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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Trip to Two Tree Island

Miscellaneous waders at Two Tree Island lagoon, including Knot, Grey Plover and Dunlin
On Sunday 14 February 2016, 10 members of the Group met at West Ham station to catch the 9:13 train to Leigh-on-Sea. Even before we reached the bridge onto Two Tree Island, we had been treated to fine views of one male and two female Stonechats and a close, and surprisingly confiding, Curlew. Once onto the island we headed west to the lagoon at the far end. With the sun behind us, the vivid colours of the assembled wildfowl and waders were brilliant. Highlights included a drake Pintail, two Avocets, and good numbers of Wigeon and Teal. Jan picked out a well-hidden, sleeping Common Snipe before it became apparent that several more were asleep on the adjacent islet. The tide had turned so we were able to watched several flights over Lapwings and Brent Geese relocating over the lagoon, presumably to fields a short way inland. As the tide continued to advance we moved to the estuary hide to watch the drama unfold. First small groups, then larger flocks containing Knot and Dunlin flew up the channel to the south of Two Tree Island, spending some time feeding on the intertidal mud before moving on again. Among them were smaller number of Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Plover.

Half the group had to leave before the tide was in full flood. For Jan, Andrew and Nev, who remained, the best was still to come. Andrew described watching “flocks of Knot, which kept breaking apart, wheeling round and round, catching the light”. Ringed Plover now joined the spectacle. Back at the lagoon, there were now hundreds of waders belly-deep in water. And a Water Rail we had searched for in vain earlier decided to show itself, twice flying between islets in the lagoon. All in all, a top outing. Thanks to Andrew, Anita, Jan, Linda, Mark, Mary, Nev, Sharon, and Sybil for making the day so much fun.

Tim Harris 15/2/2016


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February 15th, 2016

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Wallasea RSPB Reserve Awayday


Visit to Wallasea RSPB Reserve Awayday on 29 November 2015

Mute Swan
Brent Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
Eurasian Teal
Little Egret
Tufted Duck

Grey Heron
Moorhen (Canewdon)
Coot (Canewdon)
Ringed Plover
Golden Plover (heard only, Nick)
Grey Plover
Common Snipe

Black-tailed Godwit
Greenshank (Nick)
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Meadow Pipit

Robin (Canewdon)
Carrion Crow
Reed Bunting


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December 3rd, 2015

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Canvey Wick awayday

Canvey Island


Half a dozen Wren members visited the Buglife reserve of Canvey Wick on Sunday 17th May. This brownfield site was going to be developed as a refinery, but the development was never completed and it is now reverting to a more natural state. We were blessed with sunny, dry weather, though the fresh breeze probably suppressed some flying insect activity. Over a hundred species were noted, including 50-odd species of plants (listed below), some of which are not familiar in the Wanstead area. Mary Holden found one of the day’s highlights: several Great Crested Newts in a ditch, which we were able to watch while we were having our lunch. Large Red Damselflies and at least one Hairy Dragonfly also frequented this ditch, with Azure Damselfly being seen nearby.

Parts of the site are very sandy and it was in one such area that two Latticed Heath moths were found, with a frustrating glimpse of a passing butterfly that I suspect was a Wall in the vicinity. Several other butterfly species included Green Hairstreak. Paul identified a specimen of Canadian Fleabane growing on a sandy hill; this was a plant must of us had never noticed before. Although not in flower, the presence of good numbers of Common Spotted Orchids was also exciting.

A few Barn Swallows were seen, although it wasn’t clear whether these were birds nesting nearby, or late migrants passing through. A pair of Cuckoos remained all the time we were there; given the number of Reed Warblers (a host species) singing in the Phragmites-lined ditches, they may be tempted to stick around.

Thanks to Paul for resolving many identification conundrums, for Kathy for compiling the list and taking the photographs, and for Pam, Mary and Gill for their keen eyes and good company.

Plants noted:


  • Ash
  • Silver Birch
  • Willow species


  • Barren Brome (Bromus sterilis)
  • Cock’s-foot
  • Common Reed (Phragmites)


  • Birdsfoot Trefoil
  • Biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre)
  • Black Medic
  • Black Mustard
  • Bramble
  • Bristly Ox-tongue
  • Broad-leaved Pea / Everlasting Pea
  • Bulbous Buttercup
  • Canadian Fleabane (the groundsel-looking plant on the sandy hill)
  • Cleavers / Goosegrass
  • Common Spotted Orchid
  • Common Vetch
  • Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica)
  • Cow Parsley
  • Creeping Buttercup
  • Creeping Thistle
  • Cut-leaved Cranesbill
  • Daisy (Bellis perennis)
  • Dandelion
  • Dog Rose
  • Elder
  • Fennel
  • Forget-me-not (possibly Field Myosotis arvensis)
  • Goat’s Rue
  • Great Mullein
  • Groundsel
  • Hairy Tare
  • Hawthorn
  • Herb Robert
  • Hogweed
  • Horsetail species (probably Common, Equisetum arvense)
  • Lesser Stitchwort
  • Mallow
  • Nettle
  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Pink Garden Oxalis (Oxalis, possibly articulata)
  • Ragwort species (possibly Common)
  • Red Dead-nettle
  • Ribwort Plantain
  • Rosebay Willowherb
  • (Round-leaved Wintergreen?)
  • Shepherd’s Purse
  • Snow-in-summer / Dusty Miller (Cerastium tomentosum)
  • Sow-thistle species
  • Spanish Bluebell
  • Spotted Medic
  • Teasel
  • Tufted Vetch
  • Wall Rocket (Diplotaxis species)
  • Water Crowfoot species
  • Wild Carrot
  • Yarrow
  • Yellow Flag Iris

Tim Harris, 19 May 2015


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May 19th, 2015

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Rainham Marshes visit 11 January 2015

WREN Awayday Rainham Marshes
One of the most evocative sights of a chilly winter’s day is that of hundreds of Lapwings climbing into a bright blue sky, their underwings glinting brightly in the sun as they turn. This was something we witnessed several times on the Wren Group awayday to Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve on Sunday 11 January. The morning began with a beautiful Redwing perched up nicely near the visitor centre and the afternoon ended watching a roost of 25 Redshank on one of the stone barges near the Tilda Rice Factory (a lyric from a Morrissey song?). I love the juxtaposition of industrial and green landscapes, and this stretch of the Thames, with the former grazing marshes of Rainham and Aveley on one bank and the smoking stacks of Belvedere and Erith on the south shore have this mix in bucketloads.

It was a day for watching ducks in their most brilliant plumages: Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler and Mallard. A day for walking the boardwalks with the occasional rather subdued burst of Cetti’s Warbler song as accompaniment. And a day for looking in vain for Bearded Tit and Water Rail … Respite from the bitter wind came in the large new hide at the west end of the reserve, where two Stonechats performed well for the group. Before some of the group broke ranks and walked along the Thames path in search of pipits, a female Marsh Harrier rose to quarter the marsh to the west and a Kestrel passed overhead. The Thameside walk produced scant rewards – very poor views of one Rock Pipit – but it was a pleasant-enough diversion. Then it was back to the visitor centre for hot drinks before a final stop at the stone barges. The combined ‘day-list’ was 56 species, but it’s not about numbers; it’s about sharing time with like-minded people and enjoying nature in the heart of an industrial landscape.

Thanks to Dave, David, Don, Eleanor, Gill, Hannah, Kathy, Linda, Nayna, Peter, Rosie for making the day so enjoyable.

Tim Harris 11/1/2015

Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, European Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, European Stonechat, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.


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January 11th, 2015

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