Epping Forest

Epping Forest

Infobox park
park=Epping Forest

image size=300px
caption=Epping Forest near Epping
location=Greater London and Essex
coordinates= coord|51.66|0.05
size=24 km²
operator=City of London Corporation
annual visitors=
status= open all year

Epping Forest is an area of ancient woodland in south-east England, straddling the border between north-east Greater London and Essex. It is managed by the City of London Corporation.

Formed in approximately 8000 BC after the last ice age, it covers nearly 6,000 acres (24 km²) [http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/living_environment/open_spaces/epping_forest.htm City of London Epping Forest web page] ] and contains areas of grassland, heath, rivers, bogs and ponds. Stretching between Forest Gate in the south and Epping in the north, Epping Forest is approximately 18 km long in the north-south direction, but no more than 4 km from east to west at its widest point, and in most places considerably narrower. The forest lies on a ridge between the valleys of the rivers Lea and Roding; its elevation and thin gravelly soil - the result of glaciation - historically made it unsuitable for agriculture. Embankments of two Iron Age camps - Loughton Camp and Ambresbury Banks - can be found hidden in the woodland. It gives its name to the Epping Forest local government district.


The name "Epping Forest" was first recorded in the 17th century; prior to this it was known as Waltham Forest (which gives its name to the present-day London borough). The forest is thought to have been given legal status as a royal forest by Henry III in the 12th century. This status allowed commoners to use the forest to gather wood and foodstuffs, and to graze livestock, but only the king was allowed to hunt there.

In Tudor times Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I hunted in the forest. In 1543 Henry commissioned a building, known as Great Standing, from which to view the chase at Chingford. The building was renovated in 1589 for Queen Elizabeth I and can still be seen today in Chingford. The building is now known as Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, and is open to the public as a museum.

There were disputes between landowners (who enclosed land) and commoners (who had grazing and cutting rights), including that led by Thomas Willingale (1799-1870) who on behalf of the villagers of Loughton continued to lop the trees after the Lord of the Manor (Maitland) had enclosed convert|1300|acre|km2|0 of forest in Loughton. This led to an injunction against further enclosures.

The Epping Forest Act 1878 was passed saving the forest from enclosure, and halting the shrinkage of the forest that this had caused. Epping Forest ceased to be a royal forest and was placed in the care of the City of London Corporation who act as 'Conservators'. In addition, the Crown's right to deer and venison was terminated, and pollarding was no longer allowed, although grazing rights continued. This act laid down a stipulation that the Conservators "shall at all times keep Epping Forest unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the people".

When Queen Victoria visited Chingford on 6 May 1882 she declared "It gives me the greatest satisfaction to dedicate this beautiful forest to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time" and it thus became "The People's Forest". The City of London Corporation still manage Epping Forest in strict conformity with the Epping Forest Act without any money for its upkeep coming from local rates or taxes. The Conservators administer the forest from the Grade II* listed Warren House in Loughton; the grounds of Warren House, which was built around a medieval hunting lodge, were laid out by Humphry Repton.

Until the outbreak of BSE in 1996 commoners still exercised their right to graze cattle and every summer herds of cattle would roam freely in the southern part of the forest (and occasionally in the streets of Leytonstone). Cattle were reintroduced in 2001 but their movements are now more restricted to reduce conflict with traffic. [http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/living_environment/open_spaces/EF_wildlife.htm City of London Epping Forest wildlife web page] ]

The right to collect wood still exists but is rarely practised and is limited to "one faggot of dead or driftwood" per day per adult resident.


The age of the forest and the range of habitats it contains make it a valuable area for wildlife, and it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Its former status as a working or pasture forest have had a great effect on its ecology. This is particularly evident with the pollarded trees, which, as they have not been cut since the passing of the Epping Forest Act, have now grown massive crowns of thick, trunk-like branches with correspondingly large boles. This gives the trees an unusual appearance, not known in other forests. Often the weight of the branches cannot be supported by the parent tree, and the large amount of dead wood in the forest supports numerous rare species of fungi and invertebrates.

Predominant tree species are Pedunculate Oak, European Beech, European Hornbeam, Silver Birch and European Holly. A wide range of animals are found, including Fallow Deer, Muntjac and European adders.

Although the Epping Forest Act almost certainly saved the forest from total destruction, it has to some extent had a deleterious effect on the area's biodiversity. The pollarded trees allowed light through to the woodland floor, increasing the numbers of low-growing plants. Since the Act, the vast crowns of the pollards cut out most of the light to the underbrush. In addition, the area surrounding the forest is now to a great extent urbanised; the corresponding reduction in grazing has led to former areas of grassland and heathland being overcome by secondary woodland — this has been exacerbated by the majority of the forest's deer being enclosed to stop them being injured by vehicles on the major roads that run through the forest. In recent years, the Conservators have experimented with pollarding in selected areas of the forest, and a herd of English Longhorn cattle [http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/media_centre/files_archive/70_03.htm] has been reintroduced to graze the forest floor.

Cultural references

Epping Forest has frequently been the setting for novels, and has attracted poets, artists and musicians for centuries.

The sculptor, Jacob Epstein, lived on the very edge of the Forest for a quarter of a century at Baldwins Hill Loughton. Sir William Addison says that he wanted his sculpture 'Visitation', now in the Tate Collection, to be sited overlooking the Forest. In 1933, he exhibited 100 paintings of the Forest, and continued to paint during the war. His gouache, an essay in green tints and textures, "Pool - Epping Forest", of Baldwins Hill Pond, was exhibited in 1945. Many of his Forest painting are in the Garman-Ryan Collection at the New Art Gallery, Walsall

The song "The White Buck of Epping" by Sydney Carter (1957) refers to a sighting of (and subsequnt hunt for) a white buck in the forest.

