Wanstead Flats

Recording Map of Wanstead Flats

 

Wanstead FlatsWanstead Flats

To download this map as a pdf file, click here. (This will download together with a recording map of Wanstead Park)

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Cattle on Wanstead Flats

Cattle by Wanstead Flats

Cattle in Capel Road and on Wanstead Flats c 1960s. The fencing was temporarily erected after the prefabs were removed and the area re-instated as playing fields.

Commoners have had the right to graze cattle on Epping Forest for perhaps a thousand years. Regulations dating back to 1790 allowed "the release onto the Forest of two cows or one horse for every £4 per annum rent paid on the Home Farm". Commoners had to live in Forest Parishes and own over half an acre of free land within a Forest parish. The lords and tenants of Wanstead manor had a special right of sheep pasture on Wanstead Flats, unusual for the forest.

Cattle from farther afield also made use of Wanstead Flats. Up to the end of the 18th century and just into the 19th, a great cattle market was held annually during March and April. Cattle were brough from Scotland, Wales and the north of England. Business relating to this event was transacted at the Rabbits public house on Romford Road in Manor Park.

West of Manor Park, Forest Gate derives its name from a gate erected in the 17th century to stop cattle straying onto Romford Road from Wanstead Flats; the gate is first mentioned - as "The Woodgrange Gate" - in 1693. In 1851 the Lord of Woodgrange Manor erected a new five-bar gate across Woodgrange Road. and existed until about 1883. The gate was situated near by the Eagle & Child public house, which was shown on a map of 1741, but which has now closed.

In more recent years, from time to time measures have been proposed to restrict the grazing of cattle. In the early 1960s the City of London (Various Powers) Bill contained the proposal to tether the cattle. This was introduced on the grounds that they constituted a danger to road safety and damaged public and private property. Eventually it was ruled that the proposal be deleted, but only after petitions by Wanstead and Woodford Council, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society.

A look at how many cattle grazed on the flats is interesting. In 1912 there were as many as 972. In 1970 the highest number was 543

In 1977 after a motorcyclist was killed when he hit a steer in thick fog, the Corporation of London bought out the Commoner's rights to winter grazing, and since 1978 the cattle were allowed to graze only between April 16 and November 14. An interesting aspect of this is that the highways that cross the forest were established only by passage over common land; that is to say that the highways are as much common land as the land either side, and that the grazing animals have the right to pass over them!

In the early 1980's, farmers in the Waltham Cross area released sometimes 200 cattle onto the Forest . They were referred to locally as "cows", although most were bullocks, and were a familiar sight wandering through Loughton and Woodford towards Wanstead Flats - the cattle's favourite feeding area. When the vegetation was good, the cattle tended to stick to their favoured grasses on Wanstead Flats, but in dry summers and in the latter parts of the summer when they had gained confidence, they were often tempted towards peoples gardens and wandered into adjacent roads. People who had lived in the area for many years were used to this; although inconvenienced and even annoyed, they were usually prepared to put up with it for the unique experience and pleasure of the cattle being there at all! For many newcomers to the area, however, this was an unexpected and unwanted aspect of the area, and from time to time complaints were made to the Corporation of London, to the cattles' owners, and to the newspapers. Controversy would continue for some time, then abate. At the beginning of 1986, a letter from the Manor Park Cemetery Company was distributed to local householders suggesting they write to the local newspaper - The Newham Recorder - if they had been troubled by cattle. The object was to "get the area (Wanstead Flats) re-designated from Common Land and thus prevent distant farmers taking advantage of a very ancient law which causes inconvenience and harassment to our neighbourhood". The response published in the newspaper was three letters in favour of keeping the cattle and one against. About 150 cattle were released onto the Forest that year.

In 1991 only four commoners - from the Waltham Holy Cross area - were releasing cattle, and that year they were fitted with small coloured buttons in their ears to identify the owners. This replaced the former system of branding by means of a hot iron. This meant that people troubled by the cattle could report them to their owners, but the responsibility for keeping them out of your garden was your own! Historically, in Wanstead Manor and neighbouring Aldersbrook, the parish cattle mark was a "Q" surmounted by a cross.

