A sting in the tale

How BEE17 and an EpiPen help bring honey to the masses

Imagine a red-hot sewing needle slowly pushed into your flesh.  And staying there. That’s the sensation when you get a bee sting on the nose. This is not exaggeration. It is factual reporting. Which is how I got the sting in the first place; while doing this story on BEE17, the Village’s local beekeepers and honey sellers. But more on that pain later.
BEE17 came about four years ago when local Richard Smith met local Helen Lerner while doing community gardening. Both, it turned out, had an interest in bees, and before you could say buzz, they had bought their first colony and set up a hive in Helen’s back garden.
That one colony has multiplied and the pair are now responsible for several hives, hundreds of thousands of bees and the attendant honey that’s produced. Not only do they bring joy to people’s toast, porridge and glazed carrots, but profit from the enterprise also buys pollen and nectar-friendly plants that end up populating the Village.

Since buying those first colonies – which on average contain 60,000 to 70,000 bees – Richard and Helen have raised their own colonies, which includes raising queens. “You want the queen to be hard-working, and a prolific layer, and you also want the colony to be easy to manage and not too aggressive,” says Richard. “They’re not pussycats – at the end of the day they are going to protect their home and queen, but compared to the ones we had at the start, which were quite mardy, they are a lot better now.”

“In the middle of a neighbourhood there is no point in having aggressive bees that are going to sting people willy nilly,” adds Helen who needs to be particularly careful after going into anaphylactic shock after being stung. She now always has an EpiPen (an injector that gives a shock of adrenaline) at the ready when doing any bee duty.

Besides Richard, the entire operation is really run by women, or rather the female bees. The males are only there for mating or hanging around the hive begging for food. It’s the females that do all the work. “When they ‘get their end away’,” explains Richard, “it pulls their willy off and they die. At the end of the summer if they haven’t served their purpose, the women kick them out. Once the food supply is drying up, and they are useless mouths to feed, they force them out of the colony and the guard bees won’t let them back in.”

BEE17 now has one of the biggest assets a beekeeper can have; the frames – that sit inside the hives – with the empty comb still intact. “With new frames the bees have to construct the wax comb, so 25% of your yield goes into wax production. If you have old ones, all that energy goes into processing the nectar so you get more honey,” says Richard.

The whole operation is incredibly labour intensive. All the hives need to be checked on a weekly basis; to make sure the queen is laying eggs, that the bees are not swarming (when the queen leaves with a large number of worker bees to set up a new colony elsewhere) and determine if the queens are producing female offspring not drones (those males who are simply work-shy, hungry reproductive machines). Then there’s the collection of the honey.

“The supers (the boxes containing the frames of comb containing the honey) need to be taken out – there are 10 in each hive – and the comb needs to be uncapped of wax using a heat gun,” explains Helen. “Then it needs to go into the extractor, which acts like a centrifuge and then drained through a double sieve into buckets to settle.

“Then all the scum comes to the top. This is primarily foam – oxygen really – and needs to be taken off before the honey is put into sterilised jars,” says Richard.
This year the weather has been mostly cooperative, so the pair are looking at real quality honey. Spring honey is more light and floral while the summer’s is dark and treacly because of the nectar collected from chestnut blossoms, blackberries and hebes.

After learning all of this fascinating information, I wanted to get a closer look and take some photos, so Richard and Helen got me all kitted up; the full suit with fine netting around the face so you can see what you’re doing. Only my doing included holding the camera so close to my eye that the netting was pressed against my face, giving one of the dozens of bees covering the netting the perfect opportunity to sting my nose, a considerably sized target. Despite the pain and tears, I will still be buying the pesky beggars’ delicious honey…

Next honey sale: 18 June, 12 – 4pm, 6 Beulah Rd

This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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A visit to Walthamstow Wetlands

By David Baker

On Sunday, 27 November, a small but hardy group of individuals led by the Residents’ Association, went on a guided tour of the Walthamstow Wetlands, just off Forest Rd, opposite the Ferry Boat Inn.

The project is to turn the Walthamstow reservoirs into a vast urban wetland nature reserve and centre for learning. It is due to open in September 2017 and will give visitors access to a wonderful natural area right on our doorstep.

The reservoirs that make up the 211-hectare site are internationally recognised as being important for over-wintering wildfowl and is the largest fishery in London as well as providing water supply for Thames Water.  The project is being led by LB Waltham Forest, along with the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Greater London Authority and the Heritage Lottery Fund as partners.

We had the opportunity of walking around the site, seeing the progress of the project during the construction phase. The plan is to turn the existing Victorian
Engine House into a refurbished Visitor Centre with cafe, viewing platform and education space for the project. New cycle routes and footpaths are being added, and habitats are being enhanced by the addition of new reed beds and waterside planting.

The walk around was guided by ‘Wetlands Steve’ Ayers, who pointed out the developments underway and the varied wild life we were observing. The highlight of the tour for me was the sighting of two Peregrine falcons that were high above us, sheltering in the pylons in front of the entrance! It was extremely cold, with the wind blowing across the site but despite the weather, it was great to see this wonderful wildlife project and to see what a great resource we will have on our doorstep when complete later this year. Watch out for when it will be opened to the public, it will be an opportunity not to be missed.

Many thanks to Vally Gesthuysen for organising this event and for Wetlands Steve for making a damp and cold day so interesting and entertaining!


This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Walthamstow Village in Bloom

By Helen Lerner

We need your support in 2017!

Photograph by Caroline Barton

We are thrilled and proud to announce that in 2017, Walthamstow Village has again been invited to represent the London region in the prestigious RHS Britain in Bloom UK-wide competition. We are joining 78 other finalists competing to be crowned the cleanest, greenest and most beautiful Urban Community in the UK.

London in Bloom has a rule that we can only enter the nationals twice in five years, so this is our very last chance until 2022 at the earliest to show what makes the Village so special and to be awarded the UK’s best Urban Community with a Gold. So let’s really make it count! There will again be two judging days; London in Bloom in July and Britain in Bloom in August.

Waltham Forest, and especially Paul Tickner, are fully supporting us this year, and we’re getting lots of help from the Community Payback teams. Over the coming weeks you should notice real improvements happening in the street-scene, including the planting of new trees.

In 2017, the national RHS theme is Greening the Grey for Wildlife. This year, the areas we are targeting are:

The meadow

The meadow by the Ancient House was prepared and re-sown with a mix of annual and
perennial wildflower and grass seeds thanks to a generous donation by the Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association (WVRA). It should look fantastic, flowering from July to September, and will attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinating insects. Please respect the new meadow by kindly not allowing dogs on it – the nitrogen in dog pee increases the soil fertility and allows courser grasses and weeds to choke out the flowers.

The Village Square

We have devised a new planting scheme for the flowerbed against the wall to complement the two other beds. Biodiversity is at the top of our agenda and the local honey beepopulation will love all the new pollen and nectar rich flowers.

Orford Road tree pits & lamposts

Waltham Forest will soon be installing double flower-baskets on all the new lampposts and we are securing donations from businesses to plant up the tree-pits with colourful flowers.

Chalmers House Orchard Project (CHOP)

The fruit trees along the Orford Road railings (opposite Orford House) have been full of blossom and we hope you enjoyed the carpet of 5,000 Purple Polio crocuses we planted.

Holmcroft House, Orford Road

After receiving permission from the WF Head of Housing Management, we started work on the front garden behind the new railings, improving the soil and adding new plants.

Village Veg Plots

Planting Day, Saturday 6 May, 2-4 pm
Our fantastic community Village Veg Plots outside the Lifeline Project at One Beulah Road, kindly sponsored by Fullers Builders, and run by Darryl Abelscroft and Caroline Barton, aided by Vally Gesthuysen, are designed to demonstrate how to grow veg, fruit and herbs on a small site and to look good in the street-scene. Residents and passers-by
can help themselves when the produce is ready.

We are holding a Veggie Planting Day on Saturday 6 May from 2 to 4pm. Hands big and small are needed to help!

Also needed are volunteers to join the Weekly Watering Team to water the veg plots one day a week with the on-site hose. Please contact darryl@walthamstowvillage.net for more information.


Our community beekeeping project, run by Richard Smith and Helen Lerner, has donated another £800, this time towards the replanting of the long flowerbed in the Village Square. To follow news of our two hives, see the BEE17 Facebook page or go to bee17.bz. We urge you to choose seeds and plants with bees and beneficial insects in mind. For a list of bee-friendly plants, please go to www.rhs.org.uk and search ‘Perfect for Pollinators’.

Monthly Gardening Club

Come and join the Gardening Club on the first Saturday of each month at 10.30am in the Village Square and tend the flowerbeds in the area, tidy up, plant, prune and weed. We have lots of laughs and you don’t need any special gardening skills (but you may gain some!), plus you get to meet your neighbours. And a big thank you to lovely Holmcroft
House resident Marion Cooper who is always
bringing refreshments to sustain us!

Compost in Summit Road

We wanted to apologise for upsetting some Summit Road residents when the compost donated by North London Waste Authority was delivered in February. We hope the fantastic display of daffodils and the heady scent of hyacinths made up for the annoyance.

Front Garden & Beautiful Premises Challenge 2017 – Big Prizes!

We have decided this year that not only can you enter the Challenges yourself, but you can nominate the gardens and displays of your neighbours.

There are many unloved front gardens, so this year we are adding a new category to our Gardening Challenges with a cash prize of £100 for Most Improved Front Garden/Forecourt, with £50 for second prize. This will be awarded to the resident who we think has done the most to beautify their front area – it may be with plants, baskets, containers and/or window boxes – the choice is yours. Please contact us for advice and
suggestions if you need them.

There’s also a new category for frontages that are Greening the Grey for Wildlife. There’s a range of things you can do to boost biodiversity:

  • Add pollinator-friendly flowers to a lawn
  • Plant a small tree or hedge: they can support hundreds of species of insect
  • Put up bird boxes or feeders
  • Pull up a paver or add containers and sow seeds to create a pollinator-friendly mini garden
  • Add climbing plants to cover a wall

There are the usual categories for front gardens, balconies, window boxes and containers. Your entry must be able to be seen from the street or be open to the public. Every entry will be awarded a Certificate of Participation, presented at the WVRA AGM in October.

