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Bluebell Walk


Saturday 23 March

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March 12th, 2019

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People’s Manifesto


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January 10th, 2019

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The Temple – Winter Opening Times


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November 2nd, 2018

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Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group statement on proposals for major music events on Wanstead Flats


Proposal for events – Wanstead Flats

Some of you may have heard that in summer 2019 there is a proposal for large scale music events on the Flats. Wren Group committee felt it should respond formally in writing to the City of London (Epping Forest) and this follows.

You might also like to read the committee report drafted by City of London officers (be warned this is quite a long document before you consider printing). It contains some coloured maps which make some of the options under consideration clearer.

Although our area of concern extends beyond Epping Forest, the Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group has always seen one of its responsibilities as lobbying on behalf of, and highlighting threats to, the natural environment of the Forest, including its flora and fauna. We are mindful of one of the provisions of the Epping Forest Act (1878), that “The Conservators shall at all times as far as possible preserve the natural aspect of the Forest…”

In recent years, one of the focuses of our work has been to survey, publicise and lobby for protection of ground-nesting Skylarks and Meadow Pipits on Wanstead Flats. According to the most recent London Bird Report, published by the London Natural History Society, in 2016 there were four Meadow Pipit territories on the Flats. With the exception of Rainham Marshes, this is the highest total anywhere in London. In the same year, there were three Skylark territories, the only multiple-territory site this close to the centre of London. Skylark is a Red Data list bird because of the dramatic decline in its numbers nationally. Partly because of the work of local volunteers, but also due to the positive attitude of the Epping Forest ecological team, and their sympathetic grassland management, this number increased to five territories in summer 2018.

The value of the Flats does not lie only in its ground-nesting birds. For example, in recent years, Green Hairstreak and Brown Argus butterflies have colonized, and in 2018 had a successful season. More than 80 species of spiders have been recorded in the last few years.

The Wren Group appreciates that Wanstead Flats is not a nature reserve. It is an area of mixed usage, available for footballers, model aircraft enthusiasts, dog-walkers, those who simply enjoy being in an open space, and naturalists alike. But any damage to the ‘natural aspect’ of the Flats will diminish the experience for every user. Not everyone may recognize the Skylark’s summer song, but most will appreciate it.

While the existing footfall on Wanstead Flats is large, it is not generally concentrated. The area’s natural heritage seems to be able to cope, just about. However, the Wren Group feels that the combination of the construction and de-rigging of a large arena and the large numbers of people attending one or more music events will be seriously detrimental to this ‘natural aspect’. Although the footprint of the arena itself is not on land of special wildlife value, it is close to such areas and it seems clear that the construction process, and very large numbers of people making their way to and from the site will not impact on the more wildlife-rich areas – especially as this is the middle of the breeding season for ground-nesting birds. The Skylark nesting area by Alexandra Lake is adjacent to the arena site, and large numbers of people making their way to and from Forest Gate on foot will be passing directly through the core breeding area for Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. Additionally, there is a very real fire risk in these very areas of the Flats during the summer, as witnessed this year, and this is likely to be exacerbated with large numbers of additional people on the site.

The Wren Group is also only too aware of the experience of the Police Muster Station in 2012. Before its installation, warnings were given about the threat to the Skylark population in that area. In a letter to our then chairman, the Superintendent responded “I remain unconvinced that the temporary loss of such a small area of poor grassland will have a significant impact on the nesting pairs of Skylarks on the SSSI area”. In fact, although Skylarks were breeding in that area prior to the installation, there has not been a single breeding record since.

Members of our group have invested a great deal of time and energy into highlighting the wildlife riches of Wanstead Flats. This proposal threatens long-term damage to the site, in particular running the risk of eradicating the iconic Skylark population. Just as at Chingford Plain, if the Skylarks stop breeding – given the national decline of the species – they are unlikely to return.

In summary, given the fragile state of the ecosystems on Wanstead Flats, especially after the worst grassland fire in London’s history earlier this year, we cannot envisage a scenario in which such a large scale event would have anything other than a severely damaging impact on the local wildlife. For these reasons, the Wren Group strongly opposes the plans to hold events of this kind on Wanstead Flats.

One final point is the absence of consultation. The opportunity for interested parties to seek clarification after the proposal has been signed-off in no way represents consultation. Local residents must have the opportunity to participate in a proper consultation before any contracts are signed.

