About me

My name is Paul Ferris and I live in Forest Gate - or more realistically, Manor Park - at the southern end of Epping Forest, by Wanstead Flats. I have done so since the age of 13, so a good few years.

Having worked originally in the electronics industry, and subsequently for Royal Mail, having retired some years ago I was able to more fully follow my interests. These were in electronics - by way of amateur radio (callsign G0LLE and originally G1XWU) - and in the outdoors by way of travelling, walking (which may be considered an ideal way of travelling) and the study of local wildlife.

It is of course to the latter that this website is dedicated, and it is an interest which developed perhaps in the 1970's through a fairly common route of birdwatching (I'd probably be referred to as a 'birder' now, rather than a 'twitcher'), going on to plants when there weren't so many birds around. What is the equivalent of a birder or a twitcher in the botanical world? I don't know, but I don't consider myself to be a botanist. I noticed that other things such as butterflies and fungi were also out there - apparently waiting to be recognised and classified, so that's what I've been trying to do.

This interest took on a more formal aspect when in 1980 I was encouraged on behalf of the local wildlife conservation group - the Wren Conservation Group - to write and have published in The London Naturalist in 1980 'The Flora of Southern Epping Forest Part 1: Wanstead Park'. This was followed in subsequent years by Part 2: 'Wanstead Flats and Bush Wood', Part 3: 'Leyton Flats and Bush Wood North', and Part 4: 'Gilbert's Slade'.

Having completed the surveys for those publication, I realised how much I had missed, so had to continue. In 1997 'The Flora of the old Redbridge Southern Sewage Works' was published - by way of a change - in The Essex Naturalist.

During these years I had amassed a considerable number of records of wildlife apart from and in addition to those mentioned in the publications; I had also gained the ability to create a website which might give others access to them. I say ability, though I didn't actually have that to start with and so had to learn something of simple website design (i.e. at my level). I used Dreamweaver to create 'Wanstead Wildlife', and it grew. But as it grew it began to look dated, and when I discovered Joomla! I transferred everything (apart from the photographs) over to that - which wasn't easy.

The ability to record the local wildlife by way of photographs came with the advent of digital cameras. One of my earliest photographs is of  a Common Darter dragonfly - Sympetrum striolatum - taken in Wanstead Park in Autumn 1998. The photograph is available here and is still a favourite, albeit the camera was a 1.5 megapixel Fuji - which because of their scarcity then produced a lot of strange looks when I was using it. I still don't use anything very sophisticated - can't handle the long lenses and weight required to get all the fabulous bird-shots that are now possible, but persevered with an easy-to-carry enough-megapixies and 10x zoom Panasonic Lumix TZ3 and then a Panasonic DMC-FZ38. A recent camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, which I find particularly versatile, and more recently still a Panasonic Lumix TZ70, which I find convenently small and light!

mbna_award_002Roger Tabor, Paul Ferris and Prof. David Bellamy at the BNA Annual Conference, 2009

The collection of wildlife records from the local area - the southern part of Epping Forest - led to a surprise (actually - a shock) in 2009 when I was asked if I would accept the Richard Fitter Memorial Award at the British Naturalist's Association Annual Conference. I did say yes, and was presented by Professor David Bellamy with a quite heavy medal. (click here for a bit more about that). I was also awarded an MBNA (Member of the British Naturalist's Association) and I am told that I can use those letters after my name. It sounds a bit pretentious, though, and I suspect that's why on letters from friends they are not present.

I find that in 2019, my enthusiasm to "get out there" and discover more wildlife has waned. That seems sad to me, although getting out there and at least enjoying looking at (and trying to remember what the things I am seeing are called) is still present. Why the enthusiasm has waned, I am not sure, but it is probably a mixture of things. Many of the people with whom I enjoyed wandering about looking at things are no longer able to do so, or indeed are simply no longer! There are, however, plenty of people nowadays who have taken an interest in our wildlife, and local wildlife and conservation groups and similar are flourishing. That in itself may have led me to let others do all the walking about, and recording things...

But there are also negative aspects that have impacted on my enjoyment of the local environment. There is a lot of talk about making things better, but I have seen a lot of my favourite environmental places damaged. This is perhaps particularly so in Wanstead Park, where - I believe - both lack of appropriate management when it was required, and an increasing turning towards 'amenity' provisions has resulted in the loss and damage I perceive. The first could be instanced by the terrible invasion of Floating Pondweed that was allowed to occur, leading to a vast amount of money spent on clearing it, involving necessary and deliberate water-reduction in the lakes. The result of this was massive loss to pond-life, and change of habitat. Another impact on some prime environments was the use of inappropriate materials on tracks (including that used on permitted cycle tracks). This led to pedestrians using the grassy areas to the sides of these uncomfortable surfaces, and thus damaging the habitat. Permitted cycles, and the lack of supervision over cyclists using other parts of the Park, plus increasing mowing presumably to enhance amenity use of the grasslands is another case in point.

There, I've had me moan, and that's about all I'm going to say about me - except that I also play the mouth organ, have been known to sing some odd songs, and write some very odd "poetry". (And the odd story or too - but I'm probably better known, though not well known, for telling them).

The website itself, by the nature of my backing off from the observing, identifying and recording, will hence become somewhat stagnant, but I hope that at least it will remain as something of a basis for information about local wildlife and the local environment in which it is to be found.


Paul Ferris