hospital and nearby bus stops. Similar clearance of roadside vegetation has been undertaken elsewhere in the vicinity of the hospital and in other parts of the study area, such as in Bush Wood by Blake Hall Road early in 1981. This obviously has a disturbing effect on the plant life, but on the land to the north of hospital, where a slight dip occurs in the middle of the area and drainage is poor, as well as soft rush and toad rush the less common slender rush Juncus tenuis and hairy sedge Carex hirta occurs in the habitat created by clearance.

The small area of Forest land separated from the rest of Leyton Flats by the railway cutting and situated between the cutting, the Green Man roundabout complex, and the road called Highstone, comprises an area of trees which are by the railway and an area of grass by the roads. The trees here are of more diverse species in a small area than on the rest of Leyton Flats, and include beech Fagus sylvatica and hornbeam Carpinus betulus. Lime Tilia x europaea is planted by the roadside. The grass area includes common mouse-ear Cerastium holosteoides and black horehound Ballota nigra as well as spotted medick Medicago arabica which has not been found elsewhere. A pile of building rubble and earth which had been tipped onto the grassland harboured at least twenty species of plants, including creeping cinquefoil Potentilla reptans, petty spurge Euphorbia peplus, wood forget-me-not Myosotis sylvatica and germander speedwell Veronica chamaedrys. This area was considerably affected when work was undertaken during the 1990s for the Redbridge to Hackney relief road. This section, which is south-east of the Central Line railway cutting will be better classed as part of the Green Man roundabout system.

Species known to have been recorded in recent years from the Leyton Flats area include nine that are all specifically mentioned in the Flora of Essex (Jermyn 1975), which have all been re-found. The earlier Flora of Essex (Gibson 1862) includes 58 species from such areas as "Whipps Cross" and "Snaresbrook", of which only 23 are known to be still present. The 35 species not found during the present survey are all listed in Table 1 below.


TABLE 1. Species included in The Flora Of Essex (Gibson 1862) from the vicinity of Leyton Flats, and not found in the present survey.

Abbreviations of recorders' names

F............... Forster, Edward, F. L. S.

G.............. Gibson, G.S.

J.F............ Freeman, J.

J.T.S......... Syme, J.T., F. L. S.

W. L......... Lister, William Henry.

W.G.......... Garnons, W.L.P.

Athyrium filix-femina  Lady Fern.  Snaresbrook. F.
Dryopteris dilitata  Broad Buckler Fern.  Snaresbrook. W.G. 
Thelypteris limbosperma  Lemon-scented Fern.  Nr. Snaresbrook. F. 
Chenopodium urbicum  Upright Goosefoot.  Snaresbrook.
Oxalis acetosella  Wood Sorrel.  Snaresbrook. J.F.
Frangula alnus  Alder Buckthorn.  Snaresbrook, not common. F. 
Ulex minor  Dwarf Gorse.  Leytonstone. W.G. 
Ononis spinosa  Spiny Restharrow.  Epping Forest near Stratford. J.F. 
Trifolium medium  Zigzag Clover.  Snaresbrook. W.G.
Ornithopus perpusillus  Bird'sfoot.  Epping Forest near Stratford. J.F.
Rubus leucostachys  Bramble. Sm.  Snaresbrook. W.G.
R. carpinifolius  Bramble. W. & N.  Snaresbrook.
(Note: Rubus spp. covered in present survey by R. fruticosus agg.)
Drosera rotundifolia  Round-leaved Sundew.  Between Leytonstone and Snaresbrook. Gough. 
Peplis portula  Water Purslane.  Epping Forest, Stratford. J.F. 
Epilobium palustre  Marsh Willowherb.  Snaresbrook. F. 
Apium inundatum  Lesser Marshwort.  Snaresbrook. W.G.
Rumex pulcher  Fiddle Dock.  Nr. Leytonstone. F. 
Salix aquatica  Willow. Sm.  Common on the Forest. F.
Erica tetralix  Cross-leaved Heath.  Snaresbrook. G.
Hyoscyamus niger  Henbane.  Forest near Snaresbrook. F. 
Pedicularis palustris  Marsh Lousewort.  Forest near Stratford. J.F.
Mentha x piperita  Peppermint.  Near Whipps Cross. F. 
Viburnum lantana  Way-faring Tree.  Snaresbrook. W.G.
Chamaemelum nobile  Camomile.  Leytonstone. W.G.
Serratula tinctoria  Saw-wort.  Forest near Snaresbrook, very uncommon. F.
Damasonium alisma. Starfruit.  Snaresbrook. J.F.
Zannichellia palustris  Horned Pondweed.  Snaresbrook. W.G.
Juncus subnodulosus  Blunt-flowered Rush.  Snaresbrook. W.G. 
Lemna polyrrhiza  Greater Duckweed.  Snaresbrook. G. 
L. gibba  Fat Duckweed.  Forest near Leytonstone. F.
Eleocharis quinqueflora  Few-flowered Spike-rush.  Bog on Epping Forest, between Wanstead and Walthamstow. F. 
Carex flava  Large Yellow-sedge.  Snaresbrook. W.G. 
C. riparia  Greater Pond-sedge.  Snaresbrook. W.G.
C. pulicaris  Flea Sedge.  Between Walthamstow and Woodford.
Catapodium rigidum  Fern-grass.  Snaresbrook. W.G.