Your Bloom team thoroughly enjoys looking at the gardens and displays of all entrants and showing them to the judges. The ‘best’ garden and premises will be put forward into the London in Bloom 50 Favourite Front Gardens competition. All entries to be submitted using the form in our magazine, or online here walthamstowvillage.net/gardening-group/frontgarden-beautiful-premises by Friday 23 June. Let’s all make the most of our front gardens, forecourts and windowsills and show your support for Walthamstow Village in Bloom by entering yourself or a neighbour in our 2017 Gardening Challenges.

Follow us on Facebook (on our Walthamstow Village in Bloom page) and, if you would like to find out more, you can sponsor or help with any of the above, or would like to join the Bloom committee, please contact helen@walthamstowvillage.net or call 07814 042499.

Best wishes, many thanks and good luck from your Bloom team: Helen Lerner, Jakob Hartmann, Caroline Barton, Nick Springett, John Chambers, Teresa Deacon, Darryl Abelscroft and Vally Gesthuysen.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Ancient ruins uncovered in Village

First substantial Roman find in Walthamstow

It turns out the Village has been up and coming for longer than was previously thought after archeologists uncovered prehistoric and Roman remains in the grounds of a local school. The discovery – a first of its kind in the area – revealed the remains of a substantial Roman building or buildings that were probably part of a wealthy Roman farmstead.

“No prehistoric or Roman remains of any substance had previously been found in Walthamstow and so to get such a substantial building was very surprising,” according to archeologist and project manager, Helen Hawkins, who has been leading the excavation. Hawkins says the discovery was also unexpected as the site is not near any known Roman roads, the closest being at Leyton.

The possibility that the grounds of the Holy Family Catholic School – which abuts Vinegar Alley – might contain ancient secrets came to light in 2009 when a planning application for new buildings was submitted. Because the site was within an archeological priority area, trial trenching was carried out, which exposed tantalising clues.

“The trenching uncovered ditches and pits dating to prehistoric times, early Roman and late Roman periods, as well as a piece of Purbeck marble and some flue tiles, which suggested that a high status Roman building with underfloor heating was located on or near the site,” says Hawkins. But when the building project was cancelled, further investigations were put on hold. It wasn’t until last year when the school revived the building project that a ground penetrating radar survey was carried
out, which identified extensive remains on the site. That’s when the company Hawkins works for was brought in to continue the search. They didn’t have to dig very deep before making their startling find. “The remains were located about 30 to 40 centimetres below the ground,” says Hawkins, “so they have only survived because nothing was previously constructed on the site.”

The oldest remains were a prehistoric ring ditch, which Hawkins says was probably a defensive ditch and bank constructed around small roundhouse dwellings. But those remains were only the start.

“After the ring ditch went out of use,” says Hawkins, “a very large Roman building or group of buildings was then constructed on the site. The buildings, which would have had good views of the surrounding valleys, were made of timber, wattle and daub and probably comprised a large wealthy farmstead. We have found evidence of flue tiles, which may suggest that a bath house formed part of the complex, although we haven’t found any evidence for the bath house itself as yet.” And
while comparable isolated Roman farmsteads have been located at Leyton and Wanstead, this is a first for Walthamstow.

But Hawkins and her team have not just found the remains of buildings; the investigation has also yielded Roman and prehistoric pottery and so far, one Roman coin. And there could be more to come as the excavations are scheduled to continue on the site until later this spring.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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History matters – A life swapped for a pearl button …

… and a Darwinian connection in Walthamstow Village.

By Teresa Deacon







This bizarre and tragic story took place in the Village in the early 19th century, when Walthamstow was a rural parish in Essex. To put it in context, at this point in history slavery was still common around the world, the British were extending the Empire as never before and here in the Village, what’s now the local museum was a workhouse.

In 1829, Captain Robert Fitzroy, a scientist and officer in the Royal Navy, was on an exploration voyage on the HMS Beagle, navigating Tierra del Fuego, the southern-most tip of South America. A small whaling boat being used to survey narrow waters was allegedly stolen by locals. In retaliation, Fitzroy ordered several indigenous people to be taken hostage. Most managed to escape but four young Fuegians remained on board the Beagle.

Fitzroy decided to take the four Fuegians back to Britain as a social experiment to ‘teach them in the ways of Christianity and gentility’ and to return them back to their homeland so that they might ‘civilise’ their fellow natives.

They were renamed Fuegia Basket, a girl of 9, Jemmy Button, a boy of 14 (so-called as he had been ‘exchanged’ for a pearl button), Boat Memory, a male of 20, and York Minster, a male aged 26.

Boat Memory sadly died of smallpox on reaching Plymouth. Fitzroy paid for the remaining three to be driven by stage coach to Walthamstow, where he had a connection with the vicar of Walthamstow, the Reverend William Wilson. The three youngsters were apparently enthralled with the horses and carriages that took them on their journey and more so with the stone lion that once stood atop Northumberland House in central London, which they thought to be alive.

Rev. William Wilson had set up St. Mary’s Infant School in 1824 (pictured opposite – now the Welcome Community Centre at the back of the Squire’s almshouses), which is where they were educated. Rev Wilson lived in Grove House, a long-since demolished grand house on Grove Road, with grounds stretching back to Maynard Road. The young Fuegians may have lodged with him there and/or at The Chestnuts in Bishop’s Close, built in the early 19th century, which still stands today.

As well as learning about Christianity, the young Fuegians were taught English and practical skills, such as gardening, husbandry and carpentry. Fuegia Basket and Jemmy Button fitted into the community well and became very popular with the locals. Jemmy loved his western clothes, always wore gloves and became a bit of a ‘dandy’, never missing an opportunity to admire himself in any reflection. York Minster, the eldest of the group, didn’t fare so well as he had a very large physique and was unhappy being put in with infants.

Such was their celebrity that they were presented to the new King William IV and wife Queen Adelaide, who gave Fuegia Basket a bonnet
and other gifts.

A little more than a year after they’d arrived, it was discovered that the much older York Minster had become sexually interested in the much younger Fuegia Basket, who was still a child. In order to avoid a scandal and personal humiliation, Fitzroy decided to return them home. The locals had taken the three into their hearts and sent them off with a stash of gifts – including wine glasses, tea trays, butter dishes – all of which were unsuitable items for their home environment.

In December 1831, they returned home on the HMS Beagle, this time accompanied by the young Charles Darwin, an acquaintance of Captain Fitzroy, who was brought on board as a trainee pastor and naturalist. As it turned out, the research Darwin accumulated on this 5-year journey led to him writing Evolution of Species and later The Descent of Man.

In his account of The Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin remarks that ‘Jemmy was a “universal favourite” who comforted him when he was seasick’. He also writes that ‘Jemmy’s hair was neatly cut and he became distressed if his well-polished shoes were dirtied’.

Also on board was a trainee missionary who was to marry Fuegia Basket and York Minster as soon as they reached home. The repatriation didn’t go as Fitrzroy had planned. There was much looting of the Walthamstow gifts and the three soon reverted to their traditional way of life.

Reports filtered back over the years as to what had become of the trio. Jemmy married and had a son who made a trip to England in 1866. Reports also alleged Jemmy led a massacre of missionaries in 1859. York Minster was killed in a dispute, and his wife Fuegia died aged 44. Jemmy’s connection to Walthamstow has been recognised through a recent residential development in E17, which has been named ‘Button Lodge’ after him.

Sources: Walthamstow Past, David Mander, The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin, Local Studies Library, Vestry House, LBWF. St. Mary’s School image used with permission from Vestry House Museum, LBWF.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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A local market for local people

The traders who saved the day.

By Shameem Mir

trader1It’s there every Saturday, come rain or shine, at the Waltham Forest Community Hub, so most of you will be familiar with the E17 Village Market. But what you might not know is that it was saved from closure by a group of local traders who aim to turn it into a worker’s co-operative where a share of the takings will go to keeping it up and running.

The market had its beginnings in the grounds of Henry Maynard Primary School last year. Back then it was led by an entrepreneur from Hackney as a commercial enterprise, with most of the traders coming from outside of Walthamstow. It then moved to the Community Hub but things took an abrupt turn in early September when the market was suddenly disbanded by the original founder due to ‘a lack of footfall’. It stopped operating for a few weeks while a group of traders put their heads together to think of a way forward. This culminated in them taking over the market, getting it up and running again with the intention to make it more community focused with almost all local E17 businesses.

It’s clear that they make their products with flair and a great passion. Nick Lazarides from Cyprus Kitchen left his full- time job in the media to follow his dream of serving up fresh and authentic Cypriot food. “I wasn’t getting the interaction with people in my day job,” says Nick, “and I love face-to-face contact and chatting to my customers. Plus, I wanted to bring something new to the food scene.”

trader-2When talking to the traders you get the sense that they all have this deep passion driving them to make, bake and cook the absolute best to sell to our community. “I wanted to bring beautiful and natural patisserie to all families in Walthamstow,’ says Henrietta Inman, the pastry chef and author of Clean Cakes who is one of the traders at the market each week. “Mums are always coming back to buy cakes for their children, which is great as I love getting feedback. Being a trader is also a great way of promoting my cookery classes, which I hope to do more of in the New Year.”

Another heartfelt baker is Céline Lecoeur of Elderflower Cakes, who says, “I have always loved baking and always wanted to have my own business. Being a local trader is such a good start. The market has allowed me to test my product on the general public. What I also love is the sense of community between traders; we are like one big family that supports and encourages each other – the atmosphere is so lovely.”

For Alys Wood-Bibby from Blomst Flowers it’s been a great way of immersing herself into Village life. “As a newcomer to Walthamstow, both as a resident and trader, there was an overwhelming sense of community in terms of support and encouragement,” says Alys. “I believe the market is a great way to give back to the community as well as supporting new businesses which, like us, want to take the gamble and follow their hearts.”

trader-3Many of the traders have full-time jobs but cannot resist devoting their free time to sharing their love for what they produce. Kostas Anagnostou from the Greek Café works as a full-time chef in a local college and says, “My love of cooking came from watching my grandma in the kitchen back in our village in northern Greece and I am using those hand-me-down recipes today. All my cakes and pastries are made from scratch and what makes them stand out is my attention to detail.” And besides the savoury filo pies, Kosta has also introduced salads to his repertoire.

