What and Where is Wanstead and its Wildlife?

Ten years ago - in 2007 - when I really got the Wanstead Wildlife up and running, I wrote an introduction to it which included a number of questions as to what the website was about and for, and some problems that I'd discovered in deciding what it should contain. The problems and questions were these:

• What comprises Wanstead?

• What constitutes wildlife?

• Why is the wildlife here?

• How do I present the findings?

• Where and when do I stop?

I'm not sure that I have really answered all or even any of these, and in effect the website contains what it contains, and its value is whatever I and anybody else that accesses it finds. Ten years hence, and a fair bit of work, and during that time there has been a significant increase in the numbers of people that have an interest in our local wildlife. The question about how I present the findings certainly deserved the inclusion of lists of records of species found here. I have always believed that in order for any local conservation group to help to conserve things, they need to know what and where the things are. Hence there are a good few lists, and I did hope that these would be added to by the inclusion of records sent to me by the increasing numbers of enthusiasts, and particularly passed on by the local conservation group - namely the Wren Conservation Group. These hopes in the main have proved difficult to fulfil. Others' records have been kept and presented in so many different forms that I have found increasing difficulty in keeping up with them. Some are in private records, others in group records, others on websites, blogs and social media. Therefore, I have slightly re-organised the contents so that Wanstead Wildlife's records are presented primarily with those that I have collected myself. However, I have appended records that have been presented to me, and many that I have researched from other sources. In future - if I keep the website going - fewer "others'" records are likely to be added. In fact, I suspect that fewer of my own records will be added; ability and enthusiasm seems to be lacking these days! At least the website may act as a repository which may be of interest to some.

I also included a light-hearted look at Wanstead itself - for those who don't know it and those who think they do, and I thought I might update this slightly as I reproduce it here. So:

Wanstead is an area of east London approximately 6.85 miles north-east of the City of London. This distance is taken from St Paul's Cathedral to Christ Church near Wanstead High Street, and is as a Crow (Corvus corone) flying in an incredibly straight line, might fly.

It is an east London suburb which still has something of the feel of a village about it - though only just. It is located between the River Lee (or Lea) to the west, which is the historical boundary between Middlesex and Essex, and the River Roding to the east; which is the more recent boundary between the postal districts of London and Ilford, Essex.

In 2010 the census details gave a population of 63021, although this also includes the neighbouring area of Leyton, because Wanstead is part of the Parliamentary Constituency of Leyton and Wanstead. The population of Wanstead itself - included within the Suburbs and Small Towns: Commuter Suburbs  designation of the UK census data - was 11543 in 2011.

Wanstead is in Greater London, part of the London Borough of Redbridge. It is also in Essex. In fact, so deep rooted is the fact that Wanstead is in Essex (that is, east of the River Lee or Lea) that many inhabitants insist that letters sent to them via the Royal Mail postal service are addressed as "Wanstead, Essex". This is despite the fact that they are actually in Leytonstone, LONDON, E11, as far as Royal Mail's routing codes (addresses) for letters are concerned.

But Wanstead is greater than a routing code; the Red Bridge itself (or at least the bridge that replaced the Red Bridge) is to the east, crossed by the Eastern Avenue (the A12); beyond is Redbridge. This is part of Ilford (in the London Borough of Redbridge), but definitely in Essex if only because the postal addresses say so (ILFORD, Essex, IG...)

Just to the west of Wanstead is that part of Wanstead which is called Snaresbrook, and a little further west still the Borough boundary is crossed, and Waltham Forest (London Borough of) is entered. Here we are in Walthamstow (LONDON, E17), so we have left Wanstead.

