News of wildlife and other issues
Woodlands Avenue Wayleave sleeper bridge
The Superintendent of Epping Forest has advised that the wooden sleeper bridge at the rear of Woodlands Avenue - near Blake Hall Road - is not to be replaced now that it is nearing the end of its service life. Following a cost analysis, it is deemed to be of limited public benefit and will not be replaced following demolition.
I enjoy walking along the Woodlands Avenue wayleave, crossing the bridge and walking back through Reservoir Wood along a more central track, and it will still be possible to do the same stroll without using the bridge by walking just a bit further west. The slight disadvantage will be that this brings the user just a bit closer to the disturbance of Blake Hall Road, and the accompanying rubbish that accumulates on the slopes below the broken fence. It is not a big deal, but perhaps illustrates the management's lack of concern over access, ease of access and ambience in the Forest. Money, of course - but as long as the area around the Temple is kept tidy for visitors...
Reservoir Wood, adjacent to the stream, has already been considerably messed up by the inappropriate deposition of the spoil from the dredging of that stream with no attempt at landscaping - again an illustration of disregard for what the place looks like and feels like. Have you ever seen illustrations of what might be considered true "wildwood" looks like? Now, the idea of wildwood might sound ecologically sound, but as far as how it looks, how it feels and how accessible it is to human beings, I don't think it's very nice. Disturbingly, a lot of Wanstead Park is beginning to look like that! A far cry, perhaps, from the various landscapings that have taken place over the centuries to create the "parkland" that Wanstead Park - we are told - is supposed to represent?
Paul Ferris, June 16th 2010
Olympic Threat to Wanstead Flats?
The Metropolitan Police are intending to use part of Wanstead Flats as a temporary briefing centre for officers working on the Olympics policing operations. This is intended to be for a period of 90 days, which includes construction of the site, use of the site during the Olympic and Paralympic games, and the time taken to dismantle the site.
Later this summer the police are planning to start a period of public and planning consultation about the proposal, and we are told that "Any move would first be subject to a public consultation to gather feedback from people living in the area, and address any concerns about the restrictions it would put on public use of the area during the games."
In an article in the Wanstead & Woodford Guardian, Peggy Bitten of the Friends of Epping Forest said: "We're not going to object but we do hope there will be a full consultation, and that there will be total restitution afterwards."
A spokeswoman from the City of London said: "We think there is a way forward that will allow the police to be based at Wanstead Flats, while retaining the Forest's legal guarantees, and at the same time securing benefits for the long term interest of the area. A proposal to use the fairground site for a limited period in return for an investment which can be used in the local area, seems worthy of full consultation with the community." She also added that: "This is a difficult position for us in our role of protecting the Forest. We are confident that we are seeking a solution that would be in the best interests of most people."
I note that in all three comments - by the Metropolitan Police, by the Friends of Epping Forest and by the City of London, no mention is made about the damage that may be done to the wildlife and ecology of the area.
The Police, of course would have relatively little interest in or even knowledge of the potential threat to the environment. The Friends of Epping Forest do, but only mention the restoration of the grassland. And of course, there is a tendency for things that happen in the southern reaches of the Forest to have less importance to those that live further north - and who generally will have less knowledge of how much disturbance there already is in this area and how delicately balanced the survival of some of our local wildlife is. In a subsequent discussion about the proposal at a Wanstead Park Community Project meeting - and the fact that the probable site would be on the that rather poor-but-firm area that is used by the fair - a vociferous argument was put forward that, because the area was such as it is, it couldn't do any harm. This is fairly typical of the unappreciative view that because an area isn't - for example - covered in wild flowers or trees, it has no value. Diversity is often overlooked, and the area supports a ground-flora that doesn't exist in quantity elsewhere on the Flats. We probably don't know just how much it does support!
The City of London - the Conservators of Epping Forest - should have a good knowledge of the effect that possible events or temporary structures and usage could have, but from previous experience this has proved not always to be the case. As far as restoration afterwards is concerned, I have seen various instances where restoration work has been poorly carried out after works have taken place. (see here, for example, in relation to the Reservoir Stream recently) In my perception it has not been a good record. Their comment that the solution "that would be in the best interests of most people" is not encouraging for local residents or wildlife. "Most people", of course, will be the millions that will attend the Games, and security will be of utmost importance.
We don't know yet what the Metropolitan Police will require on Wanstead Flats. The suggested area is the Fairground site - and this may well lead at least to the possibility of the fairs and circuses not being able to take place, as the time limit that has been suggested by the City of London if this was allowed, would be around 120 days. Whatever your views on these activities, they are historic ones and should be able to continue and not lost due to the Olympics, even temporarily.
