Wanstead Park

Thursday 03 March 2022 – Wanstead Park, London.

27 April 2022 Update. This post has seen a huge surge of views in the past few days, presumably from lovely folk like yourselves looking for photos or info on Chalet Woods and the bluebells. This post was written well before bluebell season, but you can click here for bluebells.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

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It’s been a long while since a muddy walk has featured in my life and after today’s stroll I’ve vowed to never leave it so long again. A similar vow was also made today about walking in Epping Forest, a place I frequented on an almost weekly basis a few years ago, yet had barely been to since I bought the flat in St Leonards in 2019. This became especially true when we relocated there during the lockdowns as working from home was not just the norm, but was actively encouraged. I intended to walk in Epping Forest in the month we were back in Walthamstow before we left for New Zealand, but like so many other things, I didn’t get around to it. My heart just wasn’t in it. I wonder (if I’m honest with myself, I know) that if I went to the forest, or even just for a decent walk, more regularly I would be in a much better place, and my heart would be in it (whatever ‘it’ is) again. A virtuous circle, unlike the vicious cycle I have been in.

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Wanstead Park is the most southern outcrop of Epping Forest. Looking on a map it doesn’t appear to be connected to the forest itself, though I’m fairly certain I could find a way between the two where I wouldn’t be fully exposed to the sky. A linked muddy trail under tree canopy looping between scrub and ferns and bracken and holly, and the only roads are roads that were crossed, not followed. It would be a grubby edgeland, empty cans and bottles, used tissues scattered everywhere, well used and abused by the human inhabitants that surround or pass through it. Not necessarily a path to take at night.

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A friend of mine who is now retired (I feel I’m turning into an old man as friends start to retire; however my mortgage lender tells me I’m years off joining them) has been walking some mutual friends dogs once or twice a week in Wanstead Park and earlier this week he invited me along on one of his walks, an offer I gratefully accepted. We caught the bus from Walthamstow to Wanstead, I was tempted to walk but in the end I was glad I didn’t as we walked far enough with the dogs and I’d have been even more knackered if I had taken those extra thousands of steps.

I’m not sure what breeds the dogs are or how old, they are small and whitish, extremely well behaved, and frankly, just lovely little dogs. One male and female, the female was the most adventurous. We collected the dogs and were in the forest almost immediately after leaving their home. The dogs were off the leash for the entire walk with the exception of the four road crossings; two there and two back, they knew the walk better than us. The first section of parkland we walked though was possibly Bushwood, though I’m not 100% certain of that. We walked past the rather impressive looking Belgravia Heights, which appeared suddenly when we momentarily popped out from under the trees. It would look great in the fog.

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Wanstead Park was opened to the public in 1882, two years after being acquired by the City of London Corporation, who also manage the wider Epping Forest. The land was enclosed during the reign of Henry VIII, about five hundred years ago, and was the manor ground of Wanstead House, originally a royal hunting lodge. After serious financial mismanagement the house was demolished in 1824 and parts of the grounds were sold off over the following few years. The park has a number of small man-made lakes with islands in the middle and paths round the outside. It’s a great place to walk and I’ve been here a number of times before, usually in late spring for bluebell season. I’ve never done the walk we did today, and I was surprised to find the park was much bigger than I’d previously thought.

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The Temple was originally built in the late 18 century, though numerous additions were made in subsequent years, it is believed the colonnaded middle was the original construction, and it is certainly the nicest part. The building has been fenced off ever since I’ve been visiting and I wonder if there is anything inside. The avenue created by the chestnut trees was only planted in the 1990s; it’s a lovely addition and really does draw your eyes towards the building when you enter the park from the west, as we did.

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Our walk took us along the paths that run alongside the ponds on the southern and eastern boundary of the park, we met quite a few other dog walkers on the way. This is a popular place and the dogs appreciated the opportunity to run unfettered and make a few friends on the way. After a few days of rain it was pretty wet everywhere and the River Roding that flows on the far side of the trees in the below photo was very full and very muddy. There was a lot of mud in the paths under the trees.

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Half way along the ponds we spotted The Grotto, which came as a complete surprise to me as I haven’t heard of it before. It’s original construction was completed in 1764 and it was built as a rich man’s pond side folly. Over the years that building has served a number of purposes though was destroyed in a fire in 1884 when it was being used as a boat house. The ruins have only been exposed in the last ten years, but are sadly all fenced off. They were a nice surprise.

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We stopped for a coffee at the popular tea hut in the park before walking back to where we started, eventually returning a couple of very muddy dogs to their owners. The dogs seemed to have as good a time as we humans did, at least I hope so. I suspect they slept well.