But Wanstead contains within its boundaries a little known marvel - Wanstead Park. It is part of Epping Forest as is Wanstead Flats - although these may not be percieved to be in Wanstead, in so far as true (is there such a thing?) Wanstonians are concerned

Other areas - not in Wanstead - but within the remit of WWL, are Bush Wood, Leyton Flats and Gilbert's Slade - all parts of Epping Forest. Wanstead Park is separated only by a single road from Bush Wood. This in turn, is separated only by the Green Man roundabout from Leyton Flats (in fact, adjacent to Leytonstone). Leyton Flats is not flats (ie high-rise buildings) at all - but a mainly flat area of grassland - with lots of trees and shrubs! It is part the London Borough of Walthamstow, which we entered north of Snaresbrook.

Just across the Snaresbrook Road, north of Leyton Flats, the Forest of Epping continues northwards through an area known as Gilbert's Slade. It is not far from Wanstead, and adjacent to it, and the wildlife (I'll get round to that in more detail) is just as interesting, so it has been included in the "in and around Wanstead" label. But at the north end of Gilbert's Slade, Epping Forest has been gashed more severely even than at the Green Man roundabout in Leytonstone. Thus this part of Epping Forest is probably known more to drivers than to naturalists. It is Waterworks Corner. And here - at least in a northerly direction - it is convenient to limit the extent of "in and around Wanstead"

The western delineation - at leat that by Leyton Flats - is quite conveniently made by the A104 Lea Bridge Road between Whipps Cross roundabout amd Snaresbrook Road. However the Forest stretches to either side of the continuation of this road nortwards to Waterworks Corner roundabout, and the Forest and study area here comprises a variety of small roads and allotments.

And what about the southern boundary? It follows Capel Road and Forest View Road by Wanstead Flats. By "the Flats" are the enclaves of Lake House and Aldersbrook - both rather nice estates of houses adjacent to parts of Epping Forest. The Lake House estate is situated between Bush Wood and Wanstead Flats and is in Leytonstone E11 (or Wanstead, Essex) in the London Borough of Redbridge, and Aldersbrook is situated between Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats and is in Manor Park E12 (or Wanstead, Essex) - in the London Borough of Redbridge.

The south edge of Wanstead Flats abuts on to Forest Gate in the London Borough of Newham. This is the Forest Gate that is LONDON, E7, although it is probable that a few people would prefer to be in Wanstead, Essex. The nearest railway station in Forest Gate to Wanstead Flats is Wanstead Park, so this may support their claim (though not their routing code). The Flats themselves are in Redbridge (mostly). As the post-Olympic development of Stratford with its much-hyped transport facilities progresses, a spread into neighbouring areas - perhaps particularly Forest Gate - is becoming apparent. So much so that even addresses Flats-side of Wanstead Flats, such as Capel Road, is finding newcomers having their mail addressed "Wanstead Park".

The western edge of Wanstead Flats, nearer to Forest Gate, still abuts on to Forest Gate (E7), although in the vicinity of the Jubilee Pond, the houses in Forest Gate are in the London Borough of Walthamstow. Indeed, by Sidney Road in Forest Gate, even what is considered here to be part of Wanstead Flats (LB Redbridge - remember?) is in LB Waltham Forest. Further north - across Lakehouse Road, the houses that act as a boundary to the Flats are in Leytonstone (E11). The Flats here merge into Bush Wood.

So that brief outline encompasses Wanstead itself, (the village/town), and neighbouring parts of Epping Forest which are incorporated into the study area dealt with here. But still - where to stop? Because the wildlife doesn't necessarily stop anywhere; it is no revelation to anybody that a totally wild fox may be seen wandering through any of the streets, housing estates or forest already mentioned.

Within Wanstead - for example St Mary's churchyard - or near to it (eg the City of London Cemetery or the Alders Brook) are areas of "wild" or semi-wild habitats that have a host of wildlife. They also have a host of non- "wild" life, particularly species of plants that have been deliberately introduced but nevertheless contribute enormously to the diversity of habitats, species and the ecology of the area.

'Wanstead Wildlife' strives to take account of the area primarily looking at the animals, birds and plants that may be found here, something of the history which has led to how it is today, a little of the ecology of the area, and issues that arise relating to these aspects.

Paul Ferris, 10th January 2017