Art for the trees

aSummertime-in-Epping-Forest©Sue Mayne

Circles, colour and the trees of Epping Forest are among the inspirations for self-taught artist Sue Mayne, one of many local creatives to join the recently founded Woodford Arts Group.

As a traveller, I have always enjoyed looking at art as an art tourist, and it was while in Madrid in 1988 that I went to the Prado Museum and saw The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. I was captivated and my love of art history began.

Frustrated with my career in the banking industry, I decided to return to study in the 1990s while still working full-time. I did an A level in Art History and the following year enrolled with The Open University and studied all the art history modules available at that time. By 2002, I achieved a BA Honours.

While studying a modern art module in 1999, I decided to have a go myself. I bought a set of acrylics and some paper, and never looked back. I’ve been painting now for nearly 20 years.

Over the years, I have experimented with pretty much all media, but I always return to acrylics as I love the flexibility and immediacy of the medium, which suits my style of painting. I often change my mind about a planned composition or colours, and with acrylics, it is usually easy to paint over and change. With such a diversity of types of acrylic paints on the market, experimentation is so interesting and rewarding. I rarely produce a painting in one sitting, and if it’s of a local scene, I often revisit the site many times to contemplate the next stage of the painting.

I always have my camera with me, taking photos of good compositions for a painting and reinterpreting them back in my studio at the bottom of my garden. My paintings cover an eclectic mix of genres from still life, landscapes and seascapes, animals and flowers to various abstract themes I have developed over the years. I love painting water and mountains and have travelled widely, including spending time living on the south island of New Zealand.

My abstract paintings generally follow a theme. In 2002, I began a range of paintings based on ‘colours of the rainbow’. I started out strictly using seven colours, but in later years used more, or less, to make my paintings more diverse. In 2005, I began my circles paintings. Based on the ‘colours of the rainbow’ theme, but using circles, I brought in basic colour theory that says the eye is attracted to ‘fire’ colours (red, orange and yellow). The intention is your eye is drawn to the centre of these paintings, and moves around and out to the edges containing the ‘cold’ (blues and greens) colours. That’s the theory anyway!

I am always looking to explore a new idea, not necessarily taking a ‘conventional’ approach to the subject matter. There is one thing that just about all of my paintings have in common whatever the genre… they are very colourful!

A love of walking, especially in the forest, has inspired me to focus on my paintings of Epping Forest over the last few years. Every forest painting is a specific location – favourite spots include Connaught Water, High Beach, Highams Park Lake and Wanstead Park.

I have exhibited and sold many paintings over the years. My first solo exhibition was at the Lopping Hall Gallery in Loughton in 2016. In November 2018, my second solo exhibition was at The View in Chingford. As a member of Essex Art Club, I exhibited at their recent exhibition at The View and also took part in Woodford Arts Group’s even more recent exhibition at Packfords Hotel.

To view more of Sue’s art, visit For information on Woodford Arts Group, visit

Our Garden: in the middle of our street

L1220531© Geoff Wilkinson

Thanks to the work of the South Woodford Community Gardeners, it will be hard to walk down George Lane this summer without noticing the floral beauty that bisects the road. Judy Noble tells the story behind their work.

On many a Friday morning when you walk down the high street, you can spy us busy weeding, planting, cutting back and pruning the lovely gardens we are so lucky to have right down the centre of George Lane in South Woodford.

We so enjoy it when you, the local public, come up and tell us how much you too enjoy these gardens. Some of you stay and chat awhile, giving us a chance to straighten our backs, or give us tips and plants you can spare from your own gardens. All are welcome.

We’re gardening on some Monday mornings as well now, and we also garden the five large beds and pavement up to Grove Road on the bridge over the North Circular opposite Waitrose.

Who are we? We didn’t come from thin air, but started from a local initiative through the U3A – the local branch of the University of the Third Age – where people who have mostly retired share their hard-won life experience with others and their local community for free. We apply this to gardening. None of us are experts but we learn from each other and from seeing how the plants grow, and occasionally, don’t. Redbridge Council’s resources have been under pressure and, following a lead from Wanstead, where you may have seen the signs in the beds telling you of the ‘Wanstead Community Gardeners’, we set up our own.

Redbridge Council cuts the grass and initially pulled out some very prickly bushes on the bridge, whose only function seemed to be to catch flying rubbish. The recycling collection also keeps an eye open for our sacks of weeds, and takes them away, but the rest we do. Both Lily House in George Lane and Waitrose generously help by allowing us to fill our watering cans – very useful as the beds get very dry, especially in the summer on the bridge.   