Introduction to Gilbert's Slade and Rising Sun Wood

For Map of Area - click here

For List of Plants - click here


Gilbert's Slade proper is a stretch of open grassland in an otherwise mainly wooded part of Epping Forest. However, the name is used here to encompass a survey area which includes adjacent and nearby forest land. The whole of this area lies between Snaresbrook Road in the south and the Waterworks Corner roundabout and the North Circular Road in the north. To the east, fences separate the forest from housing or playing fields. Gilbert's Slade is separated from Rising Sun Woods by the Woodford New Road. These woods are named after the public house that lies near St. Peter's Church. To the west, the boundaries consist of the road called Forest Rise, fences which separate the land from allotments or buildings, and Becontree Avenue. A number of buildings lie within these boundaries, particularly in the south, and include the church and the public house west of Woodford New Road, Forest School adjacent to Gibert's Slade, and dwelling houses.

The total area is about 75 hectares, predominantly of woodland, but with pieces of grassland as well as ponds and other wet areas. This predominance of woodland gives Gilbert's Slade and Rising Sun Woods a very different aspect in general from that of either Wanstead Flats or Leyton Flats, and differs too from the landscaped environment of Wanstead Park. The southern end of the area lies, like the adjacent Leyton Flats, on the river gravel deposits of the Boyn Hill terrace at about 30 m above sea level and the rest of it is principally London Clay, rising in the north to approximately 55 m. A number of streams or ditches are present in the area, flowing generally north to south, although some of these may lie empty except at times of high rainfall. During such periods however, many temporary watercourses may be formed particularly in the south part of Gilbert's Slade proper. Ponds or wet hollows are scattered about the whole area, the largest of these being Bulrush Pond. There are a number of marshy spots.

There is perhaps slightly less disturbance here as a whole than in other areas of southern Epping Forest. However, even Gilbert's Slade suffers the consequences of being close to east London. The most popular parts of the area are the vicinity of Bulrush Pond and in the open region of Gilbert's Slade itself which is used by both pedestrians and equestrians, as are the main tracks which run through it. Although the area is divided into three major sections by Woodford New Road and by Forest Road, these roads do not relate to ecological boundaries. It will therefore be convenient, when describing the area in detail, to divide it differently, starting from the southern end and working northwards. For a Map - Click Here



