Ilford to Redbridge, and Wanstead Park's bluebells.
I met the rest of Trevor’s attendees for his walk from Ilford towards Redbridge, on Bank Holiday Monday 3 May 2021, at Sainsbury’s in Ilford.
There were nine of us, so I offered to lead a sub-group consisting of Ann, Fozie and Madeleine, whilst Trevor went ahead with Eileen, Chris, Ian and Louise. This was so as to be in line with the six-maximum requirement for meetings outside during the 2020/21 Covid crisis.
We were supposed to keep in view of the other group, but we quickly lost sight of Trevor’s when we stopped to look at the Roding and the Alders Brook at Ilford Bridge, then deviated to look at the Alders Brook from Lugg Approach*. We saw them again when they’d stopped to look at the brook just by the Great Eastern and Liverpool Street to Shenfield railway lines. I wonder if they noticed the magnificent Chusan Palm growing alongside the nastiest bit of the walk - Romford Road in Little Ilford? They would certainy have noticed the colourful graffiti adorning the walls approaching the railway underpass.
It gets a bit vegetative from this point onwards, so there were a few occasions where we discussed flowers, and then saw the other group briefly when they had either stopped to look at the Roding or stopped to wait for us to come into view. Maybe a bit of both? We discussed Sandpipers and Chiffchaffs with some cycling birders, then proceeded into Epping Forest, by way of the old sewage works site. I don’t know – because we didn’t see the others for a while – but we took the mysterious riverside-bank walk, while maybe the others followed the parallel Roding Valley Way surfaced track, to then cross the river to the Redbridge bank.
Walking northwards still, we paused to talk about the panorama across the river along the ornamental canal and up The Glade, to where Wanstead House would once have commanded the view across the horizon. From the ‘official’ Roding Valley Way track, we descended to the now derelict grassy area which had been Kearley and Tonge’s – once “The Greatest Grocers in the World” – sports fields. It was decided that a sandwich break was in order, and although we had seen the preceding group in the far distance – maybe waiting for us again – a phone call to Trevor suggested that they forge ahead whilst we make our own time.
Having finished our little break – seated on a grassy bank – we made our way to the Redbridge Roundabout, where various options presented themselves. Originally, the walk was going to continue from here eastwards to Valentines Park, but Trevor had said at the beginning that he was now going to include Wanstead Park and its bluebells instead. That was fine with me, because I had intended to leave the walk here anyway, and walk back home through Wanstead Park. It was probably convenient for Fozie, too, as she could easily get home from here. But Ann and Madeleine had not heard of the change of route, and had left their cars in inconvenient locations for a return from Wanstead Park. And, too, they hadn’t heard Trevor mention it at the beginning. Fozie waited for a bus, Madeleine decided that returning to Gant’s Hill might be a better option, but Ann wanted more of a walk and so decided to accompany me to the park, from which I assured her she could get back reasonably conveniently by bus.
Approaching Wanstead Park along Warren Road, we could see by the number of cars parked that the park would be ‘heaving’. And so it was. We walked quickly through the bluebell wood* – with me moaning about the numbers and disrespect some were showing to the flowers by trampling them – and caught up with the others at the kiosk, where tea and coffee and an outdoor bench were available. I had to apologise to Trevor for getting so far behind, and he suggested that he thought the rest of ‘my’ group may have chucked me into the river for pointing too many things out. And that I had lost 50% of my group – which must say something.
I bade them farewell (actually said ‘goodbye’ or some such), as their plan was to make their way to Ilford via the east end of Wanstead Park, and then by way of Valentines Park. At least that gave Ann company, and she didn’t need to pay for a bus back by herself.
Two minutes after we had parted, I watched a family of Great Crested Grebes on Heronry Pond. Dad was feeding one grebeling, and mum was trying to sleep whilst the other grebelets were trying to climb under her wings. It is a wonderful sight, and I am sorry that the others didn’t see that.
Thanks to Trevor for arranging the walk, and the others who came on it.
Paul Ferris 4th May 2021
* For more information about the walk from Ilford to Redbridge, click HERE
* For more about the Bluebells in Wanstead Park, click HERE