Jubilee Pond - its history, decay and renovation

Previously known as the Model Yacht Pond or Dames Road Pond; until 2002 stone edged and steep sided, thus having no shallows. It was used for much of the time up to the 1960's for model boating - hence its popular name - but subsequently the pond fell into a state of disrepair, did not retain water and become more of an eyesore than an amenity.

wf myp opening 1908artOpening of new Model Yacht Lake, Wanstead Flats, May 30th 1908An Ordnance Survey Map (resurveyed 1893) shows a small pond (photo) with its more northerly end opposite Ramsey Road. Works were undertaken in 1905-6 to improve drainage on Wanstead Flats which included laying surface drains from Leytonstone to this pond. Unemployed labour mainly from West Ham was used to enlarge the pond to its present size, extending it both to the north and south. Surface water using drains in Cann Hall Road and Sidney Road fed into the enlarged pond, which opened in 1908 (photos). Water was also supplied to the pond by means of a ditch from the Cat and Dog Pond just to the north on the Lake House Section of Wanstead Flats and then by pipes beneath Lake House Road. An overflow pipe at the SE corner is shown on later maps with a flow in the direction of Angel Pond (Angell's Pond), across Woodford Road, on the corner of Capel Road. Drainage ditches appear to have become blocked or broken, and the Model Yacht Pond Pond was dredged in the 1980's which may have damaged the pond's lining. These problems led to the very poor condition of the pond until late in 2002 when major renovation work had been completed. This followed a meeting that took place at Cann Hall School when local people were asked what they would like to happen to the pond. It seems that most favoured some form of wildlife lake, with provisions for educating youngsters. Other options included re-establishing it as a model-boating lake or filling it in.

The Lakehouse Lake Project

In August 2000, concerned residents of the area set up the Lakehouse Lake Project, the aim of which was to ensure that the Model Yacht Pond on Wanstead Flats was restored as an amenity. The Conservators of Epping Forest, local boroughs and other interested parties were asked what their plans were for the pond. The Conservators, as managers of the pond on behalf of the Corporation of London, replied that the future of the pond would be decided at a meeting of the Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee on November 13th 2000.

A petition presented to that committee had over 750 signatures, and was read out at the start of the agenda item. After just 20 minutes the committee voted unanimously to restore the pond as a conservation/education resource, perhaps with islands and viewing stages. The Finance Committee of the Corporation of London met on 28th November 2000 and agreed to finance the restoration. The cost was estimated to be in the region of £442,000. Finally, the Court of Common Council was required to confirm the project, and this was passed on 4th January 2001.

A public meeting was held on 25th January 2001 at the Lord Rookwood public house in Cann Hall Road, E11, with Jeremy Wisenfeld, the Superintendent of Epping Forest at the time, and Sally Hayns, the newly appointed Public Affairs Manager present. Mr Wisenfeld spoke for some time about the Conservators proposals for the future of the pond. Work on the pond was intended to start in March 2002 with completion in the Autumn. Before final decisions were made, however, there would be public consultation on plans and consultation would be ongoing.

Model Yacht PondThe former Model Yacht Pond in February 2001- uncharacteristically with water after heavy rain

At the January meeting, other issues that were raised included what sort of lining the pond should have to retain water. It was thought that puddled clay was preferable to a butyl liner or concrete. Water supply is another important issue - being part of the reason that the lake is often empty. A borehole or mains water supply were the two major options mentioned. Further discussion included car parking, litter, fly tipping, the fairground (which is nearby), toilet facilities and a new name for the lake. It was suggested that there might be some elevated landscaping using the waste broken concrete from the existing pond to shield it from the fair and as an attractive feature, although some felt that it was important to retain the open and low aspect of the pond and Wanstead Flats. A suggestion was made that it should be retained as a model yacht pond, but Mr Wisenfeld said that the Corporation of London did not want a sterile pond such as would be necessary for sailing boats. The problem of pollution caused by the overfeeding of geese and ducks was under consideration, and the provision of advisory and warning notice-boards was mentioned.

A further public meeting was held on 13th September 2001 at the Lord Rookwood, with Sally Hayns representing the Conservators of Epping Forest. She confirmed that it was proposed to start work on the pond, with completion expected in the autumn of 2002. However, a further public consultation to finalise the details (including a name for the pond - see below) would take place on 6th October. In general, the pond would be for wildlife and education, would have a puddled clay lining, and would be fed by preferably a borehole or if that were not possible, from the mains water supply.

A name for the pond

The pond has for long been known as either Dames Road Pond or the Model Yacht Pond. Suggestions that it could be called Lakehouse Lake were rejected. Nearby Lake House Road gets its name from a lake that once existed where now stands the Lake House estate. The "Lake House" (called the Russian Farm) was a building on an island of this lake where at one time the poet Thomas Hood lived. To transfer the name to Dames Road Pond would, then, have been historically incorrect and confusing.

In February 2002, Jeremy Wisenfeld announced that it had been decided to call the pond "Jubilee Pond", to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and in the late spring extensive work was begun to transform the pond into its new form. This work was completed by the spring of 2003, save for the tree and shrub planting. The old car parking area adjacent to Lake House Road was re-positioned slightly to the east, and an Epping Forest notice board with information about the pond and its wildlife was erected nearby.

The pond was officially opened by the Chairman of the Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee, Christine Cohen and Harry Cohen MP, on Saturday 12 June 2003, with a gathering of about 100 local residents.

Jubilee Pond - layout

Jubilee Pond is fed by ground water extracted from a borehole descending 65m into the underlying chalk. It has a puddle clay liner to encourage aquatic plant life. Lying in a NW/SE direction it is approximately 212m long by 66m wide with a maximum depth of 1.2m. Near the south-eastern corner of the pond is a sluice to prevent it overflowing.

The pond has three islands, a large peninsular and two outlying, low mounds. For convenience the islands have been unofficially named: from north to south, Pigeon Island, Centre Island and South Island.

Recent issues

In 2005 the pond was found to be loosing water at what seemed an excessive rate. In order to ascertain the cause of this and to plan for a repair - if this was required - it was regrettably decided to allow the pond's water level to drop. Just as the pond was begin to develop into an attractive and good wildlife habitat, local people and visitors once again had the prospect of a muddy hollow. Much of the work by Corporation staff and members of the Lakehouse Lake Project in establishing reed-beds had been wasted.

wf jubilee pond 080105 1214artJubilee Pond in January 2005By November 2006, it still remained uncertain whether the pond was actually leaking, or whether the loss of water was due to evaporation and lack of rainfall. It was certain that the edges of the pond had deteriorated, and it seemed likely that water was being lost here. During 2013 and 2014 a lot of work was undertaken to remedy this. The pond was re-lined and pipes were installed on the fairground site to drain surface water into the pond, helping to maintain water levels without additional extraction from the aquifer. (source: City of London website) More mesh was laid in the spring of 2014 to reinforce the banks of the pond following heavy rain. (source: City of London website). This work meant that almost all of the vegetation that had become established was lost, and - with the help of seeding and planting by volunteers - the process began again.

For a review of the wildlife of the pond and its surrounds, click here

For a background to the Jubilee Pond project by the Lakhouse Lake Group, click here