Sunday, 15 November 2009

Wanstead Park, part 2

So, continuing from where we left off yesterday, today, for your viewing pleasure, I walked around the other half of the Park. After the deluge yesterday, today was lovely, and armed with camera, I took a heap of photos of various scintillating locations. In fact, seeing as today was nice and yesterday was horrible, I retook a number of the vistas from yesterday. Now that they feature blue sky, I may go back and replace the ones in yesterday's post as I want to leave you with the lasting impression of Wanstead as a sunny, happy place.

The Basin, from Overton Drive

I started off at the Basin, which is enclosed within the Golf Course. Hah! To my mind, it is the most likely body of water to feature a winter Sawbill or other interesting duck, so is essential birding. It is a large circular lake with a small island in the middle, and it once formed the formal lake in front of Wanstead House. You can view almost the entire lake from the road, so no fence-hopping is required. Some people go and take a closer look anyway, and then walk through the rest of the Golf Course where there is a convenient exit near Warren Wood.

I don't know who took this photograph

Theoretically speaking, you would then exit the Golf Course near Warren Wood, and then have a choice. You could turn left and go through Warren Wood, which is extremely overgrown, and emerge almost at the northern end of the Ornamental Water, or you could walk straight down The Glade, a long green ride, and join the OW about half way along. Alternatively you could hang a right, go through Chalet Wood, and emerge at the end of Heronry Pond and the western end of The Plain. Best wait for the map.... Oh look, here is one I prepared earlier.

Some of Warren Wood

The Glade, looking east towards the Ornamental Water

The Ornamental Water is a long thin wiggly lake, with two sizeable islands at the northern end. It is for the most part heavily overgrown, and is in fact fairly difficult to observe. The exception is the central stretch, known as the Canal, which follows on from the Grove. This is neat and rectangular, and heavily populated by Coots. Nice. The smaller bits are the haunt of numerous Shoveler, and as many as 75 Gadwall in Winter. Kingfishers zoom about the least disturbed areas, and you can often find Teal in the area known as the Fortifications, a series of pointless eighteenth century islands arranged in a circle.

Looking north up the Ornamental Water. The right bank is in fact Rook and Lincoln Islands.

The Canal

Looking back up the Glade

You can walk around the entire Ornamental Water if you are feeling virtuous and in need of a Gadwall fix. Whichever way you walk around it, if heading south you end up at the Dell, and the entrance to the Old Sewage Works.

Looking south into the Old Sewage Works

This is a green field, an immense hedge, and an area of scrubland adjacent to the River Roding which runs parallel to the entire length of the OW, and then separates Wanstead Park from Ilford Golf Course and the North Circular. Despite the traffic noise and banal golfing chatter, this is by far the best place in the Park for small birds, in particular finches and thrushes. The hedge is monstrous, about 6 feet across, 12 feet high, and about 200 feet long. If you could empty the avian contents into a large box you would find you needed another box before you even got half way. Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, the odd Linnet and Bullfinch, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks, and in winter, Fieldfares and Redwings. There is stacks of cover, and migrants have included Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler amongst others. The only thing that bothers me is that it is rather remote. I once passed two mean and nasty-looking blokes on bikes, who a short while later stopped to look back at me, and then had a suspicious chat, all the while glancing around furtively.

Bloke 1: Wots 'e doin' then?
Bloke 2: Dunno, shall we do 'im?
Bloke 1: Yeah, maybe. Yeah why not. We might get a few quid for that camera.
Bloke 2: Prob'ly got a phone too.
Bloke 1: Yeah, and a watch.
Bloke 2: We could sell his credit cards daaan the pub.
Bloke 1: Right, come on 'en, let's get 'im.
Bloke 2: Yeah let's.
Bloke 1: Oh, where'd 'e go?

I had in fact sidled up to the opposite hedge, then quickly through it whilst they were facing away - no doubt checking there was nobody coming who might rush to my aid. Fat chance, this is east London innit? I was now in the boggy and impassable-by-bike field next to the Roding, where I then back-tracked away from these characters, over an embankment to the relative safety of the Ornamental Water, and then around the Dell and back to civilization. Perhaps I was being overly dramatic, but for a second it didn't look good.

Looking back north. You can just see the hedge on the right. The green box inside the green fence is some kind of Thames Water pumping station. The Dell is through the distant trees on the left.

Anyhow, despite the constant fear of attack and death, or at the very least serious maiming and the loss of another pair of binoculars, the Old Sewage Works are brilliant for birds. I still go there, but I travel light, and I take a machine gun.

The Plain, west.

The Temple

Leaving the OSW (briskly) you go back through the Dell, and can then head across the Plain to the Temple and Chalet Wood, or you can track left alongside Perch Pond to the TEA HUT. This is what I did today, and amazingly it was open. One 60p mug of tea and one 50p cube of carrot cake later (may Starbucks never learn of this place) I was feeling refreshed and headed for home and domestic duties, and to type this up. I am also typing up hot news of another patch tick, but it was in the Park, so the post will have more meaning post this post, if you see what I mean. Stay tuned!


  1. Oh, you're actually *in* the City of London? Guess I will easily fill the dumb-Yank role for this set of blog posts... sigh.

  2. Well no, not really. We're several miles, perhaps 6 or 7, outside The City, ie the business district. The City (or Corporation) of London is actually an organisation. They are responsible for the business district, but they also own several chunks of Land outside the middle. The biggest of these is Epping Forest, which is massive. Wanstead Park and Flats is the southern tip of Epping Forest, and so still comes under the control and bylaws of the City of London. This means they erect signs and mow the grass.

  3. Jonathan

    Just seen your blog for the first time as a link on Bogbumper. Great stuff. Back in the early 90s, we lived on Eastern Avenue by Redbridge tube and Wanstead Park was my patch for a couple of years. My favourite place was the old sewage works, and I had a few autumn Redstarts, Tree Pipit and Gropper on passage. Back in the day, the local authority or Epping Forest or what-have-you sanitised the place appallingly to make it more 'park-like'. I also remember getting a drake Pied Flycatcher by that ruin place by the water one spring and Smew at 5m range in one big freeze. The park was always the best place I knew for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers; is it still good for them? And the Roding was packed with Water Voles; please tell me it still is...
    My favourite two wildlife memories, though, from WP were the vast synchronised flying-ant eruptions covering the whole open area in mid summer; and one mid-winter when a mid-morning Tawny Owl was mobbed by what must have been hundreds of birds, including Jay, Mistle Thrush, tens of Magpies, Lesser Spot and Green Wood, and a flock of Black-headed Gulls.
    Great memories.

    Mike Weedon (