News of wildlife and other issues

Lost Wanstead Park

No, not the Great House, nor the ornate gardens – just some bits and pieces that I’ve seen disappear – or are disappearing now.

Most obvious, maybe, are the lakes. Yes , I know, the Heronry Pond has been here and gone again for years; right now it’s on one of its going-again phases – courtesy, as I understand, of a failure to renew the extraction license required to pump water from the borehole. Luckily, the adjacent Perch Pond retains a good level of water of its own accord. But, of course, excess water from the Heronry Pond – via the Perch Pond – is supposed to top up the Ornamental Waters, and that is dropping rapidly.

The Ornamental Waters for many years was able to be topped-up at times with water from the Roding, but the pump that did this was taken away when the Heronry/Perch borehole was completed – the same borehole which at present is not in use.

And talking of bore-holes, a new one was drilled a year or two back by the Keeper’s lodges. This was to supply water to part of Redbridge – but it was hoped that a little bit at least could have been used to top up the Ornamental Waters. That borehole is not in use – two reasons I have heard: one is that the City of London didn’t really want the thing on their land, the other is that the water was not quite the quality that was required. So, a new one has been dug on that bit of the exchange land which I thought belonged to London Borough of Redbridge. It seems as though Thames Water has decided it is theirs, so now we’ve lost the field. (OK, It’s not part of Wanstead Park – nor even of the Forest – but it is contiguous with it).

And the ramifications of this are that we’ve lost an enormous part of Wanstead Park, fenced off since before Christmas, while Thames Water is attempting to lay a pipe-line through the Park to the pumping station at Redbridge. What have we lost so far while this is going on (apart from access)? Well, a number of trees have been felled, and a bat roost has been destroyed!

Access to Wanstead Park is a matter that I’m increasingly concerned with. Paths that are marked on old O.S. Maps are no longer accessible – at least easily, if at all. A good example of this is the gravelled path that runs downhill through Warren Wood from near the Warren Road entrance to intersect Florrie’s Hill. It doesn’t take much to loose a path – an extending bramble or a fallen tree can do it easily. It also doesn’t take much to keep a path open – a pair of loppers or a hand saw. But maintenance of the Park away from around the refreshment kiosk and the Temple is pretty sparse. Oh, occasionally trees are trimmed for safety - or felled for the same reason(!), and repairs are made to the more major tracks so that the Corporation's vehicles can get round. They are repaired because they are damaged by the vehicles, and as often as not with an inappropriate-for-walking-on material.

Another example of lack of maintenance of a path is that on the south side of Heronry Pond, between the pond and Bullet Hill and Northumberland Avenue. That was a nice walk by the lakeside until brambles got the better of it. There are a lot of paths in the park that I find difficult to use – if they are useable at all. Even turning right after entering the Park from opposite Wanstead Park Avenue, the path nearly opposite Perry Lodge is now gullied, muddied and brambled. And that was a proposed easy-access path!

On the other hand – of course – we are loosing potential bluebells because there are no clearly defined pathways across/through Chalet Wood. Particularly just before the bluebells flower, they are easily damaged as people - including children going to school - stroll in line abreast across the emerging plants. It shouldn’t be difficult to help define some routes without unduly affecting the character of the wood.

What else have we lost? Well, quite a bit of the accessible Park has fairly recently been lost to the “footprint” of the area around the Keeper’s Lodges – sheds, caravan park, borehole…

Probably the major thing we’ve lost is a continuing management plan – it is always a plan for the future, whereas management needs to take place all the time.

It doesn't seem as if we have people on the ground – or even in an office – who know or really care what is happening in Wanstead Park. Those who maintain they know what is happening don’t really seem to, and those who should care can’t – because of recent policies, I think.

Of course there are many people like myself that care, but unless you’ve got a very loud voice whatever you say seems to be either pooh-poohed or ignored. (and I haven’tgot a very loud voice – I’m just somebody that walks in the Park, keeps a website or two relating to it, and has written numerous letters to a variety of Superintendents).

I need to point out – otherwise I shall get in trouble – that these thoughts are my own. I guess that others might feel similarly (or not); maybe if you do you might like to think about what is likely to be lost next. The Park itself, perhaps? You have been warned! Keep an eye on Weald Park, and Thorndon Park and Essex County Council, over the years to come.



Paul Ferris,  10 March 2008