Ben’s mammoth kayak mission

Wanstead geography student Ben Harris is attempting to become the first person to kayak solo the entire length of the world’s longest lake.

Ben, 21, started on 3 July and has now completed the first leg of four, avoiding crocodiles among other threats. The map below demonstrates he has a way to go – his progress is marked in blue.

On his site he explains his mission: “My aim is to kayak the entire length of the lake, from its southernmost tip in Mpulungu, Zambia to its northernmost tip in Bujumbura, Burundi, becoming the first person to complete this voyage solo. This entails close to 750km of kayaking, and will take me over a month to complete. The trip will be unsupported, low budget and I will be travelling light.”

He has form – he has previously cycled unsupported from Wanstead to Barcelona, has canoed and hiked in Canada’s remote Yukon region with the Inuit people, has mountaineered in the Alps and spent five months of solo travel across South America.

His current mission is to raise money for Centrepoint to support homeless young people. He’s sharing details of his trip on Instagram, and is inviting donations via this link – he’s already raised more than £6,000.


Vaccination central

Walk-in vaccinations are now being offered at Wanstead Pharmacy, from Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm (excluding 1pm-2pm).


Wanstead has been doing well for vaccination rates, as this map shows (the darker the area, the greater the vaccination rate). But there is still some way to go.

First doseSecond dose
All Redbridge68.152.3

Redbridge Council has compiled a useful list of FAQs about vaccination, including links to versions in different languages. It is available here.

A total of 746 people in Redbridge have died within 28 days of a positive COVID test.

An exciting new shake-up for Wanstead…

The latest proposed reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies is suggesting that Wanstead be in a constituency with…. wait for it…. Leyton.

In other words, even though the last proposed redrawing, in 2016, had Wanstead grouped with bits of Walthamstow, and the one before that, in 2011, would have recreated Churchill’s historic Wanstead and Woodford, the new proposal is only a minor change on the current position.

It does mean that the small part of the Nightingale Estate which is currently in Wes Streeting’s constituency would be added on to Leyton and Wanstead, which would be a logical move.

Blue line, on left, is current boundaries. Red line is the proposed redrawing. Images: Boundary Commission England

The proposals can be seen in detail on the Boundary Commission England consultation site. As recent history has shown, though, it’s far from guaranteed that the changes will take place.

Some questions for the Nationwide – and some answers

Ten days ago the Nationwide Building Society announced it was closing its Wanstead High Street branch, even though it had promised there would be no branch closures before 2023. We sent these questions to the Nationwide – their answers are below.

Dear Nationwide Building Society

We note with sadness your announcement that you are closing your branch in Wanstead High Street in August 2021. While we understand that fewer people use branches now, we do nevertheless have some questions for you.

  1. How do you reconcile your decision to close Wanstead branch with your promise that no branches would be closed before January 2023? On the face of it, your decision makes your promise entirely worthless.
  2. In your announcement, you say that 13% of the customers of your Wanstead branch use only that branch. You also say that 28% of Wanstead branch customers do not use online banking. This means there is a proportion of your customers who clearly rely completely on your branch for their banking – it is likely these are older people or people who do not have access to internet banking. Is the only option for them really to get the bus to Walthamstow, Ilford or South Woodford?
  3. Nationwide Building Society announced recently that your profits had doubled to £823m. You make great play in your advertising about your role in building societies, but your actions here will damage the Wanstead community. Do you not accept that customers’ expectations of you are higher than they are of commercially owned banks?

We received this reply:

“Branches play a vital role for our members and the communities in which they live. That’s why we extended our promise originally made in 2019 to leave no town or city where we currently have a presence without a Nationwide branch until at least 2023. We’ve committed to maintaining a strong network, upgrading over 240 branches and investing over £225 million since 2017. That’s a vastly different position from many of our competitors who continue to close significant numbers of branches. To put this into context, between 2015-2020 our network reduced by around five per cent compared to a sector average of 32 per cent.

“However, for branches requiring significant investment, and where there are modern branches nearby, we must consider whether it is the interest of our wider membership to keep the branch open. We need to determine whether it makes more sense to use that money to improve and retain branches elsewhere in our network, particularly in areas where there is lower provision.

“This is the case with Wanstead, where we have eight branches within a three mile radius and we know that 87% of members already use another branch and only 2% of members use the branch exclusively and frequently. Locally, we’ve invested in our branches in Hackney, Walthamstow and South Woodford to bring them up-to-date, ensuring people in the area have modern branches with the latest technology and services. This means we can focus on delivering better services that will provide our members with the best face-to-face experience and help to protect our branch network in the long term.

“We would like to encourage any member who needs any support to contact their branch to talk through their options in more detail. In addition to this we will be holding a tea and tech event on 4 August at 3pm to help members explore online services, anyone interested can speak to our colleagues in branch to book the session.”

Wanstead Fringe 2021 is ON

Wansteadium is delighted to announce that the Wanstead Fringe will take place in September, after last year’s cancellation. The Wanstead Festival, run by Redbridge on Christ Church Green, is also taking place.

The Fringe will this year run over two weeks – Friday 3 September to Sunday 19 September – and the Festival will take place on the middle Sunday, the 12th.

The Wanstead Fringe Association is currently planning events, including the much-loved Kinema, comedy, Jumble Trail, music and talks, and there are hopes too for some theatre.

A spokesman for the association, which is a not-for-profit organisation, said: “It’s clear that even if the nation’s return to normality continues, things won’t be completely back to normal. But we know how much we want some cultural events and trust the rest of Wanstead is the same, so we’re going to do our best to get things together for September.”

  • Do you want to organise an event? Please get in touch with the Fringe organisers at
  • Do you want to get involved and help out? There are lots of interesting jobs needing doing as the Fringe continues to help develop the cultural life of Wanstead. Please email