(Pic: Nick Affleck)

For the first time in 150 years, cows are roaming freely in Wanstead Park as part of a two-month experiment to see if their presence can help improve the grassland.

The animals are wearing GPS trackers which emit a warning sign to the cows when they get near boundaries, avoiding the need for electric fences.

Volunteers are among those who will be keeping an eye on the animals to make sure everything goes smoothly with the trial (including dissuading people from approaching or feeding them).

Graeme Doshi-Smith, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest & Commons Committee, said: “Our grazing pilot is helping us identify better ways to protect Wanstead Park’s historic views at the same time as conserving a wide range of species and supporting an even better ecological balance at the site.

“Grazing is used as a natural way to manage grasslands and meadows across Epping Forest. As part of the programme we have prevented encroachment by scrub and more vigorous grasses in favour or rarer plants and herbs, benefitting a whole range of insects and birds.

“It is exciting to be grazing heritage cattle here in this East London park, right on the edge of our capital city.”

Police are seeking witnesses with information about at least two sexual assaults on Thursday afternoon in Roding  Valley Park in Wanstead. Full details in this tweet:

The main Wanstead Fringe Jumble Trail of course won’t be taking place this year – it’s fallen foul of the same Covid problems as the rest of the Fringe. But we’re very happy to let you know that there is a mini-Jumble Trail taking place in a handful of roads on Saturday – details are in the poster.

Things are pretty hard all round at the moment, but Wanstead is showing definite signs of promise in spite of everything.

There are at least three new ventures coming to the High Street which might help make up for those which have fallen victim to the hard times – including Percy Ingle and Time For Tea which last month announced it too was closing.

Even in shops and cafes which survive, many well-known and longstanding staff have departed. On behalf of Wanstead, we thank them for their service.

Most visible of the new entrants is the wine and cheese bar Degustation which is taking shape in its premises near to Bare Brew. Renovations are going on inside the shop, and there is an application notice in the window for a pavement licence for seating. Enthusiasm levels are sky high for this venture.

Also coming are, we are told, is a shop for pre-loved bridal wear shop in the former salon/petrol station/stables behind the Cuckfield. And what looks like an electrical shop in the former Rio shoe shop.

Things are also taking shape with the new building on the site of the old Joliffe builders’ office.

Good luck – and bravo – to all these entrepreneurs.

Footnote. Wansteadium happened to notice that in the spot above smart dress shop Le Voyage, where there was once the “Male Grooming Centre” – and before that the “Wanstead Sauna” – there is now an empty venue. Apparently it has been empty for a couple of years now but the signage has now all been removed, ready for conversion to office space.

Is someone trolling us? We know our repeated appeals for sightings of hedgehogs have become well-known, but this little stone fella on Hermon Hill looks like a ringer.

So the Wanstead Kinema isn’t  taking place after all. In spite of extensive social distancing procedures being in place, the Fringe had to cancel Friday night’s event because of the government’s new regulations on public gatherings in England. Tickets are being refunded.

If things had been different this would have been a wonderful Fringe week, with good weather for the Jumble Trail, photowalks, the Duke Street Party and the Wanstead Festival itself. Wanstead folk would have been filling venues for theatre, comedy, demonstrations and so on.

But 2020 had other thoughts. With thoughts now turning to a socially distanced Christmas, we can just hold out for things to get better in 2021.