For an area that is so close to the built up parts of residential east London, Wanstead Park and the nearby areas of southern Epping Forest – together with such habitats as the City of London Cemetery amongst others – has a varied and numerous wildlife population. The following summary is taken from the Wanstead Wildlife website, where much more detailed information is available.
In the order of 780 species of flowering plants have been recorded – these include ferns but do not include mosses, lichens or fungi. On Wanstead Flats alone, we know of 34 species of tree. For more details, see the pages relating to specific areas such as Wanstead Park, Wanstead Flats on the website above.
We have not had the expertise to identify many of the mosses, lichens or liverworts, but we have discovered something like 183 species of fungi. Most of these were found in Wanstead Park, Bush Wood or the City of London Cemetery and some of them quite unusual for Epping Forest.
We are fortunate in having a wide range of habitats for birds. These include lakes and ponds, open rough grassland and mown playing fields, and woods and trees. Including birds seen overhead we have listed more than 100 species. Of these, approximately 50 are known or thought to breed or have bred here.
The mammal population is relatively small, due to human disturbance, traffic and predation. Foxes are very common, though as with most places now it is more usual to see them in the vicinity of houses than in “the wild”. There are plenty of Grey Squirrels, and in Wanstead Park a population of Rabbits; however signs of these are scarce in 2008. Hedgehogs are also less common nowadays. Brown Rats can be easily seen, particularly near Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats and by Heronry Pond and the Perch pond in Wanstead Park. House Mice are found adjacent to the Forest, and we know of Wood Mice in adjacent gardens. Mole hills are a common sight in many areas, particularly so on the banks of the River Roding. Common Shrews can often be heard, but those that are seen are more usually the dead ones. We have had reports of Bank Voles, and Water Voles returned to the Roding in 1998 – but were not reported again until one was seen in Wanstead Park in mid July, 2004. During the winter of 1998/99, three American Mink were seen in Wanstead Park. One was seen by the River Roding in Wanstead Park on 14th April 2006 and again on 31 July 2007. Stoats and Weasels are present, and may also be seen in the Park. Populations of feral Cat have been known in the City of London Cemetery. The Pipistrelle is our most common bat, with two species present, and there are Noctule and Daubenton’s as well. The lakes of Wanstead Park – particularly Perch Pond – and Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats are good places to see these. There have been occasional and increasing sightings of Muntjac Deer in the area, and even – once – a Fallow Deer.
Reptiles, Amphibians and others.
The Grass Snake is one of our commonest reptiles, though often overlooked by casual visitors to such areas as Wanstead Park or the City of London Cemetery. Surprisingly, perhaps, there have been very few reports of these from Wanstead Flats. Even more common are Red-eared Terrapins – most of the local lakes and ponds have these. Smooth Newts are common, particularly in the area of the Heronry Pond in Wanstead Park. Common Frogs are abundant in this area also, though many are killed by cars while migrating to the lake from nearby gardens in the Spring. Common Toads are less often found, though they may well live quite happily in nearby gardens. An American Signal Crayfish was found by Heronry Pond in August 2001, and more have been seen since. In August 2004, a number of dismembered crayfish were found in rough grass just to the east of Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats. It is possible that these had been taken from the lake by predators – perhaps gulls? In 2008, a representative from the Angling Club that fishes the Basin in Wanstead Golf Course reported that over 50,000 (!) had been caught there over the last few years. No account has been taken of fish thus far, but Flounders may be mentioned as they can sometimes be seen in the Roding by Wanstead Park. Also reported from the river as far north as Redbridge Roundabout are the Chinese Mitten Crab.
Insects and Spiders
Butterflies – 23 species have been recorded in and around Wanstead Park.
Moths – Some hundreds of moth species are known in Wanstead Park and nearby.
Dragonflies and Damselflies – The Park and particularly the lakes are home to a variety of dragonfly and damselfly species.
Other Insects and Spiders – A wide variety of insects and spiders can be found in the varied habitats within Wanstead Park and the surrounding area.