It is great to see cattle coming back to Wanstead Park after an absence of two decades.

I remember when growing up, the cows wandering around the park and Wanstead Flats. They would often wander into people’s front gardens, munching the odd bush.

There will be many readers who remember those days. They may also remember John Dexter, the park keeper, who lived with his family in the keepers houses behind the Temple.

John’s daughter, Anne, recently shared some pictures of John outside the house and in the park.

John was a big presence in the area, on regular patrol, policing the park and doing some maintenance work. He retired in 1992 and thankfully is still going strong.

Those were the days, John Dexter patrolling the park, cattle roaming free, water in the lakes and the sun shone all the time. Or is that a bit too much of the rose tinted spectacles?

What the return of the cattle does signify is the continued evolution of the ecology of the forest. The introduction of longhorns is a definite move in the direction of rewilding. These cows will enable the forest pastures to develop.

The longhorn cattle will wear GPS collars, which give off a vibration when the cow reaches the border of the area they have to stay within.

The system has worked well in the different areas of Epping Forest where it has been deployed.

The plan for the park is that the cattle will be kept in an area on the plain, in front of the Temple, for an initial two month period.

This is a far cry from when the cows previously roamed the forest. In those days they were set free to go wherever they liked between spring and autumn, when they were taken in.

The Corporation of London deserves congratulation for the bold move. It must be hoped that other neighbouring boroughs will continue the effort to rewild the land.

Rewilding is really about resetting the clock, letting nature breathe and restoring the natural indices that have so often been knocked out of sync by the behaviour of humankind.

It has been the supreme arrogance of the human being that has brought climate change and the extinction of so many species.

It is great to now see some sanity being restored. Let’s hope the arrival of the long horn cattle in Wanstead Park is the start of a real rewilding revolution in this part of the world.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See