The onset of BSE or "Mad Cow Disease" in the mid 1990s led to the cattle being kept off the Forest; this disease being followed by Foot and Mouth meant that no more cattle were released after 1996. Though by 2002 the possibility of seeing free-ranging cattle on the Forest seemed highly unlikely, some indications still remained of their past presence: road warning signs as for example approaching Aldersbrook Road from Manor Park, cattle grids at the Green Man Roundabout, a corral between the playing field buildings and Heatherwood Close. Perhaps coincidentally, this small area of housing and the adjacent petrol station stands on the site of Aldersbrook Farm, which was all that remained of the extensive Aldersbrook Farm - the sale of which provided the land for the City of London Cemetery!

It has been realised that not only do cattle grazing freely on the Forest provide something of a spectacle - particularly perhaps in the southern reaches where many children may have never seen cattle - they are also part of a historical link dating back thousands of years. Perhaps an even greater realisation has come about when the value of their grazing habits is taken into account. It can be seen that already the vegetation in areas such as Wanstead Flats is ranker than it used to be; there has been a phenomenal growth in tree-scrub in some area whilst other lower-growing species have declined. Perhaps less obvious to more casual observations is the reported loss of some insect species and a decline in others, even including butterflies.

In the early spring of 2002, the Conservators of Epping Forest announced that they proposed to re-introduce cattle in an area of the Forest between Chingford in the south and High Beach in the north. Mr Andrew Davies has a small herd of English Longhorns, a breed which have been used as part of a grazing project at Long Running in Epping Forest, and these would be available for grazing during the summer. A stockperson would herd the cattle during the day, and two cattle pounds would be erected, at Fairmead Bottom and on Chingford Plain, where they could be kept overnight. Two other potential graziers have been identified. These are Mr Graham Matthews and the Lea Valley Regional Park

A fence was erected around the boundary of this area, and was completed by June 2002. A number of cattle were by this time allowed to graze part of the area. The cattle seemed to settle in well, and early in 2003 it was proposed to supplement this herd with another 50 animals.

Even if these efforts are successful, it will probably be years before cattle might return to Wanstead Flats. The longer it is, the less likely it will be that that it will happen!

 

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Jubilee Pond - wildlife - plants

 

A variety of plants were introduced to the pond and in the vicinity after the constructional work was completed. Plants known to have been introduced included Mare's-tail, Hippuris vulgaris, Pendulous Sedge, Carex pendula, Cyperus Sedge, Carex pseudocyperus, and Lesser Reedmace, Typha angustifolia - none of which species were known on Wanstead Flats prior to this time. Also introduced was Reed sweet-grass, Glyceria maxima and Soft Rush, Juncus effusus. Broom and Gorse were planted on a low, long mound to the east of the pond.

In 2003 Fred Wanless of Dames Road, Forest Gate, made a survey of the plant life around the pond, together with a photographic record of the species found - plants recorded in 2003 below are those that he found.

In the plant list that follows, the name of the species is preceeded by the Page Number of the reference in Stace 2nd Edition

Plants which have not been recorded for Wanstead Flats before and are not known to have been deliberately introduced (though may well have been accidentally) are are as follows:

 

080 Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena - a single plant in the pond dipping area in 2003

128 Marvel of Peru, Mirabilis jalapa - a single plant by the peninsular on the west side of the pond in 2004

139 Red Goosefoot, Chenopodium rubrum - scattered plants around the margins in 2003

196 Marsh Dock, Rumex palustris - in the pond dipping area and in peninsular bay in 2003-2006

212 Musk Mallow, Malva moschata - a single plant on east bank in 2004; still present 2006

273 Lesser-Swine-cress, Coronopus didymus - F2 a single plant in the pond dipping area of Jubilee Pond 20/08/06

279 Hoary Mustard, Hirschfeldia incana - in scattered locations around the pond in 2004 - 2006

281 Weld, Reseda luteola - on Pigeon Island and in the pond dipping area in 2003; on west bank in 2005, various locations in 2006

301 Scarlet Pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis - two plant in the pond dipping area in 2003

417 White Melilot, Melilotus albus - a single plant in the pond dipping area in 2003

423 Spotted Medick, Medicago arabica - on east bank near pond dipping area in 2004

430 Hare's-foot Clover, Trifolium arvense - on the west bank in 2007

511 Fools Water Cress, Apium nodiflorum - in the pond dipping area in 2005

604 Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga - in the pond dipping area in 2003, only one small plant found in 2006