The Plants of Gilbert's Slade

Frying-pan Pond area

The south-west corner of the area is somewhat detached from the rest by Forest School and three groups of residential blocks, and is both surrounded and dissected by a number of roads. It consists in the main of open grassland with trees lining the roads, and the Frying-pan Pond. This pond is so called by people living nearby because of its shape and appearance - simply a shallow bowl with what may once have been a ditch in the north-west providing the 'handle'. Broad-leaved pondweed Potamogeton natans is plentiful here, and bulrush Schoenoplectus lacustris is also present. Soft rush Juncus effusus and jointed rush J. articulatus as well as the common spike-rush Eleocharis palustris are associated with the pond's margin. In the grassland near to the pond heath rush J. Squarrosus and mat grass Nardus stricta are present, and elsewhere hoary cress Cardaria draba, upright hedge-parsley Torilis japonica and lesser stitchwort Stellaria graminea may be noted. The borders of the area near to the houses contain garden outcasts such as spring beauty Montia perfoliata, wood forget-me-not Myosotis sylvatica and spotted dead-nettle Lamium maculatum. Also in similar locations are such colonisers of disturbed ground as ivy-leaved speedwell Veronica hederifolia, Buxbaum's speedwell V. persica and a white form of the red dead-nettle Lamium purpureum. Garden outcasts, including greater celandine Chelidonium majus, may also be found east of the road called The Forest in the strip of land between the houses and Snaresbrook Road. In the more grassy parts of the locality, to the east, there is an abundance of tormentil Potentilla erecta and heath bedstraw Galium saxatile, reminiscent of similar areas on Leyton Flats. At this point, a south-flowing stream is encountered, which eventually flows into the Eagle Pond on Leyton Flats. Northwards, this stream is bounded on one side by houses and on the other by a track and the woodland which extends towards Gilbert's Slade proper.

The southern woodland and private land.

The woodland which stretches northwards from Snaresbrook Road towards the open area of Gilbert's Slade is predominantly of English oak Quercus robur, with hornbeam Carpinus betulus and some silver birch Betula pendula. Holly Ilex aquifolium is also common here as it is in many parts of the whole area. The eastern boundary of the forest here consists of a ditch and a concrete fence. Beyond the fence, and thus outside Epping Forest and the study area proper, is a plot of disused land about 400 m in length, stretching north form Snaresbrook Road between the Forest and nearby buildings. This land is very overgrown and, being private, less disturbed than the Forest itself. Some interesting plants are to be found here, including a luxuriant patch of bamboo Sasa. Also present are common horsetail Equisetum arvense, male fern Dryopteris filix-mas, cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis and hairy bitter-cress C. hirsuta. On the Forest side the fence some specimens of remote sedge Carex remota are situated by the ditch, and also some marsh thistle Cirsium palustre. A very small pond near the fence often contains rubbish as the relics of children's games, but also provides a habitat for a variety of plant species that manage to persist. These include a water starwort Callitriche, Canadian pondweed Elodea canadensis, narrow-leaved water-plantain Alisma lanceolatum and common duckweed Lemna minor. Another patch of remote sedge is present by the pond, and willow Salix overshadows it. Within the woodland are some small grassy open areas in which species such as tormentil, creeping willow Salix repens and many-headed woodrush Luzula multiflora may be found. Elsewhere, three-veined sandwort Moehringia trinervia and patches of enchanter's nightshade Circaea lutetiana are to be found near woodland paths. At the edge of the wood, along which flows the stream to the Eagle Pond, garden outcasts from the nearby building have included honesty Lunaria annua and a yellow crocus Crocus sp. At the north-east corner of these buildings a open area of grassland is encountered which separates the houses from the Forest School, at the south-west corner of which lies Manor Pond. This pond, which derives its water from the previously mentioned stream, is in its present state the result of extensive 'tidying-up' of an older very overgrown pond in early 1980. Some of the plants that are now present may have been deliberately introduced at that time; a guelder-rose Viburnum opulus that was well established in 2009 may be an example of this because it has not been found elsewhere in the area. Yellow flag-iris Iris pseudacorus is prominent in clumps at the edge, where also are found celery-leaved crowfoot Ranunculus sceleratus and trifid bur-marigold Bidens tripartita. Present in the water are water-plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica and common duckweed, while on the bank are two large crack-willows Salix fragilis as well as some Japanese privet Ligustrum ovalifolium which is also present more abundantly within the school grounds. The banks of the stream and the edge of the woodland in the vicinity have been much disturbed, partly in the process of re-forming Manor Ponds. A number of species are present which have taken advantage of this situation. These include opium poppy Papaver somniferum, hedge mustard Sisymbrium officinale, cleavers Galium aparine, groundsel Senecio vulgaris and pineapple weed Matricaria matricarioides. Northwards the woodland begins to thin out as the southern end of Gilbert's Slade is reached. The stream by the school and its playing-fields has a more luxuriant vegetation associated with it than the adjacent grassland. Species include great willowherb Epilobium hirsutum, willow Salix, gipsywort Lycopus europaeus, soft rush and great water-grass Glyceria maxima. Away from the stream, floating sweet-grass G. fluitans has choked a small pond at the edge of the grassland just to the north-east of Manor Pond.