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It was a longer walk than I expected, though very enjoyable. It was so nice being out under the trees, walking in some mud and chatting with a good friend. I need to do more of this.

The beautiful bluebells of Chalet Wood.

Friday 29 April 2016 – Wanstead Park, London.

It is spring here in the UK, not that you can tell that by the weather. Two days ago there was a flurry of snow in London – admittedly if you had blinked slowly you would have missed it, but it was a snow fall nonetheless. I am blaming a cutting arctic wind that slices through to the bone if you are not adequately dressed. When I was walking home after taking these photos today there was a brief wind driven hail and rain shower that felt like mid-winter had returned. It was awful.

Only working a four day week means I have Fridays off, so I took the opportunity to nip out to Chalet Wood in Wanstead Park to check out the bluebell fields, hoping that it would be less crowded than I knew the weekend would be. El and I have been planning on visiting for the past couple of weekends but just have not had a chance to make it. With the season about to end I decided to go solo.

Having been to look at the bluebells last year it took me no time at all to find my way there from Wanstead Park Station, which obtusely is near Wanstead Flats, not Wanstead Park. The walk through the flats was quite nice though, the sun keeping the cold away.

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Once I got to Chalet Wood and the bluebell grove I took lots of photos, there is no point in me saying any more really!

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I liked the interplay between shadow and light between the trees and the way the small paths wound their way through the patch, allowing visitors to get in amongst the flowers without trampling them down.

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I think this crow was guarding it’s small patch !

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Fabulous – and not too many people there either. I had planned on getting there early to catch some early morning sun coming through the trees, but I didn’t make it, there was still some sun though it was sporadic, eventually leading to rain and hail on the walk back home.

Bluebells in Wanstead Park

Monday 05 May 2015 – Wanstead Park, London(ish).

Monday was a public holiday, YAY, a much needed day off of work. Though I did work Saturday, so really it was like a normal weekend, with the added promise of a short week ahead.

The forecast had been a bit dubious leading up to the weekend and it was still pretty unclear most mornings what the day was actually going to hold. Sunday was spent doing not much, a bit of work here and there, the reorganising of my stuff, putting away winter clothes – and finding a bunch of old band t-shirts that had been squirreled away.

We didn’t really have a plan for today, we started off with seeing what the weather would actually do, and as it did not look to bad out there I decided I wanted to see bluebells in Epping Forest rather than head into London and visit the Tate, which was the rainy day plan A. A quick internet search suggested the best blue bells were in Wanstead Park, an edge extension of Epping. As I have not been there before we decided it was worth a visit.

We caught the overground to Wanstead Park station which naturally is next to Wanstead Flats, not Wanstead Park – the flats are a park, but not THE park. Confused ? We walked across the flats, up a side street and were soon into the park proper. I like the fact that Fishing is in capital letters and swimming and bathing are not. Does that mean that Fishing is a more serious offence ?

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I had read that the bluebells would be found in Chapel Wood, however none of the signs were giving away the location of Chapel Wood, so we decided to do the decent thing and head to the tea hut for a cup of tea/coffee first, and do the umanly/unBritish thing of asking directions.

On the way to the hut we passed by the tree lined walk to the “Temple”. I had no idea what this was until I looked it up when I got home. The temple was built around 1760, in a section of a much larger estate. The estate was run down by its financially lax owner in the 1800’s and part of it was sold off to the Corporation of London to form what is now Wanstead Park.

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The tea hut is the old grotto left that was also part of the original estate and they made a pretty good flat white too…

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We were given directions to the blue bells, which ended up being pretty much back the way we came, though closer to the Temple.

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This seasonal spring blue bell patch is supposed to the best in all of Epping Forest, which must make it one of the best in London. It was truly lovely – and this comes from someone who does not go all goo over a flower bed. I guess I liked it because it was wild. I took a lot of photos, as did many other people !

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I liked that there were paths running through the patch so people could get closer without trampling them. I also liked it that most people stayed on the edges so every one got to take photos without having the frame filled with strangers.

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I even asked someone to take a photo of El and I together as well.

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Before we left home in the morning we had sort of planned on walking back, so after a brief start in the wrong direction before consulting a map, we headed homeward. Most of the way was under the trees and off the road, which was very nice and I loved the oak trees that lined the way.

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Sir Alfred Hitchcock was born in nearby Leytonstone, and had no previous relationship with this hotel, which is named after him. It did not stop us going in for a half though…

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It was a lovely afternoon walk, we probably did 6 or 7 miles as well, so good exercise in the sun !