754 Nodding Bur-marigold, Bidens cernua - in pond dipping area in 2004

780 Common Duckweed, Lemna minor - in the pond in 2003

797 Sea Club-rush, Scirpus maritimus - in the pond-dipping area in 2005

882 Orange Foxtail, Alopecurus aequalis - on drying mud between the peninsular and the pond dipping area in 2003

921 Lesser Reedmace - Typha angustifolia - on the west bank in 2007

 

Other plants growing in the immediate vicinity of the pond - that is to say in the pond, on the banks and within the boundary of the gravel track that runs around it - are:

 

090 Celery-leaved Crowfoot, Ranunculus sceleratus - around the margins of the pond in 2003 and 2004, 2007

117 Nettle, Urtica dioica - On west bank of the pond in 2004

146 Common Orache, Atriplex patula - a single plant on the margins of the pond in 2003

176 White Campion, Silene latifolia - a couple of plants in the pond dipping area in 2003

183 Redshank, Persicaria maculosa - on muddy margins in 2003; in Peninsular Bay in 2005 - 2006

194 Curled Dock, Rumex crispus - scattered plants around the pond in 2003

195 Broad-leaved Dock, Rumex obtusifolius - a few plants at north edge of pond 2003 - 2006

221 Wild Pansy, Viola tricolor - a single clump growing on the banks of the pond dipping area in 2003

257 Marsh Yellow-cress, Rorippa islandica - around the pond in 2003 - 2006

402 Goat's Rue, Galega officinalis - around the margins and in the pond dipping area in 2003 - 2006

406 Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus - a few plants in the pond dipping area in 2003

411 Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca - around the margins and in the pond dipping area in 2003 and 2004

427 Red Clover, Trifolium pratense - in the pond dipping area in 2003 - 2006

444 Great Willow-herb, Epilobium hirsutum - around the pond in 2003 - 2006

446 Broad-leaved Willow-herb, Epilobium montanum - as isolated plants around the pond in 2003 - 2006

451 Large-flowered Evening Primrose, Oenothera (glazioviana) a single plant in the pond dipping area in 2003

506 Fennel, Foeniculum vulgaris - by south edge of the pond 17/09/04; by pond dipping area in 2005-2006

559 Black Horehound, Ballota nigra ssp. foetida - a few solitary plants in the pond dipping area and around the margins in 2003, on west bank in 2004 and 2005

562 Red Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum - in the pond dipping area in 2004

567 Self-heal, Prunella vulgaris - two small clusters in the pond dipping area in 2003

583 Buck's-horn Plantain, Plantago coronopus - on bare soil by the pond in 2003 - 2006

584 Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata - one of the first plants to grow around Jubilee Pond in 2003 - 2006

605 Field Speedwell, Veronica agrestis - on the banks of the pond dipping area in 2003

674 Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus - on the peninsular and around the margins in 2003 - 2006

676 Spear Thistle, Cirsium vulgare - some plants in the pond dipping area in 2003

686 Nipplewort Lapsana communis - several plants in the pond dipping area in 2003

688 Bristly Ox-tongue, Picris echioides - scattered plants in the pond dipping area in 2003, at the north end in 2006

699 Beaked Hawk's-beard, Crepis vesicaria - in the pond dipping area in 2003

720 Michaelmas Daisy, Aster sp. - a small plant in the pond dipping area in 2003

725 Canadian Fleabane, Conyza canadensis - in the pond dipping area and around the margins of pathways in 2003

729 Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris - near Jubilee Pond in 2003

732 Yarrow, Achillea millefolium - in various locations near Jubilee Pond in 2003 - 2006

736 Pineapple Mayweed, Matricaria discoides - one of the first plants to grow on the margins of the pond in 2003

736 Scentless Mayweed, Tripleurospermum inodorum - scattered plants around the margins 2003

737 Buttonweed, Cotula coronopifolia - on muddy margins in 2003 and 2004, Abundant around the pond in 2005

754 Trifid Bur-marigold, Bidens tripartita - in the pond dipping area in 2003

788 Jointed Rush, Juncus articulatus - in pond dipping area 2005

790 Soft Rush, Juncus effusus - in the pond dipping area in 2003 and more extensively around the pond in 2004

790 Hard Rush, Juncus inflexus - one or two patches in pond dipping area 2004

921 Great Reedmace - Typha latifolia

954 Yellow Flag Iris - Iris pseudacorus

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Jubilee Pond - wildlife - birds and other wildlife

 

Mammals

Brown Rats are commonly seen around the pond and on the islands.