Our aim is to have plants with a range of heights offering something bright, in flower or berry, or lovely varicoloured foliage in all the beds in every season. On the bridge beds, we’re aiming to find enough ground cover plants that love the heat and survive drought, to cover the soil and keep down the weeds that spring up whenever there’s some rain. This will help taller plants to stand out and survive. We’ve pruned and cut back some shrubs that were growing straggly, so that after a little time, they can grow stronger.

We’re constantly weeding, uncovering plants that are struggling to compete and giving them a chance to establish themselves. We don’t use poisons, and like plants that birds and insects also like!

Our plants come from several sources as we have no funds. First, many of us have gardens and split plants that are doing well, or bring seedlings. Different people brought the marigolds and hollyhocks, and now they look after themselves. One of the Wanstead gardeners has helped us here. People who pass do the same, giving plants from their gardens though they have no time to help, and some local businesses make donations. It is all we need, so do please keep it coming.   

The gardens are something living and constantly changing in the middle of our main street. They give us great pleasure, and we hope they put a spring in your step and bring a smile to your face as you pass. And if you’re interested in joining us, you can email us or stop and chat.

To contact the South Woodford Community Gardeners, email

Common or garden cows

Cows-in-my-front-garden-scan©Karen Humpage

Karen Humpage announces the launch of her book featuring artwork and anecdotes of the cows that once roamed the streets of Woodford.

Woodford residents may already be familiar with my work. My paintings of the cows that used to wander the streets have been shown nearby during Art Trail Wanstead and the Wanstead Festival.

I recently finished writing my book on the subject, entitled Common or Garden Cows, which is due for release on 28 July. I’m very excited about the book coming out, and keen to know what everyone thinks about it. I’m hoping to organise a ‘meet the author’ afternoon in a local establishment, and possibly do some readings from the book. It’s too early to give definite details yet, so check my website for details nearer the time.

I’ve already had the seal of approval from Year 3 pupils at St John’s C of E school in Buckhurst Hill. I spent a lovely afternoon there recently talking about when the cows used to come to town and showing them my cow paintings. In turn, they all drew and coloured in pictures of cows causing traffic jams and getting into people’s front gardens.

Growing up in Woodford in the seventies – Rokeby Gardens to be precise, as shown here in the first cow picture I painted – I remember the cows ambling up the road munching all the privet hedges and liberating the rosebushes of all their flowers. It seemed quite normal at the time, but I suppose if it happened nowadays, there would be letters to the council! Not that cows would find much to eat in gardens nowadays. My bugbear of people losing interest in their gardens and turning them into car parks crops up in the book on more than one occasion!

Here follows an extract from the book, taken from the beginning of Chapter Three, entitled Traffic.

‘A commuter’s day would not start well if they opened their front door to find a cow or three standing in the front garden. Having to run the gauntlet past a large cow to the gate was not an exercise most people would relish unless they fancied themself as a contestant on It’s A Knockout. So, most people waited until the cows moved on, leading to many seemingly outlandish excuses as to why they were late for work.

“I remember the cows well. We used to live in Beverley Crescent and I once had to call work to say I’d be late as three cows were in our front garden and I couldn’t get out of the house. They thought I was mad!”

The daily drudgery of waiting for a bus could be alleviated by the spectacle of a cow joining the commute. Not privy to the tradition of queuing, a cow could fill a whole bus shelter, leaving the poor commuters resigned to standing out in the inevitable rain. “There was a wooden bus shelter on Lake House road…in it waiting for a bus was an enormous cow just standing there minding its own business.”’     

For more information, visit or follow Karen on Facebook at

SoWo Virtuoso


Yuki Negishi is a pianist of “rare poetry, passion and virtuosity”. Having lived in Tokyo, New York and Amsterdam, she now calls South Woodford home, and is inviting fellow residents to hear her play.

I recently moved to South Woodford with my IT director husband Michael, and noticed there weren’t many classical concerts in the area, despite the many beautiful churches with grand pianos. St Mary’s Church is a short walk from my house, and the first time I visited, I was struck by its splendid pipe organ and perfect acoustics.

I quickly felt the potential for a regular recital series, which could give local residents easy access to some great music, and an ideal opportunity for me to try out new recital programmes.

Music has been my entire life; I am Japanese, born in Tokyo, but spent seven years in New York City between the ages of five and 12 due to my father’s business. There, I was fortunate to be accepted to the world-famous Juilliard School of Music as an honorary scholarship student aged 10. I had two important years studying with Richard Fabre, who was a student of Rosina Lhévinne from the great Russian piano school who mentored Van Cliburn and John Williams, among others. These years paved the way for my future aspirations.

