The far side of Wanstead Flats

A late afternoon wander across Wanstead Flats across traces of ancient usage and possible Roman routes.

Resist the lure of The Golden Fleece, where I haven’t been for years, and get drawn down The Chase that appears as a remnant of old country Forest Gate.

Loop around Alexandra Lake through sunset into gloom and to The Red Lion and a few magickal pages of Alan Moore’s Voices of the Fire.

Walking through the History of Wanstead Park

Shot across two freezing cold days in February, I finally set out to make a video about the history of Wanstead Park. It’s a place so rich in narratives that I was slightly intimidated by the idea of trying to capture this on camera in one walk but knew it was time to have a go anyway.

Video description, credits and info

Wanstead Park, in the London Borough of Redbridge and controlled by the Corporation of London, has a history that stretches back to the Mesolithic period. Flint artefacts have been found in the park as well as a Bronze Age arrowhead and numerous Roman antiquities.
The Park is famous for being the landscaped grounds of Richard Child, Earl Tylney’s enormous mansion, Wanstead House. When the house was built in 1715 it was said to be one of the finest ‘palaces’ in all of Europe. Sir Josiah Child had purchased Wanstead House in 1673 and passed it on to his son, Richard, who became Earl Tylney. It was when the house and park was inherited by Catherine Tylney Long who married William Pole Wellesley in 1812 that the story enters into the folklore of East London and Essex.

But the manor of Wanstead goes back much further in time. A favourite hunting lodge of Henry VII, it was frequently visited by Elizabeth I when owned by Richard Dudley, Earl of Leicester and later the Earl of Essex. James I was also very fond of Wanstead Hall.

Wanstead Park was saved for the people of London by the Corporation of London as part of Epping Forest, and is a real treasure of East London. The bluebells in Chalet Wood are a major attraction, and the extensive ponds are home to an array of birds – most notably Herons.

Shot edited and presented by John Rogers
Drone footage by /
Thanks to: Wanstead Golf Club, Sam and Mike, and Geoff Burrage
Castlemaine XXX image from Wikimedia Commons CC licence…
Open Street Map “© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence

*The drone footage used in this video was shot by a fully insured operator with CAA permissions and was captured in accordance with regulations and local bylaws.

A New Wetlands for Leytonstone

Wanstead Flats wetlands

Taking a sunset stroll on Wanstead Flats this evening I stumbled upon this marvellous new Wetlands on the rough ground beside Harrow Road Playing Fields.

Wanstead Flats map

“© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence

It’s evident that the channels around the pond have been recently dug to form a network of ditches – a Leytonstone Wetlands, with the tall rushes rising around the edge of the waterscape, birds fleeting between the reeds and bushes. Previously the pond was lost in amongst the brambles, overgrown and hard to reach, choked by the undergrowth. This has now been cut back, opening out this new landscape.

Old map of Leytonstone

1863 Map of Leytonstone Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The pond can clearly be seen on this 1863 Map of Essex (published 1873) with what could be a channel or ditch leading to Harrow Lane (now Road). So this is a wonderful restoration of the historic landscape of the area. Wood House and Wood Cottage are also interesting features on this map.

Second World War Buildings on Wanstead Flats

Wanstead Flats

I’ve long been intrigued by the concrete foundations of a World War 2 building in Long Wood on Wanstead Flats. I first stumbled over them in the dusk some years ago, wondering what could have been buried in this small patch of woodland.

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There was a small lump of concrete in the scrubby grass in front of the wood that was probably a remnant of the World War Two buildings that stood here.

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At first I thought this was the concrete base of an Second World War anti-aircraft gun, but sebsequent reading appears to point to this being some sort of auxiliary building associated with the war effort.

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There are a number of Second World War relics on Wanstead Flats, most obvious are the barrage balloon posts. But there are also some white panelled buildings used by the ground staff and a squat brick building by the petrol station that was apparently a decontamination block. In the central section of the flats, where there was an Italian POW camp my son found a rusty metal box buried in the ground that may have been associated with the camp.


Here’s a great walk around the Second World War history of Wanstead Flats from the Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society


A week before the lockdown I returned to Wanstead Flats to connect these Second World War sites together into a walk for this video

Sunday sunset walk through Bush Wood

Bush Wood

The Shard seems to be aligned perfectly with the avenue of trees that cuts across Wanstead Flats from Leytonstone to what was once the grounds of the grand Wanstead House. I believe I’ve erronously claimed in the past that this avenue was laid out by Humphrey Repton (confusing it with the avenue of trees he planned in Wanstead Park near one of the lakes). The sunset reveals this alignment in the startling burnt sky. One of the reasons the last light is a perfect time to walk on Wanstead Flats.

