LOCAL campaigners have called for action to be taken to save a crumbling 18th century grotto.

The historic grotto, in Wanstead Park, dates back to about 1761 but has been left to ruin after a fire almost completed destroyed it in the late 19th century.

Richard Arnopp, of the Wanstead Parklands Community Project, said: “We very much hope that when plans for the restoration of the park are put together by the City of London Corporation, that plans for the grotto will be included.

“Action needs to be taken to clear it of the vegetation that’s damaging it and preserve it in its current state.

“Ideally, some form of restoration would be desirable.”

He added the park itself is on a list of English Heritage sites deemed “at risk of neglect” and that he hoped local organisations would be involved in returning it to its former glory.

Stuart Monro, founder of the Wanstead Parklands Community Project, has produced three DVDs on the park, including one mainly on the grotto, which features a 3D image of what it might once have looked like.

He added: “I put in a whole 20 minutes on the grotto and the need to preserve it.”

Mr Monro has also appealed to the City of London Corporation in a bid to kickstart action on restoration.

He said: “I’ve got a very strong interest in this – it needs to go further than it’s gone.”

He and other members of the project fear the grotto will be lost forever if nothing is done.

Once one of the finest examples of its kind, it survived in 1824 when the main house was knocked down and escaped destruction again in 1835, despite plans being put forward for its demolition.

But in 1884, just two years after Wanstead Park began allowing members of the public to visit, it was almost completely destroyed by an accidental fire.

The Guardian is awaiting information from the City of London Corporation, which maintains the Wanstead Park, on the latest plans for the park and grotto.