Europe has always been my dream destination to continue my studies, London specifically, for its central location geographically and culturally. After studying for three years in Amsterdam, I came here in 2001 to complete my Masters and Artist Diploma at the Royal College of Music. I regularly perform as a soloist and chamber musician in all sorts of venues and festivals, in countries such as the UK, Japan, China, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Poland and the USA. As a pianist, there is so much repertoire to explore – I probably won’t be able to go through all of them in my lifetime! But my affinity lies with the Romantics: Schubert (though he is more late-Classical), Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and also the Frenchman Debussy. I also love the Russian composers such as Rachmaninoff, and more recently Kapustin, who infuses classical and jazz. His music is pure jazz when you listen to it, but there is no improvisation, they are all written out in musical score!

I will be releasing a solo CD comprising some of my favourite composers through the Quartz label in 2020. Alongside this, I will continue performing with my newly established Solomon Piano Quintet. I hope to bring these projects to St Mary’s regularly throughout the year. The first one was in March with a solo programme of Schubert and Chopin sonatas. The next one will be on 10 July, with lots of Chopin, Kapustin and the American Romantic composer Amy Beach. I do hope you will be able to join me at one of my recitals.

Yuki’s piano recital will take place at St Mary’s Church in South Woodford on 10 July from 1pm (tickets: £5). For more information, visit

The re-fruiting of South Woodford

Orchard-visual_1Artist’s impression of the orchard

The South Woodford Society has launched a crowdfunding campaign to establish a community orchard outside South Woodford station. Louise Burgess explains the benefits for the community… and cider drinkers

As evidenced by our street names of Primrose, Mulberry and Cowslip, the south-east side of George Lane used to be a flower-filled space, with market gardens and a dairy. We are aiming to put some of this country feel back into South Woodford by building a community orchard, refurbishing the current small green spaces and improving the planting.

Our campaign is crowdfunded, using an online funding platform for ideas that bring local places to life. Projects are matched to funds from councils, foundations and companies that might want to help. We are hoping that our funding will be met by a donation from the Mayor’s Fund, organised by the Mayor of London.

We’ll work to re-imagine this area. As these spaces are currently a little neglected and run-down, we are proposing to refurbish this area and enhance our pride in our community.

South Woodford station has just had a new step-free entrance on the westbound side of George Lane, which has been a great support for the community, but we are hoping Redbridge Council and TfL will take this opportunity to work with us to brighten up the rather utilitarian look of the new entrance and the surrounding area. This area includes two small sections of green space, and the larger of the two spaces, at the corner of Primrose Road, will be the site for an orchard to provide free fruit for the community with additional bee- and user-friendly planting.   

We would like the broken brick planters by the local car park (junction of Mulberry Way and Primrose Road) to be refurbished by the council and we would like to add some Christmas lights to an already established fir tree, to create a welcoming aspect to this corner of South Woodford during the darker winter months.

The rather neglected subway under the railway line would benefit from repair and redecoration, and the installation of CCTV for security will also be requested, although this is in the gift of the council and TfL and is not in the scope of this current project.

We have the backing of the council’s Head of Civic Pride, Councillor John Howard, and our local councillors to carry out this work, and we will be engaging with local businesses and schools to include the views of their pupils, customers and staff in how the project is carried out and maintained.

There are many benefits, not least the increase in the residents’ community wellbeing, which will result in less crime and greater security in the local area. High-level planters should discourage antisocial behaviour and increased use of the area by residents will also prevent abuse.

New community orchards help to address the nation’s allotment shortfall, promote community production and ownership of fruit and help us rediscover the pleasures of eating organic fruit grown close to home.

The Orchard Project will collect our fruit and give back cider in return – for every 3kg of apples, we will get back a 330ml bottle of the limited edition Local Fox Cider. The fruit can be collected from late August and previous locations have included Walthamstow, Herne Hill, Richmond and Perivale.

The fruit can be of all shapes and sizes as long as it is unsprayed and from London. The most important thing is that fruit is separated into blemish-free and those with slight blemishes – even the odd bug is fine!

Community orchards also help to green the urban environment and create habitats for wildlife, increasing our city’s biodiversity.  In an era of climate change and peak oil, planting trees, which should provide a large yield year after year for decades to come, is a logical move, helping to build food security and community resilience.