Gilbert's Slade

Gilbert's Slade itself is an area of open grassland which stretches northwards until it narrow to a track leading through the trees to the Waterworks Corner roundabout. Grasses which may be found in various locations in the Slade include heath grass Sieglingia decumbens, tufted hair-grass Deschampsia caespitosa and mat-grass Nardus stricta. Heath rush Juncus squarrosus and slender rush J. tenuis are also present, as well as common sedge Carex nigra. A small amount of petty whin Genista anglica persists and common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense is to be found beneath the trees at the edge of the Slade in an area where tormentil is particularly abundant. A few ponds or marshy areas exist; plants that are particularly associated with these include toad rush Juncus bufonius and jointed rush J. articulatus, floating sweet-grass and great water-grass. The woodland which borders Gilbert's Slade consists mainly of English oak, hornbeam and holly. It may be noted that north of Gilbert's Slade, the hornbeam here is typically pollarded, unlike specimens in Bush Wood and Wanstead Park to the south. This woodland comprises the greater part of the whole area on both sides of Woodford New Road as far north as Forest Road and Waterworks Corner, apart from Gilbert's Slade and the Bulrush Pond and its adjacent area of marshy ground to the west of Woodford New Road. Sieglingia decumbens, tufted hair-grass Deschampsia caespitosa and mat-grass Nardus stricta. Heath rush Juncus squarrosus and slender rush J. tenuis are also present, as well as common sedge Carex nigra and oval sedge C. ovalis.

Bulrush Pond and Rising Sun Woods

Bulrush Pond (photo) and its immediate surroundings have produced a greater number of species in one or two squares than perhaps any other part of the whole study area. Of particular interest in 1981 was an abundance of the water fern Azolla filiculoides, while other plants present include rigid hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum, watercress Ranunculus nasturtium-aquaticum, bog stitchwort Stellaria alsine, brooklime Veronica beccabunga and ivy duckweed Lemna trisulca. In 2008, the pond had white water-lily Nymphaea alba alba and fringed water-lily Nymphoides peltata. Just to the west of the pond, a different plant community is associated with an area of wet marshy land which further increases the variety of plants in this vicinity. Here may be found patches of heath rush, slender rush, toad rush and soft rush, as well as oval sedge and heath grass. Nearby, through not associated with the wet areas, honesty Lunaria annua and London pride Saxifraga spathularis x umbrosa are outcasts possibly from the nearby allotments. South of Bulrush Pond and the Rising Sun public house is St. Peter's Churchyard, which although not part of the Forest area, deserves a mention because of the wood anemone Anemone nemorosa and lesser celandine Ranunculus ficaria which occur abundantly in the north-west corner of the churchyard, but hardly at all in the adjacent forest.

Waterworks Wood

This area is separated to some degree from the rest of Gilbert's Slade by Forest Road and that part of Woodford New Road leading to the Waterworks Corner roundabout. The construction of this roundabout and the re-routing of nearby roads in 1970 involved considerable disturbance and landscaping of parts of this area, so that much of the flora is of comparatively recent origin and of generally common plants. These include such species as annual meadow grass Poa annua, cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata, couch Agropyron repens, black medick Medicago lupulina and coltsfoot Tussilago farfara. By Becontree Avenue numerous garden outcasts or deliberately planted species occur, such as Lawson's cypress Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, a Berberis, an azalea Rhododendron and Spanish broom Spartium junceum. Snowberry Symphoricarpos rivularis is abundant at the north end of the road. The woodland area which was not disturbed during the road building programme is predominantly of English oak, hornbeam and holly, with sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and silver birch saplings also occurring in some parts. Within the wood lies Reedmace Pond, named from the presence of great reedmace Typha latifolia. Other plants present include water pepper Polygonum hydropiper, gipsywort, floating sweet-grass and great water-grass.