Fox - common throughout the area

Birds: the following have been noted associated with the pond - many taking advantage of the over-enthusiastic bird-feeding habits of people:

Canada Goose - large numbers always present, constituting a pest. 50 or so counted in August 2006

Greylag Goose - a pair with young visited the pond from time to time during 2004. Although they didn't breed on the pond the young were at first flightless and thus must have walked, presumably from their breeding place on Alexandra Lake where they were also seen. One was present in August 2006

Mute Swan - a young pair arrived in October 2004

Tufted Duck

Gadwall - Uncommon

Grey Heron - occasionally visit

Cormorant - less frequent visitor than Heron

Coot - common, bred in 2005

Moorhen - a single bird arrived in late October 2004

Black-headed Gull - common in winter

Lesser Black-backed Gull - sometimes present in small numbers in winter

Common Gull - common in winter

Mallard (including white domestic duck) - two white domestic ducks were released in mid October, 2004. One soon died, the other seems quite at home. Wild birds are common. Bred in 2005 and 2006

Pied Wagtail - frequently seen; five on 30/10/04

Starling

House Sparrow - one seen collecting material from peninsular area on 30/10/04; pond dipping area in August 2005. Common around pond area in 2006

Goldfinch - in car park and on islands 8 Jan 2005

House Martin - numbers over the lake in July 2005

Swift

Feral Pigeon - large numbers always present

Collared Dove

Carrion Crow - common around the pond

Jackdaw - a few were frequently seen during 2004, almost none in previous years. Increasing by 2006

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  Jubilee Pond - its history, decay and renovation

Previously known as the Model Yacht Pond or Dames Road Pond; until 2002 stone edged and steep sided, thus having no shallows. It was used for much of the time up to the 1960's for model boating - hence its popular name - but subsequently the pond fell into a state of disrepair, did not retain water and become more of an eyesore than an amenity.

wf myp opening 1908artOpening of new Model Yacht Lake, Wanstead Flats, May 30th 1908An Ordnance Survey Map (resurveyed 1893) shows a small pond (photo) with its more northerly end opposite Ramsey Road. Works were undertaken in 1905-6 to improve drainage on Wanstead Flats which included laying surface drains from Leytonstone to this pond. Unemployed labour mainly from West Ham was used to enlarge the pond to its present size, extending it both to the north and south. Surface water using drains in Cann Hall Road and Sidney Road fed into the enlarged pond, which opened in 1908 (photos). Water was also supplied to the pond by means of a ditch from the Cat and Dog Pond just to the north on the Lake House Section of Wanstead Flats and then by pipes beneath Lake House Road. An overflow pipe at the SE corner is shown on later maps with a flow in the direction of Angel Pond (Angell's Pond), across Woodford Road, on the corner of Capel Road. Drainage ditches appear to have become blocked or broken, and the Model Yacht Pond Pond was dredged in the 1980's which may have damaged the pond's lining. These problems led to the very poor condition of the pond until late in 2002 when major renovation work had been completed. This followed a meeting that took place at Cann Hall School when local people were asked what they would like to happen to the pond. It seems that most favoured some form of wildlife lake, with provisions for educating youngsters. Other options included re-establishing it as a model-boating lake or filling it in.

The Lakehouse Lake Project

In August 2000, concerned residents of the area set up the Lakehouse Lake Project, the aim of which was to ensure that the Model Yacht Pond on Wanstead Flats was restored as an amenity. The Conservators of Epping Forest, local boroughs and other interested parties were asked what their plans were for the pond. The Conservators, as managers of the pond on behalf of the Corporation of London, replied that the future of the pond would be decided at a meeting of the Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee on November 13th 2000.

A petition presented to that committee had over 750 signatures, and was read out at the start of the agenda item. After just 20 minutes the committee voted unanimously to restore the pond as a conservation/education resource, perhaps with islands and viewing stages. The Finance Committee of the Corporation of London met on 28th November 2000 and agreed to finance the restoration. The cost was estimated to be in the region of £442,000. Finally, the Court of Common Council was required to confirm the project, and this was passed on 4th January 2001.

A public meeting was held on 25th January 2001 at the Lord Rookwood public house in Cann Hall Road, E11, with Jeremy Wisenfeld, the Superintendent of Epping Forest at the time, and Sally Hayns, the newly appointed Public Affairs Manager present. Mr Wisenfeld spoke for some time about the Conservators proposals for the future of the pond. Work on the pond was intended to start in March 2002 with completion in the Autumn. Before final decisions were made, however, there would be public consultation on plans and consultation would be ongoing.