While many of the traders are just starting and juggling other commitments, others are more established. Take Perky Blenders, which recently won a much-coveted Time Out Love London Award.

“It was an astounding achievement for us and a real heartfelt thank you from our growing community of coffee lovers,” says Blender’s Tom Cozens. “People enjoy the fact we roast Perky Blenders beans fresh for the market.” Tom also points out that they offer free drinks with every order of fresh roasted coffee beans at trader-4the Village Market. And for those serious addicts, they even deliver free in E17.

Besides feeding and watering the local populace, the market wants to encourage growth within E17 microbusinesses and create a community among traders, as well as residents.
They especially want to reach out to other local traders and encourage new small operations. So to help build confidence, the group has introduced an ‘incubator scheme’ for local start-ups, offering a 4-week initial period and a reduced pitch fee. If this is just the opportunity you’ve been looking for, you can contact the group directly, at e17villagemarket@gmail.com.

The group sees an opportunity to make the market bigger and better so that Orford Road becomes a go-to destination, attracting visitors both locally and further afield, and increasing footfall even further so that all businesses can benefit, much like Broadway Market and Columbia Road.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.


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Come into the light

Art spectacle shines on the walls of St Mary’s

adventus-1Let’s face it. When one looks back at the past 12 months, it’s not exactly been a year full of hope and promise. There has been great divisiveness in society, both here and abroad. Enormous suffering that has forced millions of people to flee their homes, not to mention the departure of too many creative geniuses that, while leaving behind a great legacy, also left the world a poorer place.

So as 2016 draws to a close, there’s a choice. Give in to the gloom and doom or look towards coming together to create a more joyful, inclusive and optimistic future.

The latter is what Advent(us): Another World is Possible will be all about when it launches itself onto the Village in December. Or to put it more precisely, when it launches itself onto the exterior of St Mary’s Church each night until 24 of December.

adventus-2Advent(us) is an ambitious, and what promises to be spectacular, project where the work of artists – from those of world renown to school kids who are just starting out – will be projected onto the south facing wall of St Mary’s during advent.

“Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means something is coming. I liked that because it’s not just about the re-telling of the birth of Jesus, but about looking forward,” says Cameron Conant (pictured below right) the instigator of Advent(us) and a founding member of the St Mary’s Art Collective, the prime mover behind the project.

“The church has this season called advent,’ says Cameron, “and I thought about an advent calendar and what if you projected an advent calendar onto the church. But I didn’t just want it to be about camels and a star. What if we pushed past that and thought differently; created something to bring people from all backgrounds together to think about what other world is possible.”

The project will see an incredibly eclectic array of artwork being projected onto the church’s wall, facing the Ancient House, for 24 consecutive nights between 6pm and 10pm. There will be hot drinks to accompany the lumier spectacle as well as a host of activities inside the church, ranging from live music performances to workshops for families.

adventus-3The creative talent leading the project is prominent London based artist Gary Stewart (pictured left) who, besides creating visual work is also a sonic musician who as part of Dubmorphology, recently exhibited at the the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

“There were things about Advent(us) that resonated with my own interests. My projects are often making the space a part of the work and a lot of direct engagement with the people coming to see it,” says Gary. “I like this idea of the public spectacle, the shared social thing when people come together and what happens when people from different communities join up; people who might normally only ever pass by one another.”

Gary is charged with pulling all the artists and work together, surely a Herculean task when one considers the range of personalities and temperaments you get when working with a bunch of creatives. “It’s not working to just one voice,” says Gary, “so it’s not essential for everyone to agree what they want to communicate. Ego becomes less important because it’s a different headspace when you’re doing a group show like this.”

It’s extremely unlikely that St Mary’s has seen anything quite like this in its 900-year history. So it’s probably a very good idea to grab a warm coat, put on your woolly hat and open yourself to a new experience. It just might make you feel a lot brighter and expectant about the year ahead.

Advent(us): Another World is Possible runs until 24 December, every night from 6-10pm at St Mary’s Church. You can find a schedule for the artists who will be exhibiting and a list of associated events at: www.walthamstowchurch.org.uk/st-marys-parish-announce-christmas-schedule-featuring-adventus-another-world-possible/


This article first appeared in the Winter   2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Coming into bloom

alys-1There’s a thing for all things Danish at the moment. From the reports – yet again – on how Denmark has the happiest citizens on the planet, to the notion of hygge, a word without a direct English translation that is about creating a welcoming, cosy atmosphere with the good things in life – family, friends, food and importantly the glow of candlelight. So Alys Wood-Bibby’s timing could not be more impeccable with her new Scandi inspired business Blomst, the Danish word for flower.

But she’s not just hitching herself to the zeitgeist without proper credentials.
Alys’ mother spent many years in the Scandinavian country so as a child the family would often spend summers there. The 32-year-old admits, “I am a girl who lost her heart in Denmark a long time ago. There is something so romantic about the country, the kindness of the people, the beautiful landscape, the style. I have always felt like Denmark is my second home and still now take every chance I can to go back and visit.” Her love of flowers can also be traced back to her childhood.

alys-2“Growing up, I remember the smell and presence of beautiful fresh blooms in our home. Each weekend we would get fresh flowers and I loved them lighting up the kitchen. I used to collect rose petals with my best friend Natalie and make beautiful rose perfume; something we thought smelled magnificent. Only, looking back now, I’m not so sure it was quite as magnificent as we thought!” says Alys.

The Danish aesthetic for simple yet sophisticated design runs through her products; from the delicate potted succulents and dainty terrariums to the arrangements that she offers on a subscription service. It’s that service which she says is the business’s USP and one she settled on to make her new start-up stand out.

“The customer can choose the frequency of their subscription and the size of the bouquets, a bit like your weekly food shop, or your fortnightly farm drop box.” Alongside this, Alys also does individual bouquets, weddings, funerals and special events, and has a regular stall at the E17 Village Market which runs every Saturday at the Community Hub in Orford Road.

Alys gave birth to Blomst shortly after literally giving birth, to her daughter Betsy earlier this year. It’s her first foray into the marketplace and she says she spent a long time researching and talking to friends and family, as well as taking advice from a business mentor.

alys-3What she didn’t expect was how it would feel putting her work in the public domain.“It’s hard to put yourself out there creatively and not feel disheartened if you don’t get the response you thought you would. Creativity can sometimes leave you feeling exposed. You might work hard to get things perfect but, like in all aspects of life, not everyone is going to have something positive to say. But you just need to keep on going and in the end it always pays off.”

The weekly market provided Alys with a good springboard for the company so she’s incredibly relieved that after the original organiser pulled out of the scheme, her and other local businesses have picked up the pieces and, after a very brief stoppage, the market is up and running again.

As for the flower that she’d chosen to bloom all around her on a desert island she immediately says, “Anemones, because they are such a beautiful and delicate flower, but so bold. They also featured heavily in my wedding flowers, so they will always have a special place in my heart.”

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Carry on caravanning


The mobile homes set for Calais camp

For the past few months, local residents have been achieving remarkable things by bringing together piles of donated clothes, copious skeins of wool, the odd litre of Windolene and great big doses of compassion. It’s all part of an on-going and ever-expanding effort that’s sending refurbished caravans laden with provisions to help those stranded in the refugee camp at Calais.

Humanitarian groups estimate that close to 9,000 people live in the camp – that’s been dubbed ‘The jungle’ – half of which was demolished earlier this year. Heartbreakingly, it’s thought there are around 1,000 unaccompanied minors at the site.

calais-3The original local Wilcumstowe Wagon project aimed to send two caravans, but those two soon turned into three and spawned a new Village-based group led by Debbie Bliss that is also sending four-wheeled care packages across the Channel. Local resident Linsey Wynton coordinated the original Wilcumstowe Wagon with support from Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy after attending a meeting with Lord Alf Dubbs, who came to the UK as a child refugee during WWII from the former Czechoslovakia.

“As a mum of three young children, I am immensely concerned about the plight of child refugees,” says Linsey. “The idea of the caravans is to provide safe and secure accommodation for the most vulnerable child refugees – there are more than 800 unaccompanied minors in the Calais refugee camp. The caravans also offer a home to vulnerable families who have health problems or who have young children or babies.”

As many of the refugees’ temporary shelters were destroyed in a fire, and with winter approaching, Linsey says the caravans provide much needed secure accommodation.

A crowd-funding effort this summer provided enough money for the group to purchase three caravans from an organisation called Jungle Canopy, that buys them second-hand from places like eBay, gets them into shape to be used by groups like Wilcumestowe and then delivers them to the camps at Calais.

This summer the three were parked up in East Avenue where scores of volunteers armed with Hoovers, rubber gloves and cleaning products set to work making the caravans fit for purpose. But the effort wasn’t just spent on the inside. Wood Street Walls assisted in decorating two of the three caravans with the artist Elno, armed with her spray cans, transforming one into a work of art complete with white roses, all being done to honour the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.

calais-2Meanwhile, over at the Waltham Forest Community Hub in Orford Road, other volunteers including MP Stella Creasy, who helped Linsey coordinate the entire project, set about sorting through the generous donations that came from across the borough; everything from pots and pans to children’s toys and bundles of clothing. In the end, there were enough donations to fill the three Wilcumstowe caravans, as well as one that a local church had purchased and another that local resident Natalie Sloane had funded. (Since then,Natalie has pulled together fundraising to send another as well.)

But the local caravan drive didn’t stop there. Enter Debbie Bliss, a gang of knitters and even more caravans. Debbie and her group were already making blankets to send to the refugees in Calais when they heard about the Wilcumstowe caravan project and decided that placing a blanket in each of those caravans was a perfect delivery system.

calais-4“With each of the blankets we attached a label that says, ‘every stich knitted with love for you.’ We wanted the people who got them to know that it hadn’t been knitted randomly; that we made them knowing where they were going and we are aware of their circumstances,” says Debbie. “Blankets are not just about warmth; there’s something very comforting and ‘hearth and home’ about them. They’re about security.” So far Debbie and her intrepid knitters have made 10 blankets for Calais and they are still clacking their needles at the Queen’s Arms every week to add to that number.

