The cows in Wanstead

This is the best article Wansteadium has ever published.

Dover Road, Aldersbrook. Photo Roger Godbold
Dover Road, Aldersbrook. Photo Roger Godbold

Our appeal for memories of cows wandering around Wanstead – as mentioned by Ewan McGregor last weekend – has borne much fruit.

Wansteadium reader June Mitchell wrote that she remembers the cows outside her home.
[su_quote]”A neighbour and I (both from farming families) herded them on to The Green. Many an unsuspecting driver had to slam on their brakes as a cow wandered across Whipps Cross Road. That’s why there are cattle grids on the approach to the Green Man roundabout.

“I recall my ex-husband coming home shortly after we moved here and saying with absolute amazement that he had been in a meeting at Whipps, looked out the window and saw a cow! It was not unusual to see a few of them meandering up Redbridge Lane West. It was a particularly large group that my neighbour and I thought we should get on to The Green. They were wandering all over the road and into front gardens and I was worried about them munching on privet. It took me back to watching my grandfather herding the cows in for milking. They could be dangerous, particularly around Whipps Cross and the Green Man roundabout. We miss them!

“We moved here in January 1982. There were cows around that year and thereafter. Don’t know the breed and often wondered who they belonged to. They were obviously not a dairy herd because they would have to have been milked. Never knew where their inside shelter was. I never saw anyone herding them. It was a mystery. They could be seen all over. Often on Wanstead flats. We herded them from all over the top of Redbridge Lane West on to The Green. Don’t know why we bothered. Later on they were in The Avenue. At least it got them off the road and out of people’s front gardens. I was told that the Epping Forest land was Common Grazing Ground and therefore anyone could graze cattle on it. Don’t think they got into Wanstead Park though.

“We assumed they were rounded up and taken in for the winter. They came and went. Anyone living around here was used to seeing them. Sometimes a few, occasionally a bigger group. They were just here! It was hilarious to see them all on the Green Man roundabout. If you drive round the roundabout you will see the cattle grids. I have a feeling it stopped when the tunnel went in but I may be wrong.”

Janet & Roger Godbold sent the photo above of Dover Road, dated from the late 70s or early 80s. Roger writes: “Unfortunately the grazing rights granted to certain Essex farmers for their cows to graze on Wanstead Flats were revoked several years ago due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It must be remembered that the number of cows that actually made it back to the farms each year was less than the number that started grazing.” There were rumours, he said, about where the missing cows ended their lives. Best not go there.

On the March in Snaresbrook in 1964. Photo: Katriye Ibrahim

Katriye Ibrahim
wrote: “They use to visit our close eat our flowers, trim the grass & leave a deposit 1958- late 90s?”

Rose Marsh added: “When we moved to Wanstead about 23 years ago we used the launderette on the High Street for a couple of months. My 2 oldest daughters, who were then 1 and 3 years old, spent much of the time with their noses pressed to the windows looking out for the cows who used to wander up from Snaresbrook to graze on the grass area by the Church School. Now we have neither cows nor a launderette – not sure if that is an improvement to the area.”

Eileen Wray said she used to have cows regularly eating her hanging baskets at her house on Lake House Road. In the end she gave up growing them.

Cows on Wanstead Flats, about to chase kite-flying children. Photo: June Mitchell
Cows on Wanstead Flats, about to chase kite-flying children. Photo: June Mitchell
Photo: Katriye Ibrahim

More pics are welcome – please send to – with details of where and when the photos were taken. And if anyone can give a full answer of whose cows they were, what they were doing here, and what happened to them, we would be grateful.

78 thoughts on “The cows in Wanstead”

  1. In the 1980s I was sunbathing on the grass near the Green Man roundabout when a herd of the cows stampeded. I have never seen my boyfriend move so fast in all my life. When I first moved into Voluntary Place (near the Bungalow Café) I’d just planted some conifers at the front and came home to find them askew. I thought a car had reversed into them until my neighbour said it was the cows. She used to keep a stick in her porch to prod them away as they used to eat her flowers.

  2. We lived on the corner of woodlands and Blake hall road for many years and remember our son James trying to get them out of the front garden as they were eating the roses.
    Also walking to Leytonstone station through the woods and they would come racing through and you’d have to get out of their way sharpish.
    Sadly remember one being impalled on the tennis club fence and the fire brigade trying to get it off.
    Also leaving for work and cow pats all along the tiled pathway.
    And someone leaving the gate open on the golf course and they would be walking all over the greens with their hooves sinking down into the poor green keepers manicured greens.

  3. I grew up in South Woodford on Grove Hill which runs between the High Road and the Waterworks Roundabout, I had forgotten about the cows until I saw this. I can just remember in the early to mid 70’s they would regularly walk from or to (?) the forest at the Waterworks, down our road, eating plants in people’s gardens and leaving their deposits, which were allegedly scooped up by the keen gardeners to use on their roses. I don’t remember seeing them there after 1980 though. I think it was before the A406 North Circular Road was dug out and widened to go under the roundabout, but can’t remember when that work was started.

  4. I remember the cows coming down Herongate Road in the sixties. To our neighbours surprise she lost her prize rose in one mouthful!

  5. The cows used to graze on the mill plain in South Woodford and travel down Chelmsford road. In Stanley road they would eat our roses, and the gardens with open gates would pay the price. I loved them.

  6. I used to live in Harpenden Rd.and it was a regular sight to see the cows walking down the road anytime of the day.It was a great shame when they went .One reason was probably the amount of traffic build up over the years.

Comments are closed.