Cockspur Thorn felled in Wanstead Park

The stump of the small tree to the left of the felled ash in the photograph is a Large-flowered Cockspur Thorn Crataegus coccinoides, an American hawthorn and one of only a few in Wanstead Park.     It was felled during the second week of March 2007, as was the ash, at the north end of the Park, near to the golf course and the pump house. Apparently this was done by Thames Water Authority in preparation for a water pipeline intended to convey water from a borehole near the Temple to the pumping station across the River Roding from the Park, near the Redbridge roundabout. This photograph was taken on 20 September in 2005, it shows a healthy young tree.

This hawthorn, although self seeded, may be descended from the American Garden, that is shown as a feature on some very old plans of the Wanstead Parklands. Whatever, the question must be asked "Why was it allowed to be cut down - was it necessary?"

There may be one or two seedlings of this species remaining - a mature specimen exists elsewhere in the Park - but at least two other mature specimens are known to have been cut down at previous times!

Paul Ferris, March 2007

Aldersbrook Wood

Aldersbrook Wood : never heard of it? I am not surprised – to my knowledge the name isn’t mentioned on any map. In fact, I’ve given it that name myself; otherwise it might be just “that patch of land adjacent to the south edge of Perch Pond…” etc.

Just outside of Wanstead Park’s boundary fence, and forming an effective barrier to the development of Aldersbrook’s newer housing, this area of land belongs to London Borough of Redbridge. This was the site of an isolation hospital and is now mainly woodland, with some small area of rough grassland.

The area requires to be investigated more thoroughly for its wildlife, but apart from a Corsican pine Pinus nigra ssp. laricio and a Lombardy poplar Populus nigra "Italica", it is not expected that it will show any surprises. Its main value is that it is there, and forms a pleasant buffer between the Park and the housing estate.

However, Redbridge does not appear to maintain the land in any way and a considerable amount of rubbish has accumulated. It is probable that it is used as a temporary refuge for those that might be illegally night-fishing if (if?) a patrol came along. Certainly a lot of the rubbish dumped there is from people fishing nearby - particularly alcohol cans. There is a frequently used unofficial route across the wood into Wanstead Park from the end of Westmorland Close through a narrow opening between fences, leading to an untidy footpath, laid with concrete slabs in an attempt to avoid the mud – not an attractive entrance to the Park, but a useful one, and one which could be a lot better.

It must be asked what the London Borough of Redbridge has in mind for this land? Already the “Nuclear Bunker” that stood on part of it has gone, and houses (“Bunker Villas”?) erected. Probably its greatest value would be for house building – but this would bring if not windows, at least the tiny back gardens which are usually the case these days almost up to the Perch Pond. Or perhaps Northumberland Avenue could be extended – a road to serve these houses?

With some tidying and some maintenance Aldersbrook Wood 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?

27 October 2009

Newts and Toads relocated to Wanstead Flats?

An extract from the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian of October 15th 2009 reads "Thousands of Newts and Toads have been moved to a new home in Wanstead to make way for work on the Olympic Site. More than 2000 amphibians have been released in specially created ponds on Wanstead Flats....".

Perhaps some questions need to be asked?

• Where are these new habitats?

• What studies were done to ascertain that no plant or animal life was unduly damaged in creating these habitats?

• What studies were done to prove that the introduction of these creatures would not be detrimental to the existing ecology? (eg were they disease-free?)

• What negotiations took place with the City of London Corporation - the Conservators of Epping Forest?

• Why were local conservation groups or naturalists not informed about this? (information like that would certainly help local naturalists and conservation groups in their studies of the area, yet as is so often the case, nobody has thought to inform us of what is going on.)

Did this relocation actually happen?

Wanstead Flats is a threatened environment; it suffers considerably from man-made disturbance, be it useage or abusage. The loss of the cattle that have traditionally been grazed there has encouraged the growth of rank grasses and allowed increasing shrub invasion. A suggestion has been made (by the Superintendent of Epping Forest) that there may be a possible increase in sports facilities on the Flats - even including provisions of a new football pitch at the expense of rough grassland.

Water supplies to the Flats are increasingly scarce; marshy areas and even a spring have disappeared in recent years as supplies have been cut off, particularly due to road-works. How is it possible that NEW amphibian-friendly areas have been created under these circumstances?

We should be doing all we can to improve the facilities for wildlife on Wanstead Flats, be it skylarks or amphibians, but this needs careful planning. Was this the case with this relocation?

