The town has a largely suburban feel, containing open grasslands such as Wanstead Flats, and the woodland of Wanstead Park (part of Epping Forest). The park, with artificial lakes, was originally part of the estate of a large stately home Wanstead House, one of the finest Palladian mansions in Britain, from its size and splendour nicknamed the English Versailles, and the architectural inspiration for Mansion House, London. It was demolished after the bankruptcy of the owner, William Wellesley-Long, in 1824. It is also home to Wanstead Golf club, which has hosted many of the major events in the Essex County calendar. A notable landmark towards the northern edge of Wanstead is the former Wanstead Hospital building, now a housing complex.
Wanstead High Street is distinctive because of its many independent retailers, attracting shoppers from a wide area. Public houses include The George (which began life as the George and Dragon in the 18th century), The Cuckfield and Russells.
There are various local legends explaining this curious plaque, including a tale of the theft of a cherry pie by local workmen who were caught and fined half a guinea (52.5p). However the most likely explanantion is that it was placed there by the landlord of 1752, David Jersey (corrupted by centuries of repainting and re-cutting the inscription to D Jerry on the plaque), commemorating a feast which included a huge cherry pie. Monstrous pies were a feature of 18th-century Essex rural festivals; the Tollesbury Gooseberry Pie festival is still in existence, and other inns around the edge of Epping Forest were famed for pies (rabbit pie at The Reindeer, Loughton, now Warren House, and pigeon pie at The King's Head, Chigwell). Wanstead was well-known for its cherry orchards as late as the 1830s, when they were mentioned by poet Thomas Hood, who lived in Wanstead 1832-5.
An area near the A12 M11 Link Road (which was built in the 1990s) beside the section from Blake Hall Road to Selsdon Road was in 2008 preserved by local residents as a Wild-Flower Meadow with a year-round display of wild and naturalised plants, shrubs and trees; starting in spring with oxlip (P. elatoir), cowslip (Primula veris), primrose (P. vulgaris), and meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris), followed by many species including the grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia). The meadow is listed as one of the main Primula species meadows in Greater London. The fauna of the area includes birds, foxes, Muntjac deer, and squirrels.
Nearest railway stations