Wanstead Park - an introduction

A fuller description of the Park and its Plants is provided here

For a map of the Park - click here



The City of London Corporation manages Wanstead Park as a part of Epping Forest under the terms of the Epping Forest Act of 1878, although for historical reasons the style of management differs from that of the rest of the Forest, and the bye-laws are different from the rest of Epping Forest.

The Park was first enclosed about three centuries ago and formed part of the landscape grounds of a large mansion known as Wanstead House, which stood on what is now Wanstead Golf Course. It was not until 1880 that the Corporation of London acquired the grounds, and it was opened to the public in on 1st August 1882. As an example of the type of amenity area attached to such a ‘Great House’, the continued enclosure of the Park proper was felt justified and steps are taken to maintain that aspect. For many years this essentially consisted of ‘keeping nature under control’, whereas in the rest of Epping Forest the form of an ancient forest perpetuated by natural regeneration is maintained. Some years ago a variety of work was undertaken to "formalise" aspects of the Park in order to enhance the image of the grounds of a Great House. These included renovation of the Temple building and changes to the gardens of the Temple, the plantings of a double avenue of sweet chestnut trees, planting of yew hedges and serpentine lines and attempted clearing of the mounts.

In 2001 the Park was re-classified as a Grade 11* historic park by English Heritage, and we were told that the park in recent years had more time and money spent on it per acre than any other area of Epping Forest. It is perhaps inevitable then, that there was a perception by some local people that the character of the park that they had known for so long is was changing, and that the tidying-up is resulted in the loss of particular plant species and wildlife habitat. Subsequently, however, some of the work undertaken was allowed to degenerate, particularly in those areas away from those most visited by the public, and overgrown pathways meant that some areas became all but inaccessible. In 2009 there was a feeling by some that lack of management in certain aspects is having a detrimental effect on both habitat and enjoyment.

The boundaries of Wanstead Park are clearly defined by a fence with gates, though pedestrian access is always possible. Cycling is prohibited under the by-laws, although this regulation is often ignored. To the west of this enclosure is another part of Epping Forest with grassland, a pond known as the Shoulder of Mutton and woodland known as Reservoir Wood. The Park and this area together comprise in the order of 74 hectares.

Even though so close to east London the park is fortunate in being surrounded by other areas of open space. Wanstead Golf Course lies to the north and the River Roding to the east. The opposite bank of the river is adjacent to playing fields, a recreation ground and the site of disused allotment gardens. These form a visual barrier to the A406 North Circular Road. The site of the disused Redbridge (Southern) Sewage Treatment Works is now a valuable part of Epping Forest and comprises part of the southern boundary, as does a riding school and some council-owned woodland known as Aldersbrook Wood. Aldersbrook, a quiet Edwardian housing estate, separates the Park from nearby Wanstead Flats to the south; further west the gardens of houses in Woodlands Avenue are separated from Reservoir Wood only by garden fences. To the west only a fence and Blake Hall Road separates it from Bush Wood and the rest of Epping Forest.

A fuller description of the Park and particularly the wild plants to be found there is provided in the section The Park and its Wild Plants.

Details about the lake system is provided in a separate work available on the Friends of Wanstead Parklands website - click here

For information about the Tree Avenues of Wanstead Parklands click here