20200614_141006Gary Davis with children Guy and Imogen collecting bikes from Paul’s garden

Wanstead resident Paul Canal has spent lockdown refurbishing donated bicycles for families in need, raising funds for Haven House Children’s Hospice in the process. Now, Wanstead UpCycles needs your help

Six weeks ago, there were no bicycles in our back garden. Today, there are over 40. Kids bikes, teenagers bikes, classic Raleighs, rusty racers, even a couple of 1950s boneshakers. How did our house become Steptoe and Son’s Bicycle Emporium? And why is my wife frowning?

I was supporting a foodbank run in Woodford.  Along with food parcels, they supply toys and clothes to families in need. I was asked if I could source a bicycle for a young girl from a less well-off family. A short appeal on the Wanstead Community Hub on Facebook and a beautiful bike was rehomed to an ecstatically happy five-year-old.

There is nothing as efficient as the ‘Wanstead Bush Telegraph’. All of a sudden, people were arriving at our door with magnificent bicycles that required a bit (and sometimes a lot!) of TLC. I now had more bicycles than recipients, but thanks to the dastardly Covid-19, I also had a lot of time on my hands. (When will the Manor House reopen!)

My wife, Karen, and I have raised money for Haven House by running a series of charity suppers with the support of friends and great restaurateurs like Chris Trouard of Marmiton and Jason Flack of the Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel. Covid-19 stopped the suppers, but Haven House’s need for support has never been greater. Could the donated bicycles become a source of support? From that germ of an idea, Wanstead UpCycles was born. I now refurbish donated bicycles and either pass them on to a local family in need, or ‘sell them’ in return for a donation to Haven House. I am also carrying out simple bicycle repairs, again for a charity donation. We have a dedicated Facebook page to promote the appeal and are hoping to raise £1,000 for Haven House.

Which is where you come in! I need more adult bikes to restore for a waiting list of people eager to start cycling. I am still accepting and upcycling children’s bicycles. I am also keen to know of any families or individuals in need who would like a bicycle.

I am also looking for help! I need a couple of volunteers to join me and help to clean up and check over the donated bicycles. I have promised Karen her garden back! The wages are miserable, the working conditions dire, the banter poor, but I do offer free tea and coffee.

Finally, I offer a heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported this new venture so far. You have helped a doctor get to their Whipps Cross shift after dropping off their child; you have brought joy to a young boy living with his mum in a women’s refuge; you have made a six-year-old squeal with delight at his first “grown-up” bike. Above all, you have shown that community spirit is alive, well and thriving in this wonderful place, Wanstead, that Karen and I are proud to call home.

For more information, call 07769 159 433 or visit wnstd.com/upcycles. To donate to the Haven House appeal, visit wnstd.com/upcycleshh