But it didn’t stop with the blankets. Debbie, working with other local residents, has now raised enough money to send two of their own fully stocked caravans to Calais.
“There are lots of rumours that they are going to close down the camps so the need is even more acute,” says Debbie. “The thing is they can be towed away very easily and there are lots of people involved in aiding the refugees who could help tow them away. They don’t know where to, but better than having no place to live at all.” That could prove important. Recently, France’s President, François Hollande, announced a plan to close the camp and move the camps’ inhabitants to reception centres where their cases would be examined over a period of four months.

Debbie recently returned from a visit to the camp and says,“It was incredibly moving. I went with my husband Barry and Stella Creasy. We visited the three Wilcumstowe caravans. We met a lady who now lives in one of them who was eight months pregnant and desperate to leave the camp and get to England. Stella was able to send a picture of the caravan decorated with white roses and dedicated to Jo Cox to Jo’s husband Brendan who was then able to show it to their children. What stays with you is the tragic stories, but also the resilience of the human spirit.”

And the group is not letting the momentum flag. After a successful curry quiz fundraiser for Help Refugees UK and Refugee Community Kitchen, the group is having another event. On Monday 21st November there will be an Art/ Design Auction in the Queens Arms, starting at 730pm sharp. So get ready to bid!

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Young at heart – Hub gets funding for teens & seniors

img_4190The Waltham Forest Community Hub in Orford Road is extending its youth work in the borough thanks to a successful application to BBC Children in Need. The grant of almost £100,000 will be used to fund a three year youth empowerment programme dubbed ‘Stow Youth in Action’.

Hub manger Monwara Ali says the grant is a real coup for the centre. She says, “There is huge competition for funding from BBC Children in Need, which is why we were overjoyed. Waltham Forest as a borough fares badly in receiving grant funding from major funders such as Big Lottery, Heritage Lottery and Comic Relief, in comparison to other boroughs. It is very unusual for organisations of our size to be successful in getting such a substantial grant.”

The project will add to the hub’s youth work already taking place at its Orfrod Road centre by setting up youth groups in three new areas: Hoe Street Ward, William Morris Ward and the Priory Court. Monwara says the neighbourhoods served by the new project were chosen, “because they were identified as areas with high levels of deprivation, where there is very little provision for youth”.

The programmes will operate three days a week and use the expertise of youth workers to engage with people aged 11-18.

They will use one-to-one mentoring and structured activities such as life skills classes to try to reach people who are identified as troubled and requiring high levels of support. And as a way of steering the older kids aged 16 and over away from gang activity, there will be a focus on learning and volunteering opportunities.

The hub’s youth work is, according to Monwara, a result of increasing need. “Waltham Forest, like many other London boroughs, has had to make drastic cuts to its spending and sadly this has had a really big impact on youth services. Even though small charities like us don’t have huge capacity, we can often do the most meaningful  work with challenging young people who are struggling to survive.”

The Hub has also had funding approved that will be aimed at the other end of the age scale. Close to £14,000 from the Sport Relief – Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund is going to pay for weekly sessions for older people living in sheltered housing schemes. It was recently launched with a coach trip to Woburn Safari Park, and since September the hub has been running a weekly social club for seniors at the Vestry House Museum. The sessions – from 2-4pm every Thursday – are also involving young people from the area as volunteers so, as Monwara puts it, “stereotypes held by each generation about the other can be challenged”

As always in the age of funding applications, the money will only support the activities for a set amount of time but Monwara hopes “the project will encourage further support from the local community so that we can find a way of making it sustainable in the longer term”.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Flower power – How one man helped create an oasis

gerry-1Gerry Clegg was fed up. Fed up with looking out at the garden where he lives in Cherry Close – a tidy low-rise development of social housing off Beulah Road – and seeing nothing but shrubs. Boring, green shrubs.

“It was completely overgrown,” Gerry says. “The usual council ground cover they plant so it’s easy to maintain. It was just spreading out. It was depressing coming out in the morning and there in the garden, no colour at all. Just these bushes.”

Gerry, 65 years old and now retired from his job at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, decided that unless he did something, the dull green shrubbery was going to outlive him. So he took it upon himself to contact the council and ask if they’d work with him to create a proper garden; somewhere he and the other residents might actually want to spend some time. Surprisingly, in these days of austerity and slashed budgets, the council agreed to help.

“It was a tremendous amount of work,” Gerry says, recalling that because the shrubs’ roots ran so deep, it was back-breaking work to get them out. But once that was started, the council team came out to help. “And to give the council their due, every bit I did the council did as much,” he says.

img_7453With Gerry leading the way, and the council providing staff and funding from its beautification scheme, the garden at Cherry Close has been transformed.
There’s now a fenced-in area that’s been laid to lawn, bordered with colourfully planted beds, seating areas as well as an adjacent raised bed housing a thriving vegetable plot. Since the makeover, Gerry says the residents – 80 per cent of whom are social housing tenants – are spending much more time in the garden and even helping keep things shipshape.

“It’s not always easy convincing people to help but in the end several of the tenants have pitched in and often it’s the people you least expect who lend a hand,” he says. “We even have a head slug catcher, a young boy named Pressley who can often be heard shouting out ‘I got another one for you today Gerry’.”

Besides buying new stock for the beds with money raised by selling wooden planters that Gerry makes, the garden has ended up being a home for ‘orphans’, with people donating plants that they don’t want or ones that just aren’t thriving in their current home.The garden has been such a success that Gerry already now has plans to replace more of the remaining ground cover shrubbery with new flower beds. And, according to Gerry, the new garden has been such a success, it was even used recently as a selling point when one of the privately owned flats went up for sale. Result!

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Village people – Nikhil Patel

nikhil-1Forty-eight year-old Nikhil Patel has seen a lot of changes since taking over Desborough News in Orford Road over 20 years ago. His life’s journey has taken him from Kenya to India, back to Kenya and eventually here to the heart of the Village. Things might have been very different if it wasn’t for a life-changing moment in Nairobi that made him take stock and decide to forge a new life in the UK.

“My parents went to Kenya from India when it was a British colony, and I was born in Nairobi, the youngest of six children. Because I was the baby my family all spoiled me – too much! In the morning for school my sisters would fix my hair, gather my books and get my school bag sorted. Everything prepared for me. Growing up I learnt three languages, Gujarati, which we spoke at home and also English and Swahili.

My dad was a teacher and the principal at his school was Daniel Arap Moi who went on to become President of the country. He knew him very well. When I was a teenager, my father left teaching to open a building contractor business. They built schools, hospitals, radio stations, and a lot of work for the government. My Dad worked very hard and so we had a good education at a private school. Then I was sent to India to study civil engineering in Gujarat state and after six years got my diploma in civil engineering and went back to Kenya to work for my dad’s company.

When I was about 21, me and a friend went to a casino one night in Nairobi. At the end of the evening, as we were leaving, we got to our car and three men came at us. One of them put a gun to my friend’s head. He said, ‘Get in the car and just drive and when we say stop you must stop, otherwise we shoot you.’ I told my friend just do what they want. They took us to the outskirts of Kenya and made us drop them there. They didn’t take any money from us or the car. We thought maybe they had robbed somewhere and they needed a getaway car. That’s when I thought maybe it’s time to leave Kenya.

“I came to London and first worked in the family business before deciding to buy Desborough’s from a member of my family. She had been running it for 25 years. Since then it’s changed so much. Fifteen years ago there was me and Paul’s Food and Wine [what used to be the Spar]. On weekends back then it was a ghost town after 4pm. Now until midnight it’s full-on. It’s good. I like it.

It’s harder to run a newsagent now because of the drop in the newspaper industry. It’s not as strong and people get things online to read on their Ipads.

“I especially like this area because I still have lots of customers who are like family. If some of them are short a few pounds I say, ‘take it and give it to me another day’. And they do it.

“My brother is now running the family construction business in Nairobi and so I visit Kenya. But right now I don’t want to go back. I’ve been here a long time so first I feel British, then second Kenyan and then Indian which is my motherland. I respect this country. It’s taken care of us very well.”

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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United we stand

Behind the scenes at Trinity Church

Trinity 5Standing like a gatekeeper at the western edge of the Village, Trinity Church on Orford Road is a testament to just how much things have changed since its Kentish ragstone walls were erected in 1870. In its initial days as a Congregational church, the Sunday service would have been packed with the prospering families who were slowly moving into the new brick terraces being built in response to the expanding railways.

These days, as a United Reform Church (URC), there’s not just one Sunday service but four, with each catering to a distinct group. The URC holds two of its own services, one in the morning in English and another in the afternoon for the Asian congregation in Urdu. Sandwiched in-between, there’s a group of independent Christian Tamil worshipers in the church, while later in the day it’s home to a small evangelical group led by a minster everyone knows simply as Pastor Fred. And the building is just as busy the rest of the week. There’s two sessions of nursery school Monday to Friday, yoga on a Saturday, and on Thursday – if you’re passing or live nearby – you’ll hear the rallying sound of East London Brass as the band has its weekly rehearsal.

Trinity 8Today, Trinity is as much a community centre as a place of worship. That, according to church secretary Roger Davis means the URC stays connected to the community. “In addition,” Roger tells us, “the rental income we get from the various groups keeps the building going. The upkeep of a building as old as this is ongoing; there’s always something that needs attention.”

But it’s not just bricks and mortar that require care and attention. For the past six years the church has been managing without a dedicated minister, which Roger admits has been difficult. “You haven’t got that focal point; someone who people can get to know. And the minister helps get to know the congregation and help it to evolve.” Fortunately, that looks like it’s going to change, with the URC hoping to appoint someone in the next year.

The church knows what a difference a dedicated minister can make. Since the Rev Shabaz Javed moved from Pakistan in 2006 to take over the Asian congregation at the church, it’s given the group a real boost and it now stands at about 150 members. Rev Javed has also recently taken on the ministry of two other URC churches in Leyton and Wanstead.

Trinity 9So what exactly is the United Reform Church? Well, it came about as a result of the union between the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales in 1972. This was followed by additional unions with the Re-formed Association of Churches of Christ in 1981 and the Congregational Union of Scotland in 2000.

