Wanstead Park and Flats are a large chunk of green in an otherwise highly urban area of North East London. They are easily reached by tube (Leytonstone, Wanstead), train (Wanstead Park, Forest Gate), or road (the main arteries are the A406 and A12)
Wanstead Park Edit
Wanstead Park (map) covers 74 hectares (if you include a part of Epping Forest with which it is contiguous on the western boundary). The park is managed by the Corporation of London. The excellent Wanstead Wildlife website has detailed information about the park here and a recording map here.
In case it helps: North Londoners can easily get to Wanstead Park Overground Station. For those unfamiliar with the area, possibly the best ways to get to Wanstead Park are either Central Line tube to Wanstead tube station, then from stop C (turn left out of the main station exit) either bus 101 or 308 to Blake Hall Road timetable, or Wanstead Park Overground. Bush Wood is on the opposite side of the road. You can walk to the Park from Wanstead tube station but it's probably 30 minutes and the shortest route is over the golf course. It is a short walk from the south side of the park to Wanstead Flats. The Flats are otherwise probably best reached by TFL train to Manor Park; this station is undergoing a major refurb (Nov 2018) and there are lot of stairs to reach the exit, which currently opens opposite Gloading Road. This road leads directly to the south west side of the flats, near Alexandra Lake. There are buses which run from Manor Park to Wanstead tube. Wanstead Park Overground is fairly close to the south west side of the flats, near Angel Pond. (Paul Francis, south Londoner)
The habitat includes several lakes and ponds, which in winter hold good numbers of Mute Swan, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Mallard, and lesser numbers of Pochard, Shoveler and Teal. Rarer winter visitors include small numbers of Wigeon and occasionally Goosander or Goldeneye. Little Grebe are present year-round and breed, and Great Crested Grebe are also present. Coot and Moorhen are very numerous, and the lakes also support small numbers of Kingfishers and the occasional Water Rail.
There are also some areas of old woodland, with the usual array of species, and some open grassland. Woodpeckers are very numerous indeed, although sadly Lesser Spotted Woodpecker hasn't bred here for a few years (although is still occasionally found in the winter). Chalet Wood is good for Redwing in the winter, and Reservoir Wood can have large roving Tit flocks with more interesting things tagging along, including Firecrest and Coal Tit. There is a large population of Jackdaws, and Swallows, both Martins and Swift are all regular in summer.
Wanstead Flats Edit
Wanstead Flats (map) lie to the south of Wanstead Park, separated only by a few residential streets. It is a much bigger area than the park at around 130 hectares. General information about the site can be found at the Wanstead Wildlife website here.
The habitat is largely grassland with gorse and broom, with an excellent variety of species such as Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting and wintering Stonechat. Winter thrushes are usually scarce, but Mistle Thrush is a common sight on the playing fields. At migration time you can expect regular Spotted Flycatchers and Lesser Whitethroat and, if the conditions are right, there is the chance of something less common such as Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Ring Ouzel or Dartford Warbler. Wheatears and Whinchats are annual.
There are a few copses of larger trees, and a few scattered areas of denser cover, which is good for the commoner finches and warblers. Little Owl is occasionally seen.
A large part of the area is given over to football pitches used for weekend leagues, favoured by smaller gulls and corvids when not in use, with a smattering of larger gulls - occasionally even a Great Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Caspian Gull. The dominant species is Common Gull, so keep an eye out for a Ring-billed!
There are also a few ponds, all much smaller than those in Wanstead Park and not surprisingly supporting fewer birds, with the exception of the largest, Alexandra Lake ("Alex"), which has a large population of Canada Geese numbering several hundred. The second largest pond is Jubilee Pond ("Jub") and the third is Angell's Pond (often wrongly called "Angel Pond").
At the north-western end of the Flats, the southern tip of Epping Forest begins, an area known as Bush Wood. This is an extremely old and reasonably dense woodland, mainly Oak and Hornbeam, again with the usual mix of woodland species, although Nuthatch and Treecreeper are notably absent, and are barely annual in Wanstead Park. Tawny Owl is present all year, and Hobby is frequently seen in summer.
Over 115 bird species have been seen in this area. Further information about the birds can be found on the Wanstead Wildlife website here.