Model Yacht PondThe former Model Yacht Pond in February 2001- uncharacteristically with water after heavy rain

At the January meeting, other issues that were raised included what sort of lining the pond should have to retain water. It was thought that puddled clay was preferable to a butyl liner or concrete. Water supply is another important issue - being part of the reason that the lake is often empty. A borehole or mains water supply were the two major options mentioned. Further discussion included car parking, litter, fly tipping, the fairground (which is nearby), toilet facilities and a new name for the lake. It was suggested that there might be some elevated landscaping using the waste broken concrete from the existing pond to shield it from the fair and as an attractive feature, although some felt that it was important to retain the open and low aspect of the pond and Wanstead Flats. A suggestion was made that it should be retained as a model yacht pond, but Mr Wisenfeld said that the Corporation of London did not want a sterile pond such as would be necessary for sailing boats. The problem of pollution caused by the overfeeding of geese and ducks was under consideration, and the provision of advisory and warning notice-boards was mentioned.

A further public meeting was held on 13th September 2001 at the Lord Rookwood, with Sally Hayns representing the Conservators of Epping Forest. She confirmed that it was proposed to start work on the pond, with completion expected in the autumn of 2002. However, a further public consultation to finalise the details (including a name for the pond - see below) would take place on 6th October. In general, the pond would be for wildlife and education, would have a puddled clay lining, and would be fed by preferably a borehole or if that were not possible, from the mains water supply.

A name for the pond

The pond has for long been known as either Dames Road Pond or the Model Yacht Pond. Suggestions that it could be called Lakehouse Lake were rejected. Nearby Lake House Road gets its name from a lake that once existed where now stands the Lake House estate. The "Lake House" (called the Russian Farm) was a building on an island of this lake where at one time the poet Thomas Hood lived. To transfer the name to Dames Road Pond would, then, have been historically incorrect and confusing.

In February 2002, Jeremy Wisenfeld announced that it had been decided to call the pond "Jubilee Pond", to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and in the late spring extensive work was begun to transform the pond into its new form. This work was completed by the spring of 2003, save for the tree and shrub planting. The old car parking area adjacent to Lake House Road was re-positioned slightly to the east, and an Epping Forest notice board with information about the pond and its wildlife was erected nearby.

The pond was officially opened by the Chairman of the Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee, Christine Cohen and Harry Cohen MP, on Saturday 12 June 2003, with a gathering of about 100 local residents.

Jubilee Pond - layout

Jubilee Pond is fed by ground water extracted from a borehole descending 65m into the underlying chalk. It has a puddle clay liner to encourage aquatic plant life. Lying in a NW/SE direction it is approximately 212m long by 66m wide with a maximum depth of 1.2m. Near the south-eastern corner of the pond is a sluice to prevent it overflowing.

The pond has three islands, a large peninsular and two outlying, low mounds. For convenience the islands have been unofficially named: from north to south, Pigeon Island, Centre Island and South Island.

Recent issues

In 2005 the pond was found to be loosing water at what seemed an excessive rate. In order to ascertain the cause of this and to plan for a repair - if this was required - it was regrettably decided to allow the pond's water level to drop. Just as the pond was begin to develop into an attractive and good wildlife habitat, local people and visitors once again had the prospect of a muddy hollow. Much of the work by Corporation staff and members of the Lakehouse Lake Project in establishing reed-beds had been wasted.

wf jubilee pond 080105 1214artJubilee Pond in January 2005By November 2006, it still remained uncertain whether the pond was actually leaking, or whether the loss of water was due to evaporation and lack of rainfall. It was certain that the edges of the pond had deteriorated, and it seemed likely that water was being lost here. During 2013 and 2014 a lot of work was undertaken to remedy this. The pond was re-lined and pipes were installed on the fairground site to drain surface water into the pond, helping to maintain water levels without additional extraction from the aquifer. (source: City of London website) More mesh was laid in the spring of 2014 to reinforce the banks of the pond following heavy rain. (source: City of London website). This work meant that almost all of the vegetation that had become established was lost, and - with the help of seeding and planting by volunteers - the process began again.

For a review of the wildlife of the pond and its surrounds, click here

For a background to the Jubilee Pond project by the Lakhouse Lake Group, click here

 

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