“The URC on a whole is an interpretive church,” says Roger. “We interpret the gospels and don’t take every word in the bible to be unchangeable. Life changes so much, and society changes as well, so the URC tends to look at the scriptures from a different angle. They tend to have more meaning if you can try to explain them in terms of modern life.”

Roger is eager to point out that Trinity is a very inclusive church, welcoming people regardless of age, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation, so new members are always welcome.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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A bitter pill to swallow

Local chemist campaigns about cuts

CHEMIST 1For over three decades, pharmacist Shashikant Ladva has been dispensing medicine, advice and good cheer from his chemist shop in Grove Road. But now he’s unsure about the future because of new government plans to cut funding to community pharmacies. In fact, Shashikant is so concerned, he’s joined hundreds of thousands of people around the country calling for the government to reconsider plans that could see thousands of neighbourhood chemists shut up shop.

“I understand the government wants to make savings,” says Shashikant, “but I think they are going about it the wrong way. For years they have been saying to people, ‘Go to your chemist; make the pharmacy your first stop, before your GP or A&E.’ And it has worked. A lot of people do come to us first for minor things, such as a cough or a cold, and we can often give them over-the-counter medicine and advice to help.”

But if small local pharmacies are forced to close, Shashikant says people who would normally pop into the chemist will return to making appointments with their GP, or heading to A&E. “Then there is no cost saving. It’s going to cost them more in the long run. It’s very shortsighted,” he says.

The Department of Health believes there are more pharmacies than are needed in some parts of the country, so as part of the move to make savings across the health service, it’s planning to reduce funding to these pharmacies. It’s estimated that somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 could close as a result.

Shashikant came to London with his family from Kenya when he was a teenager. He studied in Portsmouth and, after qualifying, returned to London and eventually opened his own pharmacy here, in the Village, 33 years ago. Since then he’s been running the business alongside his wife Asmita.

CHEMIST 5He says it’s the smaller pharmacies like his that are under threat because the chains will be able to absorb the cuts, whereas independent local chemists will need to cut down on staff, and the services they provide, making it hard to survive. He says most of his customers have signed a petition that pharmacies across the country have been promoting; a petition that was recently presented to Downing Street with a staggering 1.8 million signatures.

“I don’t think the government appreciates the service we provide,” says Shasikant. “We provide a personal touch. We know many of our customers by name and that is the kind of service you don’t get when you go to the big chains. You’re just a number in those places.”

People who want to support the campaign should write to their MP. There’s also an online petition that is collecting signatures until the 29 June at www.petition.parliament.uk/petitions/116943

And if you want more information about the campaign you can visit:


This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Come wine with me

Friends open wine shop and bar

WINE 2Many a plan has been hatched over a bottle of wine (or two): from plotting to get back at your horrible boss to devising a cunning strategy for world domination. Most end up lost in the fog of the morning after, but for a group of wine-loving friends in the Village, their late-night discussions actually led to starting a business… selling wine, of course.

Jamie Orchard-Lisle was born in Barclay Road and has been returning to the Village on and off all his life. Now he and partner Ellie Scarlett, along with friends Ben Williams and Rowan McIntyre have opened In Vino Veritas in Orford Road, realising the dream of turning their passion into a business.

“Ellie and I had invited Ben around for dinner and he turned up late,” explains Jamie. “We asked why he was late and he said he’d been delayed trying to buy a decent bottle of wine. We made a joke that somebody should open a wine shop in the Village. And after a few bottles of wine, we decided that it should be us.”

The group held out for a location in Orford Road and, after losing out on one shop, found their current premises at the east end of the street. And last summer opened In Vino Veritas (a Latin phrase meaning ‘In wine there is truth’ and often attributed to Pliny the Elder, an author and military commander in the early Roman Empire). They did a top-to-tail refurbishment and created two rooms so it’s not just a shop that sells wine to take home, but also a bar where you can drink wines by the glass or bottle, along with a selection of wine-friendly food like charcuterie/cheese boards and fondue.

WINE 3“I’m a sound engineer and record producer, “ says Jamie, “and spent quite a lot of time in Australia, and that’s where I came across the concept. In Melbourne you get quite a lot places where one side is a wine shop, but you can also grab a bottle off the shelf and go to the other side where there are tables. So you sit down, pay corkage and have a drink.”
Jamie, Ellie, who is a criminal defence lawyer, and Ben, who works in hospitality management, started the whole thing off. Then friend Rowan, who’s a journalist, joined the business. All four are wine lovers but it was Ellie who led the way when it came to stocking up the shop for opening. “She spent a lot of time in Europe, especially France, and knows her wine really well,” says Jamie. “We spent a couple of months trying lots of different wines, so our recycling bin was getting very well used.”

When it came to opening, Jamie says they wanted to make sure it was a place that was not snobbish or ‘up itself’. “That’s the problem with a lot of wine places – they feel elitist. We wanted to be approachable. One of the things we said from the beginning is that we want a place where you don’t have to know about wine to come in and feel comfortable, but equally if you know your wine, you’ll see we know our stuff.”

Jamie says they are making sure they stock wine you are not going to find on the supermarket shelves and are using a lot of small producers, some of whom will be travelling over from the continent to lead tasting nights.

And when it comes to the product on the shelves, does Jamie have any particular favourites? “We recently opened a 1990 magnum of vintage Billecart Salmon Champagne and nothing I’ve had really comes close to it. There’s a sense of ceremony, knowing it’s a vintage from a very good Champagne house. Just total pleasure.”

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Reaching out: Drug and alcohol dependency centre opens

Turning PointImagine what it would be like if every time you moved into a new neighbourhood, you had to worry about whether the community was going to reject you and tell you to go somewhere else. Those are some of the reactions Jean Pender has had to face during the 30 years she has been working in drug and alcohol dependency services.

Jean is now managing such a service here in the Village, called Lifeline. It’s based in Beulah Road where Turning Point used to run drug and alcohol treatment programmes. The difference is that Lifeline is supporting people who are at the start of their recovery journey or are still using. Along with counselling and support services, they provide prescriptions for opiate substitutes  – such as methadone – for people who are coming off heroin. It also operates a needle exchange. It’s these two services that often raise eyebrows and cause concern among local residents.

But Jean says, “The attitudes I’ve encountered from local businesses and residents about what we’re trying to achieve have been positive. But we realise there are anxieties about this kind of service and what may come with it. We remind our service users that we depend on the goodwill of the community and if they cause a nuisance or disruption, it comes back on us and affects the service they get.” Jean points out that the clients sign a care agreement that stipulates, “we will respect them, if they respect us.”

Jean knows not all the clients have been respecting the unwritten rule that they use the service and leave the area. She’s also aware there have been some issues with clients milling about in front of the centre on Beulah Road, so they are working to encourage people into the garden area. “We don’t want to be bad neighbours to anybody,” she says. And if residents are experiencing problems with clients, she encourages them to contact Lifeline so she can try to resolve any issues.

The service employs several doctors, mental-health nurses and counsellors who deal with the 600-plus people who are registered with the centre. Jeans says for those people who have been using opiates such as heroin, “We try to make the prescribing of opiate substitute medication, like methadone, just one element of the treatment. People need to be motivated to come off heroin, so it’s an aid to manage withdrawals as they reduce and come off altogether.”

“I think one of the fears I picked up was used needles and syringes being discarded in the area. But actually people tend to come here to take clean equipment to use somewhere else.”

Jean says clients have often faced a range of difficulties, from mental-health issues to physical and sexual abuse. “People have anxieties and broken lives and they start using drink or drugs because they just want to feel better.”

Lifeline 2A change Jean has noticed over the years is the approach to treatment. “In the past the big focus was on the actual medication and not on helping people change their lifestyle. Our approach now is very much that everyone has strengths, talents and skills. They might have been hidden for a very long time, but we try to help them get in touch with those skills. We really want to focus on things like music sessions and art workshops. It’s surprising how people really get engaged, and it helps them achieve something positive, because when they’re using, everything’s very negative.

“I meet a lot of people with so much potential,” she says. “When they stop drinking or taking drugs, that potential really comes out. And when you see people doing something really positive like that, it’s really rewarding.”

If you would like to contact Lifeline please phone 020 3826 9600, or email lifeline.walthamforest@lifeline.org.uk.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Ringing the changes: The bells of St Mary’s are on their way!

St Mary's bells 2On Monday 8 February, the long-awaited refurbishment work on the ancient church bells commenced and, after five days, the bells and fixings were finally removed from the tower and loaded on to a lorry and departed the churchyard, bound for Taylor’s Foundry in Loughborough for the refurbishment work to take place. This was a truly historic moment as it is the first time the bells have been outside London since they were cast and installed in 1778.

It took five days for Andrew, the engineer from Taylor’s, along with a small band of willing volunteers, to work out how to get the 10 bells from their tightly packed frame and cut large enough hatches through ceilings that have not been opened since 1896, when the set of bells were reinstalled. This was not an easy task and proved eventful as there was not a straight drop from the top of the tower. Three hatches had to be cut by hand, and a strategy for manually removing and lowering the bells through the hatches needed to be developed as the works took place.

St Mary's bells 3A previous hatch above the church porch was discovered underneath two layers of flooring in the ringing chamber, along with evidence of an accidental fire in the ringing chamber that was previously unknown. This may have been why the top floor to the ringing chamber was put in – to cover up the timbers damaged by the fire. It is quite possible the fire was caused by the accidental spillage of an oil lamp as the tower would have been lit by these at the time.

The bells and fittings (which sometimes weigh as much as the bells themselves) were all collected in the church porch, awaiting collection and transport to the foundry. A large group of interested well-wishers watched as the bells were removed from the church and loaded on to a flatbed lorry. Photos were taken and goodbyes were said as the bells left for their two hour journey to the foundry.

The tower is now silent and eerily empty, but this is the time for us to clear it of nearly 150 years of debris. Many of the old fitments have been left behind and we will recover such items as bell ropes, wheels, headstock fitments, stays and sliders, and make them presentable for display when church open days are held.

St Mary's bells 4During the time the bells are away, other works will be undertaken to make ringing a better experience. This will include adding new sound control boards to manage sound output during practices, rewiring the tower and improving lighting, making a new door and viewing area in the bell chamber, redecorating the ringing chamber and adding a new computer simulation system that will aid new and improving ringers.