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September 28th, 2018

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Woodberry Wetlands: lessons for Wanstead Park?


Woodberry Wetlands
On Thursday 5 October a group organised by Epping Forest Operations Manager Geoff Sinclair visited the Woodberry Wetlands reserve in Stoke Newington. As well as Geoff, the party included chief ecologist Dr Jeremy Dagley, conservation arborist Richard Edmonds and other Epping Forest representatives. Several members of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands and Wren Group also attended.

Although Woodberry Wetlands is a very different site to Wanstead Park, the purpose of the visit was to discuss how elements of the landscape planning for nature might be relevant there.

Geoff Sinclair said beforehand –

“Broadly speaking, issues that are of interest are:

Enhancing the biodiversity value of lakes – especially how to improve the pretty hard lake margins on a couple of our lakes.
Managing invasive weeds: Floating Pennywort, Crassula etc.
Managing Blue Green algae.

More strategically, we have four lakes linked to the River Roding that to date we have tended to think about in terms of heritage rather than biodiversity. We are looking for steers on the sort of strategic biodiversity priorities that we might consider at Wanstead Park”.

Woodberry Wetlands
The group was met by David Mooney of the London Wildlife Trust, who outlined a number of ideas that could be relevant in Wanstead Park, particularly how reedbeds had been created, benefitting birds, fish, dragonflies and amphibians.
Woodberry Wetlands
Also of interest, given that the “Parkland Plan” for Wanstead Park is nearing completion, were David’s comments about the Woodberry Wetlands site’s “business model” including the role of grant-aid and other forms of fundraising.
Woodberry Wetlands
David said that a key factor was the on-site café, which was managed in-house. It contributed no less than £95,000 per year, of which nearly half came from sales, but the majority from events.
Woodberry Wetlands
David emphasised the role of volunteers in maintaining Woodberry Wetlands. As well as people who carried out day-to-day practical work, these included a number of high-profile ambassadors, such as actress Alison Steadman and historian Tom Holland.

Gill James, a member of both the Friends and the Wren Group said afterwards that the visit had been “really useful” and “given us all plenty of food for thought”.

Staff from Epping Forest and members of the Wren Group and Friends of Wanstead Parklands are now going to mull over some of the practical lessons from Woodberry Wetlands. One medium-term outcome may be the establishment of a reedbed at the western end of the Heronry Pond.
Woodberry Wetlands
Woodberry Wetlands was opened by Sir David Attenborough in 2016, having previously been known as Stoke Newington East Reservoir. The wetlands are the result of a proposal by the London Wildlife Trust to enhance the reservoir for wildlife and open it up so people can access a high quality, natural space in a densely built-up environment.

Copied, with permission, from Friends of Wanstead Parklands.

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October 7th, 2017

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Nature Club – November 2016 – A Rainy Day



Today it rained ALL morning. We made a giant spider’s web with Charlotte in the middle. Then we made leaf art : we rubbed the undersides of dried leaves ( the veins show more on the undersides) to make beautiful leaf skeleton pictures. Then we played Big Bingo. Menuo was a very good caller and Ruduo won the game.

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December 12th, 2016

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London’s third-ever Blyth’s Reed Warbler on Wanstead Flats


Nick Croft, a WREN member, discovered London’s third-ever Blyth’s Reed Warbler on Wanstead Flats almost exactly two years ago. The paper he wrote detailing the amazing find is in the London Bird Report.
For further details:
London Bird Report: Blyths Reed Warbler by Nick-Croft

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May 24th, 2016

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Redbridge Group of the London Wildlife Trust Survey


Please take part in the survey described below – it will only take a few minutes and is vital if we are to maintain and improve our open spaces in the Borough for nature.

Please get as many people as possible to participate and press all the nature buttons including greenlinks that they can it is a very simple survey and will only take 10 minutes at most.

The link will take you to the Redbridge Local plan 2015-2030 page,(which may be of interest) the open space consultation survey link is about buried halfway down the page which links to SurveyMonkey.