The Metropolitan Police have also said that there is no existing Met. building in the right place and of the right size for their purpose and a search for other alternatives has shown the Flats as the only practicable site. Was this requirement not taken into account in the planning stages for the Olympics? Already Hackney Marshes has lost much of its football pitches, and we are getting the outcasts here - and although it is difficult to judge, probably a lot more cars (and people!) polluting the area as a by-product.
My gut reaction is that I don't like the sound of this. We have two group's of people already that aren't really knowledgeable and/or interested in the south of the Forest and the damage that could be done - let alone the inconveniences to local people, and a third which from the comment might be perceived as looking towards a financial gain "which could be used in the local area." The Metropolitan Police have already in the past used land adjacent to the Forest for their own purposes - in the form of a tower block by Bush Wood - and this on the site of a picturesque Swiss-style cottage (see picture here). The cottage was demolished in 1962 in spite of local protests when the Metropolitan Police erected the multi-story accommodation block for police cadets on the site. Now that same building has been sold off by the police and is classy residential housing. That shouldn't have been allowed to happen and I think that perhaps this shouldn't, either.
Paul Ferris, 8 June 2010
A public meeting was held at Durning Hall Community Centre, Forest Gate on Wednesday 14th July, and was attended by - I estimate - over 200 people. For the flyer, CLICK HERE
For the City of London's view, CLICK HERE
For the local Guardian's report, CLICK HERE
For the Evening Standard's report, CLICK HERE
For the Random Blowe view, CLICK HERE
Migrant Bird Watch on 23 May
On Sunday 23rd of May was the last migrant bird watch. It was also my first migrant bird watch as before I couldn’t wake up early enough. Once we set off I finally saw the creatures which were waking me up so early in the morning!
But the six hour walk was well worth it. The grass of Wanstead flats was fresh with dew when I spotted lots of spider webs glistening in the morning sun. They were beautiful and each had a small hole in them where the spiders would hide. I was even fortunate enough to spot one in the hole of its web. These spider webs were amazingly detailed and just sat on the grass like a silk carpet.
We also saw a few whitethroats. One kept coming back to the same tree and in flight was singing a very uplifting tune. He kept flying from a nearby bush to the very top of a tree.
There was a very confident skylark on a log posing for us in the middle of Wanstead flats it was as if we weren’t there! Nearby I got the chance to photograph a male skylark displaying to a female! It was a very good day for skylarks.
On top of that a small copper butterfly was hanging on a piece of grass as if it was waiting for us. Many of Wanstead’s wildlife seemed to be wanting the spotlight that morning! In the afternoon we were walking round Wanstead Park. We then saw another small copper which looked tiny compared to the one before.
We were lucky to see the great crested grebes doing a bit of their dance and it seemed like they were making their nest. I guess time will tell if we were right.
Stoats in Wanstead Park
I received an e-mail from Kathy Hartnett of the Wren Group passing on some information that she had received from a new member of that Group:
Date: Friday, 28 May, 2010, 15:45
Wasn't sure who to send wildlife sighting to only I saw a stoat in Wanstead Park this lunchtime. North of Heronry pond on the path by the golf course. Bounded down the path in front of me for about 5 metres, stood looking around for a bit and then disappeared into the brambles. I was so dumbstruck I just stood there, then moved off and waited but it didn't come back.
I've seen stoats at Rainham but never ever this local.
Stoats are present in Wanstead Park and are seen and reported from time to time. We should be aware, though, that Weasels are also present, and it can be difficult to tell them apart unless a good sighting is obtained. Stoats are generally bigger than Weasels, with a body length for the former of between 230-290 mm and the latter between 210-230 mm. Quite distinctive - if a good view is had - is that Stoats have black tips to their tails, and also relatively longer tails than Weasels.
It would be interesting to find out more about the status of mammals such as Stoats and Weasels in the Park and elsewhere around here, but to do so we would have to do some proper mammal trapping (live trapping - that is!), rather than rely on - albeit valuable - reports such as this.
There is a charming photograph of a Stoat in Wanstead Park here.
Paul Ferris, 29 May 2010
A nursery by Alexandra Lake
There were twenty-one goslings altogether by Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats on 18th May - with one pair of Canada Geese; now that's impressive! It must be a creche, although there were no other interested possible parents nearby.
Incidentally, the Lesser Black-backed Gulls patrolling Alexandra Lake and the Shoulder of Mutton Pond quite frequently, and with a lot of attacks particularly on cootlets. Looking at the small numbers of surviving goslings attached to some pairs of geese on Alexandra Lake, I suspect that these too are falling prey to predators. There are and for long have been foxes around, of course, but in my perception the Lesser Black-backs are a new addition.
In previous years, the Conservators of Epping Forest have culled the geese, but did not do so this year. Perhaps we are now seeing a more natural culling taking place. Let us hope that species such as Little Grebe fare better than the geese, Coots and, doubtless, Mallard.
Paul Ferris 19th May 2010