It is expected the bells will be returned sometime in June, when Andrew will return to mastermind their re-installation back into the tower. This, in itself, will be a significant event and worth witnessing if you’re around!

Once the bells are back and all the pieces of work are completed, the bells will not only be easier to ring but will allow the tower to be used by visiting teams of ringers, host regional training events and local competitions. We are planning a series of open events when the bells are back, inviting local folk to come along, see the works and have a go at ringing – hopefully we’ve secured the future of the bell ringing in Walthamstow Village for the next 120 years at least!

St Mary's bells 1Finally, we are very grateful to Sarah (Spires Heritage) for her help in the grant application for Lottery funding, to Paul and John for their help in removing the bells, to Andrew of Taylor’s for remaining calm over five long days of removal and finally to the Heritage Lottery Fund for granting the funding that allowed this work to take place.

David Baker, on behalf of the ringers at St Mary’s Church


This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Gardening Samaritans: Locals band together to sort garden disaster

GARDEN SAMARITAN 1A local couple experienced what community is all about this summer when locals banded together to fix a garden makeover project that had gone horribly wrong.
Kat Collins and her partner Toby were looking forward to spending the summer enjoying their new flat’s garden.  The couple had recently bought a property in Granville Road – their first together – and after doing a lot of structural work decided to tackle the garden.
To do the job, they hired a local man who had recently suffered hard times and was trying to get back on his feet with a landscaping business. To help him out, they took him on and paid up front for the work. Unfortunately, it became apparent the project was too much for him and after several weeks the job was abandoned. All Kat and Toby had to show for their £1,600 was an enormous mess.
GARDEN SAMARITAN 4“He had taken down all the fences, smashed up the path and dug up the flower beds. There were just piles of rubble and wood everywhere. The garden had basically been destroyed,” says 30 year-old Kat. “We wanted to have it ready for the start of the summer and instead it was just chaos, and we didn’t have the money to fix it.”
Word spread about the disaster and they soon found themselves being offered comfort from local people, everything from cakes to a free haircut. But the biggest surprise of all came from Walthamstow-based Green Man Landscaping. Owners Gareth Jenkins and Simon Aronson had heard their story and wanted to put the garden right. “It was a case of them saying ‘you guys tried to do something nice so we want to do something nice for you’,” explains Kat. “We were so overwhelmed by their generosity that they had to convince us to take up the offer.”
In no time at all, Gareth and Simon went to work with other volunteers who joined in after learning about their efforts on social media. Even Kat’s parents came up from Wales to lend a hand. In the end, around 10 people spent six days on the job.
GARDEN SAMARITAN 3“People were bringing plants, cakes. Someone even brought a bottle of Champagne. They absolutely transformed it beyond all recognition. It’s now a fantastic, perfect little garden.”
When Kat’s parents returned to Wales and told their friends about the experience, they couldn’t believe people in London could be so community spirited. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a London thing,” says Kat. “It’s a Walthamstow thing. There’s something quite special about the way people are here.”


This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Calling All Clever Curry Lovers: Annual Curry Supper Quiz set for March 2016

Curry Supper Quiz Poster 2016Do you know how many countries are in the Commonwealth? Or what vegetable is called rutabaga in North American?

If you do then not only is your brain a repository for obscure bits of information, but you’ll also love the Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association’s annual Curry Supper Quiz.

Shameem curry quizDue to unforeseen circumstances the event, which is normally held in the autumn, has been shifted to Saturday, March 19, 2016 at the Welcome Centre in Church End. The superlative curry supper will once again be made by Shameem Mir of Sham’s Kitchen with the help of her kitchen-mates Helen Lerner, Megan Whitear and Ana Caton.

Doors will open at 7pm for a prompt quiz start at 7.30pm with things wrapping up at 10pm.

Tickets are £12 (£6 for children under 12) and will be available in the New Year by contacting Helen Lerner at helen@walthamstowvillage.net or on 07814 042 499.

It’s BYO wine and beer and veggie options will be available.

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Walthamstow Village in Bloom

By Helen Lerner

It’s been another highly successful horticultural year in the Village; we’ve done so well that we have a big surprise for you for 2016!

15/09/2015 - Ciaran McCrickard Photography - London In Bloom Awards, 2015, at Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park, LondonDespite the disruption of the Mini-Holland works, we were rewarded not only by our fourth Gold Award and the title of London in Bloom’s Best London Village for the sixth year running, but with the new Greener Streets Award, beating all other entrants, as the community that has best embraced the RHS initiative “Greening the Grey” streets of London. Our awards, past and present, can be viewed at the Vestry House Museum; there’s quite a collection to dust!

We presented our Front Garden & Beautiful Premises Challenge certificates at the WVRA AGM in October. Well done to Andrew Blount and Rosemary Perrett of 35a Wingfield Road who were awarded Best Front Garden 2015 for their beautiful basement garden and window boxes: do go and have a look if you need inspiration on how to transform what could be considered a difficult space. Indeed the residents of Wingfield and Randolph Roads excelled themselves this year; the London in Bloom judges loved the two Little Libraries and admired the Wingdolph Art Trail displays that the residents kindly left up for judging day. We awarded them a special certificate for their terrific community effort.

The residents of Cherry Close off Eden Road were awarded a certificate for their marvelous and ongoing improvements to the communal grounds.

Walthamstow & Chingford Almshouse Charity was, for the second year running, awarded Best Premises for the residents of Monoux Hall & Squires’ Almshouses. The new hanging baskets outside Squires’ Almshouses are a triumph and all that deadheading paid off!

Many thanks and congratulations to everyone who entered the challenges.

Yvonne_chutney4wThe jewel in the crown and a big talking point this year is the Village Veg/Community Allotment outside the Lifeline Project in Beulah Road. Huge thanks to project leader Caroline Barton who, with her neighbour Liz Evans and the dedicated team of Weekly Waterers, has kept everyone supplied with tomatoes, courgettes, beans, salad leaves, sweetcorn, herbs and much more and continues to be enjoyed by all as the winter sets in. The initial clearing and refilling of the beds was courtesy of the WVRA, Waltham Forest and the North London Waste Authority and Fullers Builders kindly sponsored the summer planting that was supplemented by the WVRA, residents and Petals in Bloom.

Three residents, who can’t attend our monthly gardening Saturdays, help by tending planters during the week; thank you to Nick, Andrew and Jill for caring for their adopted planters. If you feel you could do this too, we can provide you with bags, a hi-vis jacket, a map of adopted areas and instructions, so do drop us a line.

On 7 November we held our Annual Bulb Planting event and replanted the new beds in the Village Square with the bulbs we took out before the works started. They were supplemented with Crocus chrysanthus corms kindly donated by Richard Smith of The Suburban Honey Company. Richard started this new venture after gaining experience from BEE17 our community bee-keeping project.

Thank you to each and every one of you who volunteered, organised and joined in this year and to our kind main sponsors BEE17, Fullers Builders and the Village Spar.

Walthamstow Village in Bloom to represent London

LiB LogoWe’ve left the most exciting news till last: We’re thrilled to tell you that we have accepted the London in Bloom trustees’ invitation for Walthamstow Village in Bloom to represent London as a finalist in the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom national competition!

We have decided to enter as an Urban Community rather than a Village category. This means we’ll be up against similar areas within towns and cities rather than Britain’s chocolate box villages. So in summer 2016, there will be two judging days. The regional London in Bloom one in July and then the Britain in Bloom judging day in August. It is a huge honour to be asked and being a finalist will give our community opportunities for grants, free plants, outings and national recognition.

GARDEN:BLOOM PHOTO 1The Bloom Team feels that this is also a chance to look anew at the Village, to be proud of what we have achieved over the years and to make the most of the new public spaces that, love it or hate it, Mini Holland has created. Let’s try and use gardening and plants to heal some of the rifts and bad feeling that many of us have experienced over the past months. We want to dust ourselves off, try and make the best of our area and talk of something other than Mini Holland!

It would be great if some residents from East and West Avenues and Grove Road and their surrounds would come forward and contact us to help with the new planters so we can coordinate our efforts. Don’t be shy now!

We can now show the whole of Britain how special we are and what a terrific community spirit we have BUT it will mean we will really have to up our game and pull together to make it work. We hope we can count on your support to help by attending gardening events and making your outside areas look fantastic. We need:

  • photographers
  • someone to coordinate the 2016 Garden & Premises Challenges
  • someone from the business community who can take on the coordination of planting and flower displays in Orford Road
  • a contact from Henry Maynard’s School Community Garden
  • gardening volunteers for Vestry House Garden
  • volunteers from East & West Avenues and Grove Road
  • residents to “adopt” tree pits and planters.

If you can help and for more information please contact Helen Lerner: helen@walthamstowvillage.net or on 0781 404 2499. Do join our Facebook Group Walthamstow Village in Bloom to share news, photos, advice and information.

Best wishes from your Walthamstow Village in Bloom team, Helen Lerner, Teresa Deacon, John Chambers and Caroline Barton.

WVRA Gardening Club

First Saturday of every month, come rain or shine!

With so much to do and so many new planting areas we need lots more helpers throughout the year so please do come and join us on the first Saturday of every month at the Village Square at 10.30 for a couple of hours. We’ll be digging, pruning, planting and weeding and you can bring your own tools or use ours. It’s good, healthy fun for all ages and gardening-abilities, you get to meet lovely people and a great sense satisfaction of a job well done!

BEE17 Pop-Up Christmas Shop

Saturday 5 December – 11am – 3pm at 6 Beulah Road.

BEE17 and The Suburban Honey Company will be selling three kinds of 2015 honey, soap, salt skin-scrub and other wax and honey-based products at our Christmas pop-up shop. Also on sale will be Walthamstow Village lavender bags made from the collected heads from Lavender Corner. Beautifully packaged, all our products make lovely presents. In 2013-15 the BEE17 community bee-keeping project gave £2,000 profit to the WVRA for planting projects.


This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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And The Bells Rang Out For Ray

RAY SWINGLER CONCERT 3 Ray Church wide shotA celebration of the life of Raymond Swingler, President, Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association

To hear the peal of the St Mary’s church bells in the Village on any Wednesday evening is a joy and pleasure we should never take for granted. The ancient bells are in urgent need of restoration and so it was that on 8 October 2015, the bells rang out in celebration of the life of Raymond Swingler, late and highly respected President of the Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association at a memorial concert to raise money for the bells, a cause close to Ray’s heart.

