Date: Sunday 21st July 2019
Starting Point: Chingford Plain Car Park, London E4 7AZ
Start Time: 08:30 am for warm up and arrival
Map: Please see attached
Step into the summer with this bumper walk.
Shaped like a crescent and extending 7.3 miles south from Epping to Wanstead Flats, Epping Forest is divided by the Epping New Road which gives access from north east London to the M25. But for all the traffic, you need step back only a little to discover tranquil tracks and pathways meandering through 6,000 acres (2,430ha) of ancient woodland. For Epping Forest is one of the few places where you can still see the effects of medieval forest management and today is a popular recreational retreat attracting all those yearning to escape city life.
You can follow Queen Victoria’s route from Connaught Water, near Chingford Station where she arrived in 1882 to declare, ‘It gives me the greatest satisfaction to dedicate this beautiful forest to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time’. She rode in an open carriage along Fairmead Bottom to High Beach to the cheers of the crowds of Cockneys, mostly hell-bent on having a good day out.
Prior to this, the forest was a hunting ground reserved for royals. Queen Elizabeth I used to hunt from the lodge named after her, now the Epping Forest Museum, and probably galloped over an early Roman settlement, Loughton Camp, a few miles to the east. Stray off pathways and into deep shaded glades and you might be lucky enough to spot fallow or mutjac deer, descendants of the dark fallow deer introduced by James I in 1612. You can also enjoy the gently rolling landscape near the Kings Oak pub where Henry VIII breakfasted on 19 May 1536 as he waited to hear the news that Anne Boleyn had been executed.
At the Epping Forest Conservation Centre, a trail leads you through an ancient landscape of coppiced and pollarded trees. In medieval times cattle and deer were free to graze and woodsmen harvested wood for domestic purposes, a practice which ceased in 1878. Trees were coppiced, or cut to ground level, allowing new shoots to grow from the stump, but if left unfenced made easy fodder for animals. To save the trees from further damage and to keep them out of the reach of peckish livestock, the branches were cut above head height every 12 to 15 years, a system known as pollarding. Explore the forest today and you’ll find several thousand of these pollarded trees, identifiable by their massive crowns.
Please bring at least one litre of water and some snacks.
Please wear suitable clothing for weather and suitable walking boots as we will be walking paths which can be muddy and slippery.
Please be advised that children under the age of 16 should be accompanied by a parent or guardian.