The Wren Group welcomes the initiative to develop a plan for the Park, and the opportunity to comment on it. While we do not agree with some of the proposals set out in the consultation, there is much to commend others. Our comments on the proposals as they are set out are outlined below, but much will depend on the detail as initiatives are developed. We would wish to be included and consulted as part of the development and execution of details as they arise.
While a vision for the Wanstead Park of the future should seek to draw attention to, enhance and provide interpretation for some of its most important historic features, pushing too far in this direction will damage the unique charm of the Park, as well as its natural history. This is something we have to caution against. On the other hand, some of the proposals actually offer an opportunity to enhance wildlife habitats and improve the aesthetic quality of this well-loved open space.
We will not comment on every proposal, only those where we think important points need to be raised now.
1c. Restore Heronry Pond. Re-line the pond to stop water leaks; restore channels and islands on southern edge; introduce new wetland and marginal habitats along edges of ponds and islands.
We see relining as most important but would like to input into the revision or development of marginal habitats as the detail is crucial to habitat protection and improvement. There are a number of habitat improvements that – while not fitting with the Park’s historical legacy – will improve Heronry and other lakes both for wildlife and for their aesthetic appeal. These include the selective planting of reeds and the creation of one or two tern islands in Heronry Lake.
1d. Create a visitor hub at The Temple.
We agree, subject to detail, but would seek assurances that the tea hut would not be forced to close. This is a local institution!
1e. Conserve the Grotto.
We welcome consolidation of the ruins but feel “access”, while promoting visibility with interpretation, should protect the structure from intruders who may cause damage.
1f.Reveal vista along Long Walk (The Glade).
Extension of the long view to the former site of the mansion needs to take into account that nothing of the mansion or its site can be revealed simply by removing vegetation. The mansion would have risen up so high above ground level that it would have formed a focal point. However, none of the mansion above ground remains so its position can no longer be seen. Additionally, the rise in ground levels across the golf club prevents views of even the site from the Park boundary. That said, we do not oppose some limited opening up, subject to retention of significant trees and minimal removal of vegetation to achieve the desired aim. We suggest that some tall marker, for example a pillar, be placed at the mansion site, which could be seen in the long view down the Glade (Long Walk) to enable users to identify the spot from a distance and appreciate the landscape intention. Interpretation boards and special fencing at the see-through point would further indicate the previous vista.
1 g. Open up other views between the Park and the golf course.
The boundary vegetation with the golf course is a very important natural habitat. We do not wish to see this destroyed simply for some possible glances through to the golf course. We do not see the cost benefit creates sufficient benefit and would therefore ask extreme caution be exercised.
1h. Reveal mansion site.
We welcome improved signage and access.
1i.Reveal North Mount and South Mount.
We welcome, subject to minimal reasonable clearance as necessary, work to allow the stabilisation, investigation and interpretation of, and access to, the mounds.
1j. Reveal the Fortifications.
We strongly object to the loss of habitat. We consider benefits to the historic landscape would be minimal. These areas of land and water have developed over many years to be exceedingly important, especially for wintering waterfowl. The Park’s national importance for wintering Gadwall, for example, is in large part a product of this environment.
1k.Improve paths and access within the Park.
We welcome footpath improvements subject to appropriate materials design and drainage. We have no objection to a bridge which may make the Park more generally accessible, subject to detailed design. Access needs to be inclusive and would be significantly expanded by the introduction of natural informal seating throughout the Park to assist those with impaired mobility and encourage contemplation and appreciation of the Park.
1l. Improve all main entrances to the Park.
We welcome improvements to the Park’s entrances and consider that entrances and boundary treatment/features should be specifically designed to “signify” the special historic and natural elements of the Park rather than off-the-peg treatments.
1m, o and p.Improve access to Wanstead Golf Course, improve connections with St Mary’s Church, and improve access and wayfinding from the surrounding area.
We welcome all proposals to improve inter-linkages but would add a request for a permissive path around The Basin, which is an important area for nature, especially winter wildfowl. Views of The Basin from Overton Drive could be improved, and the historical relevance of the lake interpreted.
1q. Improve the integrity and appearance of the water bodies.
Whilst we welcome removal of invasive species, we would like to see more detail regarding what is proposed in the way of selective removal of vegetation. Again, natural habitat is a key feature of the Park and should not be destroyed without very good reason.
1r. Reveal islands in Perch Pond.
We support some dredging and maintenance to the immediate east of the dam where silting has occurred, but oppose the destruction of trees and other vegetation on the islands to reveal a former landscape at this point. Again, this area of wet woodland, small though it is, provides an important wildlife habitat.
1u. Improve links with the River Roding.
We agree to selective creation of access.
1v. Introduce children’s play.
We support appropriately designed and located children’s play.
Longer terms priorities
2a. Improve vista along Long Walk.
We welcome the maintenance of the edges to Long Walk (The Glade) so that there is no further encroachment of vegetation onto the grass swathe, but we oppose the replacement of natural vegetation with formal planting. While it is a worthy aim to remove some of the scrub growth alongside the grassland, it should not be the intention to remove it all. The slightly ‘wild’ environment of the Park is one of its charms, not least in this area.
2b. Reveal Great Mount.
We consider this to be a low priority.
2c. Restore views. Clear vegetation in Chalet Wood and Warren Wood to open up lost historic views.
This would destroy habitats with a devastating effect. We would strongly oppose.
2d. Improve paths and access within Park.
Agree, subject to controls on dog behaviour on pathside grass. There is a danger that this will become an unhealthy dog toilet which will not only be unappealing but which will offset the positive effects (wild flowers growing the grass, with associated butterflies etc) through increased nutrient inputs. Again gravel path construction needs to be robust and have good drainage.
2j. Improve access and interpretation in Wanstead Golf Course.
A permissive path to The Basin would be welcome.
2k. Management of The Dell.
We very much welcome raising the water levels a little in The Dell.
2m.Management of Bush Wood: manage vegetation along rides in Bush Wood to open up views along former quincunx avenues.
We disagree, as this would unnecessarily destroy habitat.
We do not see the need to increase parking as there is plenty of on-street parking available on all sides of the Park and it would introduce a modern, alien feature into an area where natural habitat and historic character should be promoted. The CoL should also be encouraging the use of public transport and bikes to access the park and include cycle racks at secure locations.
We also wish to emphasise that for it to work any capital project requires a commitment that it will be sustained after the initial works by on-going revenue expenditure and/or voluntary contribution and work. To that end the CoL should have in place a works and maintenance strategy so that work by the CoL and various voluntary groups is coordinated toward agreed ends and on a day-to-day basis.