On the evening, which also coincided with Ray’s 82nd birthday, an audience of more than 150 packed the pews of St Mary’s including friends, family, neighbours, local residents, shopkeepers and businesses as well as The Worshipful, The Mayor of Waltham Forest, Councillor Saima Mahmud.

WVRA RAY SWINGLER CONCERT 1Bell ringer David Baker on behalf of the Residents’ Association, welcomed everyone followed by a moving tribute by Ray’s daughter Claire. Claire talked about how her father came to settle in Walthamstow – a chance party on Church Path led him to buy a dilapidated, rundown factory and turn it into a home. Ray and his second wife June lived on Church Path and enjoyed 25 happy years together.

A concert programme of highly acclaimed local performers and musicians followed, introduced by MC Caroline Lennon. They all had one thing in common – they have enjoyed living in Walthamstow. The artists generously gave their time for free, such was the standing of Ray in the community. The concert was co-ordinated by Caroline Barton, Church Path neighbour of Ray and June’s, but the event was a true example of community collaboration, with several WVRA members contributing to make it happen.

RAY WINGLER CONCERT 2The 45-minute concert started with the haunting sound of a lone saxophone played by Josh Kemp, joined by singer Julie McKee on piano with a beautiful arrangement of Kurt Weill’s September Song, a particular favourite of Ray and June’s.
Matthew Wadsworth played three delightful period pieces on the lute, followed by quartet Gail Hennessy, Lucy Russell, Masumi Yamamoto and Peter McCarthy. Pianist Jenny Trew played the enchanting Arabesque by Debussy, and then accompanied internationally celebrated tenor, Dominic Natoli who performed a showstopping You Are My Heart’s Delight. A fitting finale came from the wonderful Natural Voices choir singing Let There Be Love also accompanied by Jenny Trew.

RAY SWINGLER 9The generosity of the local community provided refreshments after the concert, with a chance to reflect and remember Ray with lots of laughter and tears in equal measure.
Thanks should go to all who helped towards the evening’s success which raised more than £1,000 for the Bell Restoration Fund. I’m sure Ray would have loved every minute.
Ray’s widow, June, and the family would like to add their thanks to everyone for their kindness and generosity.
Teresa Deacon

Ray photo








This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Christmas carols on the Square: Tuesday 15th December

Carols 2015 tnWalthamstow Village Residents’ Association is holding its annual Christmas carols on the square on Tuesday 15th December, aided by East London Brass and led by Philip Creasy.

Bring your children, wooly hats and candlelit lanterns, and gather around the tree in the square at 7pm for  mince pies and mulled wine, with the carols beginning at 7.30pm.

For those who plan to lend a voice on the night, you won’t need to rely on memory alone. Song sheets can be downloaded here,  and there will be some extras to hand out on the night. Please bring coins for a collection for the brass band.

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Celebration Concert in memory of Ray Swingler Thursday 8th October

RaySwingler_flyer_WVRA_webCome and join family and friends of Ray Swingler at a fantastic free concert at 7.30pm on Thursday 8th October to celebrate his life and to help raise funds for the St. Mary’s Church Bells’ Restoration, a cause close to Ray’s heart.

Ray was a founder member and President of the Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association and over the years was tireless in his commitment towards making the Village a better place to live.  

A wide mix of highly acclaimed musicians and singers from around Walthamstow will be performing an eclectic mix of classical and jazz, in Ray’s memory.

The concert takes place at St. Mary’s Church, Walthamstow Village, E17 9RJ

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Walthamstow Village Festival: Saturday 19th September 2015

WV Festival Leaflet(1)Join us for a day of good old-fashioned community fun in the original heart of Walthamstow. A free festival of music, arts and crafts, street food and attractions for all ages.

The Village Festival will take place in Walthamstow Village on Saturday 19th September 2015 from 12 noon till 6pm.

Orford Road will be closed to vehicles all day from its junction with East Avenue up to the Ancient House in Church Lane, and Vestry Road closed along its full length (Ancient House to East Avenue); East Avenue will remain open. You will be able to click here to download the Council’s Traffic Management Plan when its available.

There will be an outdoor stage for musical performance in the Vestry Road playground and a Youth Talent Slot for under 18s on the stage. The Asian Centre will host an artists and makers fair during the day.

Offers of help from volunteers to run the event on the day will be gratefully accepted; accredited First Aid Training will be offered to 10 volunteers.

For information on how to get involved, contact walthamstowfestival@gmail.com, or phone 020 8223 0707.

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Mini Holland Update – 12th August 2015

The Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association has received the following information from Councillor Clyde Loakes, deputy leader of the Council, in response to a letter we wrote seeking an update on proposals for work in Orford Road between Eden Road to the
junction of Beulah Road.

The original scheme from East Avenue to just beyond Eden Road will be completed by the 14 September, including the works to the Village Square.

The footway replacement extension on Orford Road from Eden Road to Beulah Road is programmed to be completed following the Village Festival (on 19 September) and will take approximately 4 weeks to complete.

This extended area will be paved in the same footway material as the new footway on Orford Road.

This extension to the scheme is for footway replacement only and will not involve major changes to the kerb line and therefore the footway or carriageway widths and the junctions will stay as they are.

They will also look at replacing some of the street furniture as a part of the

There are no plans for addition tree planting in this extended part of the scheme
as a part of the mini Holland works.

The WVRA hopes this information will help clarify the timetable and extent of these works for residents and businesses. Any comments or questions are best directed to the Mini Holland team at www.walthamforest.gov.uk/miniholland or the WVRA via www.walthamstowvillage.net

John Larking
On behalf of the Public Spaces Sub-Committee of the WVRA

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WVRA President Ray Swingler: 8 October 1933 – 20 July 2015

It is with the greatest sadness that the WVRA must inform you that the President of the Association, Ray Swingler, has died after a short illness.

Ray had been a leading member of the Association since it was formed in the nineteen nineties. His impact on the life of the Village was immense, often working quietly behind the scenes to deliver real improvements in the quality of life in the Village. Much of the positive change we have seen over the years would simply not have happened without his commitment and persistence. His generosity and unfailing good humour will be greatly missed.

We send our sincere condolences to Ray’s wife and family. A memorial service to celebrate Ray’s life will be held at St Mary’s Church on a date to be arranged.

Paul Williams, Chair of the WVRA



The following article was published in WVRA’s Winter 2014 “The Village magazine.

Village People: Ray Swingler

If the Village has an unofficial elder statesman, it’s Ray Swingler. It’s not just his age (81), knowledge or distinguished good looks that make him qualified.  Ray was a founding member of the area’s first residents’ association and then, the long-standing and current President of the existing one. He was born in New Zealand and at a tender age – with a wife and young child in tow – hopped on a boat, eventually ending up in the UK where he set up home near Cambridge and continued his journalistic career.

My History

In 1990 I was living in Cambridge and working for the Press Complaints Commission. I was single – my wife had died very young at the age of 40 – so it was me and my two daughters. By then the girls were quite grown up and I was living in a ten-bedroom house mostly by myself – not much point in that. Then one fateful day in 1990 friends of mine invited me to a drinks party in Church Path.  It was the first time I ever set foot in Walthamstow. Within two days I owned a property.  I’m still recovering from that.

It was a derelict factory in Church Path and in a fit of insanity I decided to turn it into a house. It had ceased to be a die-cast factory and needed a hell of a lot of work, but when you’re young and stupid it doesn’t worry you too much. It was certainly not the desirable place it is today. My friends would say, ‘what the hell do you want to live in Walthamstow for’? I wanted to make the Village a better place to live so we started off with a Neighbourhood Watch (it eventually morphed into the Residents’ Association), worrying about crime and things like that. And we were very, very effective.

I remarried about 6 years ago to June. I met her in a pub through a friend of mine George Sassoon – Siegfried’s son (Siegfried Sassoon the celebrated WW1 poet) and the journey began from there. After several years I asked her to marry me. I wanted to go back to New Zealand to get married and was determined to get married in Nelson Cathedral by the Bishop. Now why the hell I should think of that I don’t know. But I achieved it.

The Best Thing

I like to get the daily newspaper, my post regularly and if I run short of anything I like to hop on my bike to go and get it. I like the quiet. I like the general sense of friendliness and familiarity of being in an old fashioned village of years ago. I can hear more birds and see more foxes and squirrels than if I lived in the country.

Bug Bears

I have a certain degree of scepticism on the decisions taken by bodies above us – be it councils, or Boris Johnson’s little empire or the government itself. But that’s not really a bugbear. As far as here, only a sense of security when my wife and I ride bicycles around the Village.  If you take Orford Road, there’s not a lot of room between traffic going one way and cars parked the other way. If you’re lucky you’ve got a maximum of three feet in which to manouevre your bicycle. But I don’t claim the right to the road though.


It’s going to sound silly to say this, but I won’t go into any one place too may times because I don’t want a dependence on doing that.  I prefer to move around a bit, and if you like, break bread in new places.


It’s more friendly, more open, has more facilities; shops that didn’t exist years ago.  In many respects it’s become, if you like, a microcosm of the better parts of Islington many years ago when I lived there.  I wouldn’t go back to Islington now though. It’s ghastly. In the Village you’ve got loads of people coming in who want to be part of it – and I find that encouraging. I think that’s the reason they come here in the first place.

Mayor for the day

I hate to say I can’t think of a single thing that I could do that would make sense. I’d be quite happy to see the EMD cinema going again.

Where I am now

I can’t think of anything much better than what I have now. And I haven’t got a habit of looking back with nostalgia. I’m not nostalgic. My favourite place is where I’m at.

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Beulah Road lives

By Teresa Deacon

  An unexpected reward for writing a local history piece for the Village newsletter is to receive readers’ responses with fascinating new information.