Bush Wood

It was dark by the time we looped back from Blake Hall Road, following the path to Bushwood Lodge, and then turning into Bush Wood. Our passage through the woods was illuminated by a full moon casting a crystal trail through the muddy woodland. This pond in Bush Wood has always had a slightly mysterious tinge, often dried out in summer, in winter it lurks like a magic bog among the trees. The moon sat above the bare trees solely to cast moonbeams into this very pool.

Sunday Walk – Wanstead Flats, North Circular and Hollow Ponds

Wanstead Flats

Wanstead Flats

The desire was stay local – within the gravitational field of home but still get in a decent walk. My instinct was to head to the far side of Wanstead Flats and take it from there.

The area of Wanstead Flats burnt so badly last summer gives off a glorious smell of resurgent wildflowers.

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The ragwort was alive with caterpillars of the cinnabar moth munching on its leaves, ingesting toxins to make themselves unpalatable to birds. Ragwort and the cinnabar caterpillar appear to have an interesting relationship that makes for a diverting spectacle on a summer stroll.

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I always have to pay homage to the barrage balloon posts and marvel at their continued survival.

Wanstead Park

Wanstead Park

After a stop at Aldersbrook Petrol Station for a Starbucks and Greggs donut – which has become one of my favourite Alan Partridge style treats – I head down Park Road and through Wanstead Park which looked as glorious as ever.

St Mary's Wanstead

The bells of St. Mary’s Wanstead tolled as I stood admiring the Borough of Redbridge’s only Grade 1 listed building. I’ve been told St. Mary’s has an interesting crypt that I’ve yet to visit but the interior of the church is a real gem of the East. The graveyard has burials dating back to the establishment of the original medieval church.

Wanstead War Memorial

Wanstead High Street

There’s clearly a Sunday Scene on Wanstead’s wonderful High Street and I bumped into my eldest son carrying a toy keyboard he’d just bought in a charity shop as he headed to a park bench with his mates. A gentleman approached who watches my YouTube videos to ask if I’d made one on the Wanstead Slip and told me of a relic of Wantead House that now resides in a back garden somewhere along Grove Road. It was great to hear his stories of old Leyton and Stratford.

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Snaresbrook – South Woodford

I decided against heading into the forest at Snaresbrook and carried on along the tree-lined road towards South Woodford stopping to take in the modernist glory of Hermitage Court.

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North Circular – South Woodford

Heading up Grove Hill at South Woodford I came to the Willow Path that crosses the North Circular. This seemed like an ideal location to take a selfie which I posted to Instagram as ‘North Circular Selfie’. I’ve been meaning to make a film of a walk round the North Circular (perhaps over two days rather than one long schlep) for some time but now wonder if documenting the walk with a series of selfies charting my gradual decline as the pollution takes its toll might work better.

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Carnarvon Road, South Woodford

Carnarvon Road, South Woodford has some incredible buildings. Firstly you’re greeted with what appears to be the back of some kind of industrial building – although I couldn’t locate the front. Then across the street is this beautiful modernist block that looks as though it may have an interesting former life.


Epping Forest

I must have walked past this fine oak tree just off Epping New Road at South Woodford a hundred times without noticing this plaque commemorating the planting of the tree by the Lord Mayor of London in 1932 in celebration of the Jubilee of the opening of the forest.

North Circular

Waterworks Corner

At the Rodney Smith stone I decided to turn for home rather than push on through the forest. This of course brought me to one of my favourite London views, from the bridge back across the North Circular at Waterworks Corner. I took another ‘North Circular Selfie’, naturally.


Walthamstow to the Whipps Cross Lido

I passed through the narrow strip of the forest that takes you behind the Waterworks and St. Peter’s Church emerging at the very tip of Lea Bridge Road. It’s interesting to note that the gate off Snaresbrook Road is labelled ‘Snaresbrook Lido’ and not ‘Whipps Cross Lido’ or ‘Leytonstone Lido’ as I’ve seen the swimming pool named elsewhere.


The Hollow Ponds

The Hollow Ponds was the perfect place for the walk to end. I rested under an oak tree and nearly nodded off serenaded by the rustling of leaves in the early afternoon breeze.