Paul Ferris, 19 October 2009

Autumn Wildlife Walk

A walk from home to Wanstead Park on 13th October on a lovely early Autumn day.

On the way - on Wanstead Flats - a Small Copper sunning itself, and two pairs of Little Grebes on Alexandra Lake. In Wanstead Park Avenue in the Aldersbrook Estate, the stunning purple leaves of what I believe is Claret Ash Fraxinus angustifolia ssp. oxycarpa 'Raywood'.

In the Park - on Heronry Pond - the usual motley supply of Coots, Mallards, a couple of Little Grebes and assorted Gulls. At the east end of the Perch Pond, Common Hawker dragonflies were annoying each other whilst trying to find a convenient leaf to alight on, whilst a Heron stood motionless just a few metres away checking out the fish. A couple of strikes while I watched proved that it didn't go hungry. Meanwhile, one of the monsters of the Perch Pond (a Red-eared Terrapin) came slowly closer to the bank and extricated itself somewhere in the vegetation, picking up a good covering of duckweed on the way. Also on the lake were a handful of Shoveler and a single male Pochard.

Then in to the Sewage Works Site - now preferred to be called the Exchange Lands by the Conservators - to check out what the effects of the last few months acccesibility to horse-riders has been. This had been allowed because of the restrictions imposed on the riders from Aldersbrook Riding School due to the pipe-works across Wanstead and Leyton Flats.

Walking the routes that had been taken by the horses - which ceased a few weeks ago - it was hard to find any significant damage done to the soil. No foot-wrenching hoof-holes or mud-encasing slurries. About all that was visible was the remnants of some occasional horse droppings. I didn't go down on to the lower bank of the Roding - where horses have been taken; I suspect there may have been slightly more poaching (becoming sodden due to trampling) there because of the softness of the soil. Indeed, the overall very dry weather conditions up until recently may have helped a lot in reducing the impact of horses hooves elsewhere.

Walking back across what I used to call Redbridge Field, but has now become Thames Water Waste, there was a Common Blue butterfly and another specimen of my newly-identified Narrow-leaved Ragwort to interest me. As well, in adjacent trees, a Chiffchaff was singing.

Back by Alexandra Lake, two male and two female Teal had appeared, but at the lake's edge what I first took to be for Pied Wagtails were in fact three and a female Wheatear. The amusing aspect of this was that everywhere the Wheatear went, one Wagtail seemed bound to follow!

Paul Ferris

Wanstead Park : 1st October

An afternoon walk in Wanstead Park on 1st October produced the following sightings :

Perch Pond

Two Mute Swans + five cygnets

Three Shovelers

Various Coots and Mallards

One Black Headed Gull

One Grey Heron

Nine Tufted Ducks

One Cormorant

and one rat scuttling in the undergrowth!

Where I saw three Shovelers and Nine Tuftys - I always think it should be an 'even' number, but that's what I saw.  Perhaps the 'missing' ones were hiding somewhere else.

Dell Bridge

I had a nice sighting of two Wrens fairly close together in amongst the foliage.

Ornamental Waters

Various Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, and Tuftys

Two Grey Herons (in different areas) - one of which was being bothered by a Carrion Crow

Three Cormorants up in the dead trees

Two Mute Swans + four cygnets

and four pairs of Gadwalls. They were skulking away at the end of the Ornamental Waters towards the Pump House.  As I tried to get nearer to take some pics, they became very nervous, and flew off.  After I continued on walking for several minutes, I came across another four pairs of Gadwalls.  They weren't found in the direction the others flew off towards, but as it's the same amount, I'm not sure whether it's a coincidence, or the same group.

Heronry Pond

Various Coots, Mallards, Moorhens, and Black Headed Gulls

Two Little Grebes

Two Shovelers

and another rat scuttling in the undergrowth - I keep hoping it will turn out to be an interesting mammal!

Shoulder of Mutton Pond

Not as 'busy' as the other ponds, so I was able to count :

Twenty One Black Headed Gulls

Four Coots

One Mallard

Two Mute Swans (no cygnets)

Two Moorhens

and three Jays in the general area nearby

I noticed that the Drake Mallards now seem to have regained their colour, after the recent 'eclipse' stage.

There was also some tree felling going on.  I heard the chainsaw noise at one stage when I was walking around the Ornamental Waters.  About half an hour later, I reached where the work had been going on.  It was near the bit where you can walk across a small bridge to the Ilford side.  They didn't seem to be City of London workers, but said they were taking down trees which were decaying, and were therefore dangerous to the pathway.

Kathy Hartnett