Why I love Wanstead Flats in winter

The stretched-out sky gives my mind some space before the onslaught of screens begins, says Tim Sowula

The Flats at sunrise. Photo: Tim Sowula
The Flats at sunrise. Photo: Tim Sowula
Getting out to work in the morning is hard for most of us. Even harder when that involves little children. And a real hassle on a freezing morning when we have to find hats, gloves, scarves that are not only much smaller than ours but likely to have been left in random locations (kitchen bin, behind the sofa, in the washing machine). Just shutting the door, keys in hand, feels like a significant achievement.

Yet I consider myself extremely lucky to have the perfect antidote, thanks to the nursery run – which at this time of year takes place as the sun rises over the frost-covered grass – across the historic Wanstead Flats.

Half the size of Hampstead Heath, the flats are a treasure trove, containing, on any given day, ancient oaks, scrubland, skylarks, grounded kites, dogs, historic planted avenues, the next generation of premiership footballers, and the remains of a stately home that more than rival north London’s famous Kenwood House.

What else? Cattle grazed in its enclosures until 1996, and military troops (both English and German) have camped there. In the summer you’d think it might sink under the weight of blackberries.


And best of all, quite literally pancake flat, this slice of countryside allows for a great big view under a stretched-out London sky, giving my mind a bit of space – before I squeeze it back into the daily minutiae of screens and small print.

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What do you love about the Flats?

  • Show Comments

  • Peter Gettins

    This was yesterday at 9am, -2C. Gorgeous

  • Jeremy Chopra

    Looks like the setting for the reverent 2

  • Rae De Guzman

    Nicol Banin we need to take you here! Literally less than 10 minutes walk from us

  • Sharon Ellis

    I shall go back for a visit some day. Childhood playground ❤️

  • Marian Bulford

    What a beautiful photo!

  • Ian Chambers

    One thing I love about the Flats are that people from 3 different boroughs and neighbourhoods feel a sense of it being theirs, with diffefent views from each. Although under a 4th boroughs control – the City

  • Marion Tyrer

    Still amazing after 60 odd years.I lived in Acacia rroad. All the kids were over there all the time.