TRIBUTES have been paid to a father, activist and former soldier described as “a great friend of Wanstead”.

Alan Cornish died aged 78 on February 14 after a period of declining health. He leaves behind wife Janet and sons Adrian and Neale.

He led a rich and varied life and had many interests, particularly in maintaining the heritage and upkeep of Wanstead Park.

Richard Arnopp, a local historian who knew the late activist, says Mr Cornish will be fondly remembered.

Mr Arnopp, a historian who lives in Wanstead, said: “He was a forceful personality. He will be remembered as a great friend of Wanstead. 

“Alan had his fingers in many pies and was involved in many campaigns - often on the winning side. Another founding member of the Wanstead Parkands committee remembered him as a battler, which I think he’d have been happy with.

“His work for the park and in local politics, whether you agree with them or not, shows that he was a public spirited person who deserves to be remembered. We shall miss him.”

Alan was brought up in Barking and went to South East Essex County Technical School., where he developed a reputation for leading teachers on a merry dance.

Mr Cornish was lucky enough to kick a football in the street outside his house with West Ham legend Bobby Moore.

He passionately campaigned for improvements to Wanstead Park and co-authored a book exploring the history of and problems affecting the park’s five lakes.

The 78-year-old was an important member of the original Friends of Wanstead Parklands, which disbanded in 1990, and a member of the park’s current lobbying group, the Wanstead Parklands Community Project.

In 1982, the late polymath and wife Janet discovered roman artefacts in Wanstead Park uncovered by building work.

The late father regularly served in missions attached to NATO. In 1980 he set up his own tour operator, Corona Holidays, which was based in South Woodford. He specialised in trips to the Canary Islands.

He was also involved in politics. He campaigned in Wanstead and stood for election to Redbridge Council as a Liberal and then Liberal Democrat candidate.

He also stood in the 1979 general election in the old Wanstead and Woodford constituency. against Tory incumbent Patrick Jenkins.