To donate to the campaign, visit (pledges will only be charged if the project hits its funding goal of £22,588 by 12 August). To find out more about The Orchard Project, visit For more information on the South Woodford Society, visit or email e18

Objections to office block plans for nursery site


Redbridge Council is considering an application to construct a nine-storey office block at 10–12 Eastwood Close in South Woodford, the site of Incey Winceys Day Nursery.

“Many residents are concerned about this application… There are many issues here, not least whether office space is required in this location, and over 120 objections have been made to the council. We would argue that the site needs a considered approach, rather than piecemeal buildings. At the time of writing, we are waiting to hear when this is going to be discussed by the council, but your comments will still be taken into consideration if you have not yet made a representation,” said a South Woodford Society spokesperson.

Under the plans, the ground and first floors would remain in use as a nursery.



Woodford Town FC design Pankhurst-inspired kit ahead of return to local area

Woodford Town Football Club has released design ideas for their new kit ahead of the club’s long-awaited return to the local area. The Essex Senior League team – who finished sixth last season, playing home games at the Harlow Arena – looked to influential people from the Woodford area for inspiration for their new kit, and settled upon former resident Sylvia Pankhurst.

“The club hit upon a diagonal sash design, a nod to Sylvia and her involvement with the suffragette movement,” said a club spokesperson. The team – who currently play in a kit of a yellow shirt and blue shorts in honour of their Brazilian football style – hope to relocate to a new facility on Ashton Playing Fields off Chigwell Road in time for the new season in September.

“Our vision is to be an inclusive, community-based club… We would like to expand our fan base and establish a women’s team. We are also keen to hear from local businesses for sponsorship.” Follow the club on Twitter




The Friends of Elmhurst Gardens are appealing for young volunteers to help keep the Green Flag award-winning park tidy. Kaede Harding – who completed her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award earlier this year – explains why she was proud to help

In recent months, I have spent an hour of my Saturday mornings clearing up as much rubbish as I could from Elmhurst Gardens. The reason I did this was part of my three-month volunteer section for my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award.

As I approached the time for volunteer work, I thought about how I wanted to do something meaningful that wouldn’t be a half-hearted job just to get an award.

Elmhurst Gardens in South Woodford is my local park. I’m a resident of Wynndale Road and, over the years, myself and my family have frequently used the park for picnics, to play tennis, to hang out on sunny afternoons and to attend some of the fun events run by the volunteer group, the Friends of Elmhurst Gardens. Not once in that time has it ever occurred to me how the park remained so clean and well kept – which it really is. I decided my volunteering time would be well spent there, contributing towards this.

Kaede Harding at work in Elmhurst Gardens

Having finished my volunteer work, I can say the experience has truly been eye-opening. Each Saturday, I saw many local faces, who became more and more familiar to me, from dog walkers to runners. I felt like I was in touch with the community.

I began the exercise simply clearing any litter I could during that one hour a week, but as time went on, I found myself more upset as I came across litter – it suddenly bothered me that little bit more.

Elmhurst Gardens is a well-maintained park with regular park cleaners, but we shouldn’t just rely on them; we should all be playing our part to keep it this way. Some of the items I cleared away during just one hour on a Saturday morning included sweet wrappers, bottles, cigarette butts, canisters of laughing gas and even dirty nappies left on the grass. Just after New Year’s Eve, I found a burnt-out Chinese lantern complete with non-disintegrating wire still attached, lying on the pathway where it had finally fallen. I’m ashamed to say, perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed these things before doing this exercise – but I’m more alert to the issues now.

I realise how important Elmhurst Gardens is to this area and can now appreciate how littering is not only letting down the environment but our community as well. We all have a responsibility towards creating a safe place for ourselves, our children and our dogs.

I haven’t written this article because it was part of my award, but because it means something to me, and if it helps people to think more about how they discard rubbish and look out for their local community, then it’s certainly worth it.

My name is Kaede Harding and I’m proud to be a part of this community.

Elmhurst Gardens is located off Gordon Road, South Woodford. For more information on volunteering, visit

School run/walk


Following concerns over traffic, parking and child safety issues at Churchfields Junior School, Councillor Rosa Gomez (Churchfields, Labour) explains why she would like more children to arrive on foot

Many parents have contacted me to say how concerned they are about child safety outside Churchfields Junior School. The road itself is very busy with lots of traffic. Unfortunately,  some parents are adding to these risks by driving up to the school gates and parking dangerously as they drop off children.

