Walking in the Snow on Wanstead Flats

The overnight arrival of snow was announced early on Sunday morning by the excited screeching of my youngest son. I was initially less enthusiastic as I’d hope to head out on a long walk – perhaps even venture across the river, but a quick glance at the TfL website confirmed that a mere layer of snow had taken out several tube and train lines.

Snowman on Wanstead Flats

Just after midday, with my GoPro fully charged and the kids thawing out in front of the telly after a vicious backgarden snowball fight, I set out over Wanstead Flats. This has been my default location when it snows – the open expanses shielded by perimeter trees conducive to trapping in the snowfall – unlike the surrounding streets where it quickly turns into a grey sludge.

Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers Leytonstone

The football pitches on the Leytonstone side had the goal posts set out in anticipation of Sunday morning matches but the field was dominated by a squad of snowmen.

Louds squeals and hollers went up from a mound of the Alexandra Lake near Aldersbrook where families sledged down to the waters edge. Flocks of birds swooped in for whole slices of bread. Others took advantage of frozen pontoons to rest on the body of the lake.

Snow on Wanstead Flats

As the light faded towards the 3.50pm sunset the temperature dropped another degree or two so that the cold sought out those gaps around the edge of your clothing. I trudged over more snow cloaked football pitches and eventually to the path leading through Bush Wood from where I watched the twinkling lights of the distant city skyline foregrounded by Leytonstone’s iconic Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers.

Barrage balloon posts Wanstead Flats

WW2 Barrage balloon posts

Last night brought rain instead of snow. The kids didn’t get the hoped for day off school and as we made our way along the road this morning, we looked out for forlorn patches of the icy crystals that were the only remnants of winter wonderland of yesterday.

Alexandra Lake Wanstead Flats snow


  1. Lyn   •  

    I loved your video of Knighton Wood….a truly elvish place… I am staying very close by and when I awoke to the magical world of snowfall on Sunday it was the perfect place to experience that wonderful eerie quiet and…because it was very early…the pure joy of the untouched snow…an incredible high… thanks so much for your videos…. I haven’t lived in the UK for decades and a lot of your meanderings take me way down memory lane… I grew up on the borders of Epping Forest on a council estate just after WW2….to the kids it was a magical place and the forest was our back yard….all bluebells and buttercups…but you grow upwards and want to hang out in Soho and then you go off hitchhiking all over the globe and having children and settling in Woodstock and…..well I didn’t intend embarking on whole life story but came back here to be with my sister in the last year of her life….it was an immense privilege to be able to do that and I am still in her flat in Buckhurst Hill and it overlooks the forest and the Hunting Lodge can be seen in the distance and towards the Owl the helicopters do their firefly dances at night….it’s been a long strange trip and your videos have resonated with so much of the past in a really lovely way…..

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks so much for sharing – you have a wonderful story (you should write a book). So sorry to hear of the circumstances of your return to the area, I hope the landscape can provide some solace.
      The scene you Paint of Knighton Wood in the snow is so vivid, next time it snows I’ll head there.

  2. Leila Skye   •  

    Hi John

    Im researching about Chalet wood and its blue bell and came across your site .Love your videos.
    I fell in love with chalet wood during the bluebells season when I moved to Wanstead. Retired now and at the age of 70 I have revisited my love of painting. I have tried to capture the magic and even the mystic of that wood. I dont know why. I’m wondering if I’m picking something real here. Did you go back to film it this year. Has anyone written any poems or history about that particular wood of that wood. I’ve read briefly about the original house and the ornament garden.

    May I ask if you have any information about Chalet wood so that I can take notes for sketching. Many thank

  3. Leila Skye   •  

    Hi John through your videos I’ve dug deeper into my paintings of my surrounding area where I live.

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