Many Thanks

Chris Gannaway for the Redbridge Group of the London Wildlife Trust

The London Wildlife Trust is company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales 1600379 and registered charity number 283895. Registered Office: Dean Bradley House, 52 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 2AF

Open Space Assessment Online Consultation Survey Questionnaire

Redbridge Council is updating its information on how open spaces are used in the borough. This information will supplement existing evidence including the Open Space Study and Playing Pitches Strategy.
The update involves the completion of a short online consultation survey questionnaire, which will provide the Council with a better understanding of how the borough’s open spaces are used, which parks are used most frequently, users’ satisfaction with current provision, the modes of travel used and distances travelled to open spaces.
To participate in the survey, please go to:
Open Space Assessment Online Consultation Survey Questionnaire

The online questionnaire can be accessed between 4th April and 1st May 2016.
If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact the Planning Policy Team on 020 8708 2748.

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April 6th, 2016

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Report your Hedgehogs!


Hedgehog
In the 1950s it was estimated that there were more than 30 million Hedgehogs in the UK, but that figure has fallen dramatically. No one is quite sure why the decline has taken place but the continued intensification of agriculture is undoubtedly a big factor, and the fragmentation of habitats in urban and suburban areas is also likely to be an issue. Badgers have also been blamed – they seem to get blamed for most things, but as we don’t have any in East London I can’t see them being a problem around here! The sad truth is, though, that numbers have fallen by about 30 percent in the UK since 2002 and there are likely to be fewer than 1 million left. I went several years without seeing a Hedgehog in our little patch of East London but this year there has been a seeming increase. This year individuals have been seen at the City of London & Manor Park Cemeteries, in the Old Sewage Works, unfortunately squashed on Aldersbrook Road (near Brading Crescent) and in several back gardens in Windsor & Belgrave Road on the Lakehouse Estate, also in Lorne Road, Forest Gate. In order to get a better idea of how this charismatic spiky mammal is faring locally we are asking people to send their sightings to Barry Chapman, who will coordinate records and send them to http://bighedgehogmap.org. We will map the sightings and update you occasionally via the Wren Group Facebook page. Wouldn’t it be great if we could chart a turnaround in their fortunes. Please provide details of where and when you saw your Hedgehog and also if alive or dead (all records help) to Barry Chapman via email: bazchaps@icloud.com or on Twitter: @wansteadwomble.

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August 10th, 2015

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Spring Whinchats in Wanstead


Whinchat

Whinchat

After seeing this pristine-plumaged Whinchat on an unmown strip between blocks of football pitches on Wanstead Flats on Saturday morning (18 April) – and after Nick Croft’s great photos of the bird (which appear with this article) – I was inspired to look back over our spring records.

To put things in context, this gorgeous bird winters in sub-Saharan Africa and breeds in uncultivated, often damp, areas in north-west, northern and eastern Europe – though sadly no longer in London, where the last confirmed breeding was at Rainham in 1989. Pairs have certainly summered in that area since then, but for Wanstead its status is of a passage migrant in autumn and to a lesser extent in spring. Returning birds are regularly seen in some numbers in late August and September, when Wanstead Flats is one of the best London sites (with a peak count of 13 in 2009). Notably also, autumn birds tend to stick around for a few days.

Spring migration is much more of a rush and passage dates are more tightly concentrated. When trawling back through old bird reports I was surprised to find years when no spring birds had been seen at all, though we are hampered by a very incomplete set of local records. In the years 1976-81, during which there were published records, the only migrant noted in spring was a male on 8 May 1977. The recent picture is healthier, though whether that represents more individuals stopping off here on their way north – or simply much better observer coverage – is impossible to say.

One thing is clear: the male Whinchat found at the western end of the Flats by Dan Hennessey on 16 April is the earliest record we’ve had in the recent sequence of reports, dating back to 2009. Indeed, it could be the earliest record ever. It is also an exception to the rule of thumb that passage locally is pretty much confined to the last week of April and the first week of May. Assuming Dan’s individual and the bird found at the eastern end of the Flats two days later were the same (and they may well not have been), there have been five April birds and eight in May, with the latest being a male near the broom on the Flats on 11 May 2012 and a female in the same area on the same date in 2014. There have been seven males, three females and three unspecified. The best recent springs were 2012 and 2014, with at least three birds each, though there’s still plenty of time for that total to be matched this year! And the best places to look are on and around the broom south of Long Wood, in the SSSI and in the scrubby grassland opposite the Golden Fleece. And here’s to plenty more!

Tim Harris, 22/4/2015

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April 23rd, 2015

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