Two hundred and thirty-four species of vascular plants were recorded in Gilbert's Slade during 1981 and 1982 and unless otherwise noted the description of the area relates to that time. For a list - click here

A programme of practical work tasks has been undertaken in subsequent years - including by the Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers - particularly to try to stop the spread of invasive bramble and other vegetation into the open areas of the Glade proper. This has resulted in a substantial increase in plants such as common cow-wheat and a variety of sedges. An intensive review of the plant-life is desired.


Bush Wood - introduction

Bush Wood - a tree avenueA tree avenue in Bush Wood


Bush Wood is an area of Epping Forest that lies between Wanstead Flats to the south and Leyton Flats to the north, with Wanstead Park and the parklands that once comprised the Wanstead Estate to the east. The area is divided into two sections by Bush Road - south of this Bush Wood is predominantly a wooded area consisting of about 13 hectares and north of Bush Road an area 7.5 hectares has woodland in the eastern part and an area of open grassland to the west.

Where the wood merges into part of Wanstead Flats a purely artificial boundary between the two areas has been taken as the footpath from Belgrave Road to the road called Bushwood. The rest of the southern boundary consists of the garden fences of the houses in Belgrave Road and the concrete fence of the high-rise block, Belgrave Heights. Blake Hall Road forms the eastern boundary. The other boundaries are the road called Bushwood and the Hackney Link Road (opened in 1999). To the north are the gardens of the houses in Woodcote Road.

There are three buildings that project into the wood. Two of these at the eastern edge by Blake Hall Road are Epping Forest keeper's lodges. The other, by Bush Road, is a Quaker Meeting House with a high brick wall surrounding its large garden. Click here for more information. The garden warrants furthur investigation into its plant-life as it is in fact an enclosed portion of the Forest. West of this wall the area being considered is mostly grassland, but with trees along the edge of the wall and along Bushwood. Near the south end of the wall is a clearing which reaches into the centre of the wood, and there is another less-wooded area along the southern boundary running parallel to the tree avenue.

At the western edge of Bush Wood, near the Green Man public house, is a small public garden. This was the site of the Green Man Pond, which existed until the 1950s. Another aspect of Bush Wood may be noted: near the keeper's cottage in Bush Wood (south) is the remains of a drinking fountain which is on the site of a small spring that once existed here. This may have been the site of a mineral spring which was discovered in Wanstead in 1619 and which for a short time was a fashionable spa.

From Blake Hall Road a long avenue of trees stretches in an easterly direction towards Leytonstone. This is Evelyn's Avenue, part of the elaborate system of tree-avenues that radiated from the estate of Wanstead House. The remains of secondary avenues, leading off the main one, are also present in Bush Wood and include the remaining specimens of sweet chestnuts that were planted perhaps some 300 years ago.

An unusual "Swiss Cottage" once stood at the southern edge of the wood. This was a timber-framed building dating from about 1850, in a corner of the grounds of Lake House. After the present Lake House estate was built, the cottage remained at the edge of Bush Wood and was accessible by a bridge across a ditch or stream. The cottage was demolished in 1962 in spite of local protests when the Metropolitan Police erected a multi-story accommodation block for police cadets on the site.The ditch - albeit without water - still remains. A door (always locked) in the concrete fence which protects the block - now a residential development called Belgrave Heights - does mark the position of the bridge, which can be ascertained from the view shown on a postcard (click here)

The ditch probably at one time carried drainage water from Bush Wood - including possibly from the Great Lake and Green Man Pond - to Reservoir Wood, now across Blake Hall Road, and thence into the Shoulder of Mutton Pond. It would have contributed an important source of the supply of water to Wanstead Park's lake system. (See "The Lake System of Wanstead Park" on the Friends of Wanstead Parklands website)

A plant survey of the wood was carried out between 1975 and 1979 on behalf of the Wren Conservation Group, and the results published as "The Flora of Southern Epping Forest" Part 2: Wanstead Flats and Bush Wood, The London Naturalist, No 60, 1981, by  P. R. FERRIS

Some of the text here has been based on that included in the publication, but has been significantly updated for the website. Click here for the update of that survey.