Pat’s Stores

One such response was from the daughter-in-law of Pearl and Victor Twomey who kept Pat’s Stores, a grocery shop at 38 Beulah Road (next to Tenby and Penny) from the 1950s. The shop was named after their daughter and served the community for over 30 years with a wide range of groceries, often out of hours when people would knock on the door after the shop had closed wanting an ‘essential’ item. In fact, their ‘open all hours’ policy extended to the wedding day of their son. They only closed for an hour to get to the registry office and then it was business as usual until after the shop had closed to get to the wedding reception. At the turn of the 19th century, No. 38 (Beulah Villa) was a ladies’ school until it became a grocer’s in the early 1900s. It continued as a grocery until the 1980s and converted to a residential property in the 1990s.

The Tuckwell family

I was also fortunate to hear from two members of the Tuckwell family in connection with G.T. Tuckwell, the family-owned butcher’s shop at 57 Beulah Road established in 1885 and which closed in the 1970s. Readers may recall the recent newsletter article about one of the sons, George Thomas Tuckwell who emigrated to New Zealand before the First World War to continue working as a butcher. In 1914 George joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces as a Private but sadly died at the Battle of Dardanelles in Gallipoli (Turkey) in 1915 and is buried in Alexandria, Egypt.  I spent two interesting mornings with Private Tuckwell’s niece Ann and her husband who still live in Walthamstow and who have an extraordinary collection of Tuckwell family artefacts including a 13 page letter started on 11 April 1915 from Private Tuckwell to his ‘mother and dad’ at 57 Beulah Road.  It was to be his last letter and is written from the troopship, SS Itonus, bound for Gallipoli. He lists the amount of kit he and his army mates might have to carry on their backs while being expected to run in the heat. This included an overcoat, balaclava, two pounds of firewood, a cholera belt, emergency rations (not to be touched unless ordered to do so) plus three days’ normal rations, two hundred rounds of ammunition, a rifle, a bayonet and many other items. He describes disembarking in Gallipoli: “Arrived and anchored in a spacious harbour with goodness knows how many warships, a great scene of naval activity what with battleships, cruisers, torpedo destroyers, submarines, mine layers and sweepers, seaplanes, repair ships, in fact every branch of modern naval warfare. The battleship Queen Elizabeth is anchored close by with eight great 15 inch guns ready for action”.

He goes on to describe the feeling of “being a small part of such a great undertaking at this forcing of the Dardanelles which has been the talk of Europe for so long”.  The last entry was written on 26 April 1915: “All last night my company were digging trenches in the rain and mud with bullets whizzing all round. Went up to the firing line where our kits were thrown all over the place, only just having what we stand up in. Slept soundly in a dug-out even if the Elizabeth and other warships were sending their screaming shells over our heads.  We had won the hill and effected a good landing”. His last sentence remains unfinished, ending “The Australians wouldn’t have suffered so much if their officers had had….”.

We’ll never know what he was going to write as he was fatally wounded on 9 May and died twelve days later.  Back in Beulah Road, Private Tuckwell’s father, George Thomas Tuckwell senior died in 1934 and the shop passed to his son Albert (Ann’s father and Private Tuckwell’s brother). Such was his standing in the Beulah Road community that a tribute in the local paper highlighted that he had been the oldest established butcher in Walthamstow for a period of 49 years and the owner of a former five mile record trotting horse named ‘Uncle Bill’ which won him “an unusually handsome silver cup nearly three foot high”.  It reported that in order to learn the butchery business, Mr. Tuckwell “used to leave his bed at four in the morning, walk seven miles from Mile End, where he was then living, to Lambeth Walk and be back again before 9.30am to carry out his ordinary daytime work”. It went on to report that when he opened his Beulah Road shop in 1885, “the market place of the town was centred around Beulah Road and the district was little more than a village.  Hoe Street was only partly built and there were orchards close to Hoe Street station” (now Walthamstow Central).  Ann’s father, Albert Tuckwell, kept the shop for a further 40 years.  She remembers Mondays and Thursdays were half days when he would go off to Smithfield Market. Sundays were his only day off which he spent with the family. He fell in love with Ann’s mother, Elsie after seeing her frequent the Beulah Road Fish Bar (now the New Oriental takeaway) and they were married at St. Mary’s Church. They lived above the shop and Ann remembers growing up on Beulah Road: “busy and friendly with so many different shops. Regular table tennis tournaments used to take place between my father and Mr. Horsey, the other butcher at No. 2 Beulah Road”.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Farewell to Eden Road

For many people, the Village in 2015 represents a new start. Families settling into their first homes, new businesses opening their doors, and lots of talk about how Walthamstow is the next big thing (until the next ‘next big thing’ comes along, of course).
But for every new person coming in, there’s often a Village veteran moving out – just like Dave in Eden Road. This year Dave, who spent much of his working life in the bakery industry, has put his house on the market and plans to move closer to his two sons in Essex.

In 1959, when Harold McMillan was in No. 10 and Cliff Richard and the Drifters were singing about a Living Doll, Dave and his new wife Joan were moving into a terraced house in Eden Road. It would turn into what they called their forever home, where they would go on to have two boys – one of them born right there in an upstairs bedroom – and settle into family life.

Dave got to know the street when he was a young boy larking about with a group of friends outside Joan’s family home at No. 56. They ended up as more than friends when Dave chose Joan as his partner at their school’s dance classes.

“About the fifth week of dance class I asked her to go to the picture house at Bakers Arms, expecting her to say no. But she said yes! We went along and I bought some sweets. But by the time she asked for one I’d had the whole blooming lot. She never forgot that all her life!”

At the time, Dave was living in Brooke Road (between Shernhall Street and Wood Street) a road that he says got its name from the real brook that ran under the pavement “and flooded everyone’s gardens every winter.” They dated for several years, got engaged just before Dave went off to Berlin to do his National Service, and married in St Mary’s Church in the Village in 1958 with Joan and her bridesmaids decked out in dresses that Joan herself had made.

“We bought the house in Eden Road on a fixed mortgage through the council. It was a 20-year mortgage and our first payments were £11.08 a month. But you have to remember that I was only earning £10 a week at the time.”

The house was a mess. The previous owners had allowed their menagerie of animals – which included cats, dogs, guinea pigs and chickens – to wander in and out, so the place needed doing up from top to bottom. “We took everything out because we felt sure it was all alive and that we’d come down one morning and the carpet would have walked out on its own.”

Dave and Joan set up home, bought their bedroom suite on HP (hire purchase) and raised their two sons in a neighbourhood with lots of other young families, and everything you could need on your doorstep. “We had a grocer’s on the corner of Eden and Randolph, there was Compton’s the electrician, a metal firm just up the way that made the fence and gate that’s still standing outside, and of course Ison’s (on the corner of Eden and Orford) that had everything you could ever need. There was a fishmonger’s and the Post Office in Orford Road as well. You didn’t need to go to Bakers Arms or the High Street; it was all there.”

When the boys grew up and moved out, Dave and his wife started travelling, spending more than two decades exploring North America; everything from a cross-country rail journey in Canada to a road trip in a Mustang sports car on the iconic Route 66 in the USA. Eventually they started doing cruises, going on as many as five a year. In 2010 they were planning one such trip to the Antarctic and the Falkland Islands, “because Joan always wanted to see the penguins.” Only the trip didn’t happen. Early that year, after more than five decades of marriage, Joan died suddenly at home. “When you’ve known someone for over three quarters of your life, it’s very hard. I still think about her all the time.”

Dave says it won’t be easy to make the move. “My wife and myself never argued once here. When we were deciding what changes to make in the house, I used to pick my choice and Joan would pick hers, and if we didn’t agree on one or the other, we’d start over until we did agree. It’s been a good home.”

If the new owners have the same kind of happiness the house has already seen, they’ll be able to count themselves lucky.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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First female vicar for St Mary’s

Summer start for Rev Vanessa Conant

Vanessa Conant_ new Team Rector at St Mary's Church Walthamstow“I felt ready for the next challenge and I was open to new possibilities. I hadn’t applied for other things and this just leapt out”

That’s how Rev Vanessa Conant describes the moment she saw the advert in the Church Times for a new rector at St Mary’s (and team rector for Walthamstow) and decided to take the plunge. Now Vanessa and her freelance writer husband Cameron are packing their things as they prepare to move from Edinburgh to Walthamstow, where she will lead her own parish for the first time.

“I was aware of St Mary’s before. For some reason lots of people from Walthamstow move to my hometown of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, so I’d heard people talk about the church.  When I saw the job advertised I thought, ‘Oh I know there, that’s a great place’.”
Vanessa, who is 36 and currently serving at a large church in Edinburgh, was brought up in a church-going family. “I would say we were relaxed about religion as a family. I wouldn’t say I was particularly devout growing up. I think I was fairly ambivalent for much of my teenage years. But I always believed in God and always believed that I couldn’t imagine another way.  But I don’t think you would have thought that I was going to be a priest!”

It was after finishing her history degree in Lancaster and working for Christian Aid thatthe call came. “It was then I had a sense that I was meant to be in the church; that it was what I was meant to do with my life.”

Vanessa comes from a generation of women in the church where things were really beginning to change. “The generation before me had to really fight to be ordained. When you talk to them and hear their stories, lots of them have experienced real pain because of that. Now I think it’s a joyful time to be a woman in the church. Seeing women be made bishops has been so important. For the church to say to the world, ‘We see the importance of this; we accept and recognise the necessity of both men and women to have a place here.’ I found that very moving.”

And when it comes to being a vicar in 21st century London, Vanessa says that at times it really does resemble the award-winning BBC2 sitcom Rev. “I thought Rev was hilarious and frighteningly accurate at times. There are lots of moments being a vicar where one moment it’s ridiculous and the next it’s sacred and moving. Rev captured that; the strange ridiculousness of life and yet the profound moments you share with people.”
Now Vanessa is excited to start her new job. “Walthamstow feels like a creative and innovative place, where people are committed to the community, and I’m inspired by that.”

A special induction service for Vanessa took place at St Mary’s Church on Monday, 13th July.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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“The Village” magazine summer issue

WVRA magazine Summer 2015 web1,500 copies of the latest issue of WVRA’s “The Village” magazine have been posted through local residents’ letter boxes this weekend.

Stories include the “First female vicar for
St Mary’s”, articles on the lives of residents in Beulah Road & Eden Road, updates on Mini Holland, and London in
Bloom and Gardening News.

Click here to download it, and click here for back issues.

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