In response, I organised a morning visit outside the school with Head Teacher Julie Anderson and colleagues from Redbridge Council’s Highways Department so we could see exactly what the situation is like and discuss solutions. I also spoke to parents so I could better understand their concerns. As someone who is registered blind, I use a personal assistant in my job as a councillor. My assistant described to me what was going on so I was able to appreciate how haphazard the parking was and just how hectic the whole area was at that time of day. As you can see from the photograph above, cars are mounting the kerb and blocking the pavement: evidence of how dangerous it is for children trying to walk safely on the pavement, let alone cross the road!

It was clear to all of us that a coordinated approach to reducing car traffic was needed to ensure children’s safety. And luckily, the council has recently launched a consultation about a new pilot scheme which will do just that. The Redbridge Schools Clean Air Zones will filter traffic surrounding some schools during drop-off and pick-up times, so the streets can only be accessed by cyclists and pedestrians during those periods, unless vehicles receive an exemption.

It will start in streets surrounding SS Peter and Paul’s Catholic Primary School and Gordon Primary school in Ilford, and I have been assured that streets surrounding Churchfields Junior School are also being considered. I am determined to support parents in this issue to ensure children can get to and from school safely.

Please do take up the opportunity to take part in the consultation and say what you think and help us to make sure Redbridge can become a safer and healthier place for our children, young people and all of us.

These schemes will also help tackle air pollution. A number of studies have shown evidence of increases in childhood asthma linked to pollution. So, reducing pollution is also critical to children’s health. More than 70% of Redbridge school-aged children live within one mile of their school, and the council is working hard to help children and families find healthier and safer ways to travel there – like walking, cycling or scooting.

To take part in the clean air zones consultation – which is open until 23 June – visit To contact Councillor Gomez, email or call 07799 057 030

Bags of enthusiasm


Elaine Atkins and Louise Burgess were among the volunteers who helped give South Woodford a spring clean in March, removing 30-plus bags of litter from our streets

#GBSpringClean invited volunteers to spruce up their local communities up and down the country between 22 March and 23 April, and during the first week, nine community groups and five schools organised litter picks in partnership with the Neighbourhood Team across Redbridge.

We were delighted to see so many people turn up for our South Woodford event. You never know who’s going to be there, and it was great to see families, our councillors and groups of friends, as well as people by themselves – we even had a picker in a pushchair!

Everyone was speaking to each other within minutes and it was great to see the community coming together. Councillor Beverly Brewer (South Woodford, Labour) came along to help and said: “I was delighted to be able to join so many neighbours for the recent litter pick. All credit to the South Woodford Society for taking this initiative. I am optimistic that the extra £1 million that the council has invested in street cleaning will make South Woodford cleaner.”

Redbridge Council provided litter pickers, high-vis jackets and sacks for recycling and rubbish, and groups of volunteers litter picked through five busy routes. George Lane, the Woodford High Road and the verges by Charlie Brown’s Roundabout were all targets for the litter heroes.

The volunteers picked up litter enthusiastically for over an hour and a half. It was hard to get them to stop! There must have been at least 30 rubbish sacks that we left in piles alongside the bins, and lots of recycling too. We found car number plates, a pair of expensive sunglasses and shoes – neatly placed together on the kerb. Cigarette butts were everywhere and it’s as if people don’t realise they are littering when they throw them away. But they are! If only smokers would use the bins or the very cheap pouches you can get these days.

It is also worth mentioning the council planning notices left to rot on lamp posts, as well as the lost pet posters. It was so sad to think of all those pets still missing but hopefully, most of them have been found now. It would be so helpful if everyone who puts the posters up – including the Planning Department – could come and take them down again.

Sadly, the volunteers were unable to do anything about chewing gum, but the good news is that the Redbridge  Our Streets Neighbourhood Team are looking into a number of options to alleviate this problem, such as a chewing gum bin trial at South Woodford Station or a gum cleaning machine – so we may start to see some improvement in the amount of gum on the streets during the summer.

Councillor Clark Vasey (Churchfields, Conservative) said: “It was great to see so many local residents take to the streets to clean up their own area. While Woodford might not be high on the council’s priorities, it is clear how much residents care and the piles of bags of rubbish at the end of the spring clean shows just what a difference people who care about their area can make.”

Lots of people approached us to spur us on and to ask when the next litter pick will be so that they can be involved. It’s always hard to get everyone to know about these events but we’ll do our best to get the word out for the next event, so please check our Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest information, and if you are not a member, please send in your details to join our email distribution list.

To be added to the South Woodford Society mailing list, email For more information on the group’s work, visit or follow them on Twitter @SoWoSociety