The progressive rock band Genesis has a track titled "The Battle of Epping Forest" on their album "Selling England by the Pound".

Wings sang "There was a lead guitarist. Who lived in Epping Forest" in "Famous Groupies", [ [http://www.lyricstime.com/wings-paul-mccartney-famous-groupies-lyrics.html "Famous Groupies" lyrics] Retrieved April 21 2008] a track on their 1977 London Town album.

British industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle recorded a song called "Epping Forest" on their 1977 cassette release "Nothing Short of A Total War"

The composer, Niso Ticciati, published a short "Epping Forest Suite" in 1968.

The British rock band Feeder shot one of the scenes their first ever video for the single "Stereo World" (1996) in Epping Forest.

The forest was featured on the 2005 television programme "Seven Natural Wonders" as one of the wonders of the London area, in an episode presented by Bill Oddie.

The forest has criminal associations. The highwayman Dick Turpin had a hideout there. The tree cover and the forest's location close to London have made it notorious as a burial area for murder victims.

Triple policeman murderer Harry Roberts hid out in the forest for a short time before his arrest in 1966. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20021126/ai_n12651237]

The forest was the location for Living TV's Most Haunted Live! on their New Year Live show in 2003/4. The theme of the programme was the highwayman Dick Turpin.

T E Lawrence owned an estate at Pole Hill, Chingford; this was added to the Forest in 1929 and Lawrence's hut re-erected in the Forest HQ at the Warren, Loughton, where it remains, largely forgotten, today.


Elizabethan poets such as George Gascoigne and Thomas Lodge lived in and around the forest. The writer, Lady Mary Wroth, lived at Loughton Hall. Ben Jonson best known for his satirical play " The Alchemist" was a frequent visitor to the forest, with George Chapman. [http://www.thewordtravels.com/johnclare.html Epping forest in literature] Retrieved April 25 2008]

In the 18th century, Mary Wollstonecraft, writer, philosopher and feminist spent the first five years of her life growing up in the forest. [ [http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/wollstonecraft-mary/1792/vindication-rights-woman/preface.htm Mary Wollstonecraft] retrieved April 25 2008]

In the Victorian era, Charles Dickens wrote the novel "Barnaby Rudge". The first sentence begins with a description of the forest in 1775. [ [http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=230743&pageno=4 Barnaby Rudge Chapter 1] Retrieved April 25 2008] Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived at Beech Hill House, High Beach from 1837-1840, where he wrote parts of In Memoriam. Suffering from depression he stayed as a guest at Dr Martin Allen's asylum where he would have encountered John Clare, the poet, who in 1837 after his behaviour became more erratic was removed to the asylum. William Morris artist, writer and socialist was born in Walthamstow in 1834, and spent his early years in what was then rural Essex close to the outlying sections of the forest. [ [http://www1.walthamforest.gov.uk/wmg/waltham.htm William Morris gallery] Retrieved April 26 2008]

During the 20th century several writers have used the forest as a setting for their novels including R Austin Freemans "Jacob Street Mystery" (1940) partly set at Loughton Camp. The horror writer James Herbert used Epping Forest as the setting for his novel "Lair" (1979). In the book, a horde of Giant Black Rats establish a colony in the forest and embark on a murderous campaign against humans. Herbert mentions a now obscure legend attached to the forest, the legend of the white stag. Supposedly, the sighting of this animal is an omen of trouble and death. Natural historian and author Fred J Speakman lived at the Epping Forest Field Studies Centre, High Beach. [ [http://www.field-studies-council.org/eppingforest/ Epping Forest Field Studies Centre] Retrieved April 25 2008] He wrote several books about the area including "A Poacher's Tale" with Alfred T Curtis a Waltham Abbey born poacher [ Speakman F & Curtis A, "A Poacher's Tale" (1960) ISBN 0713509694 George Bell & Sons] and "A Keeper's Tale" describing the life of forest keeper Sidney Butt. [ Speakman, F, "A Keeper's Tale" (1962) ISBN 0851152244 George Bell & Sons]

Leisure activities

Horse riding

Horse riding is popular in Epping Forest. Riders need to be registered with the Epping Forest conservators before they are allowed to ride in the forest.


Running as a form of recreation in Epping Forest goes back almost to the birth of the sport in the 1870s, including hosting the inaugural English Championships in 1876.

Motorcycle speedway

High Beach within Epping Forest was the first British venue for motorcycle speedway, on 19 February 1928. The track was behind The King's Oak public house, and drew large crowds in its early days. The track was closed when a swimming pool was added to the pub's grounds after the Second World War, though enthusiasts and veterans still gather at the site every year on the nearest Sunday to 19 February. The remains of the track are still visible, in the grounds of the Epping Forest Field Centre behind the King's Oak.

Mountain biking

Epping Forest attracts large numbers of mountain bikers. Mountain biking is generally permitted except around the Iron Age camps, Loughton Brook and other ecologically or geomorphologically sensitive areas. Despite clear signposting, a minority of mountain bikers continue to cause damage in these areas, [ [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/548902 Epping Forest: Loughton Camp:: OS grid TQ4197 :: Geograph British Isles - photograph every grid square! ] ] and the Conservators of Epping Forest have expressed their concern, although horses cause similar damage. [ [http://eppingtrails.co.uk/?p=22 Comments from the Corp. at eppingtrails.co.uk ] ] A number of clubs organise rides, particularly on Sunday mornings. The forest is also used as a training area for many national level mountain-bike racers.

Epping Forest was considered as a venue for the mountain-biking event of the 2012 Summer Olympics, though the final choice was Weald Country Park near Brentwood, Essex.


Orienteering and rambling are also popular. There are numerous guidebooks offering shorter walks for the casual visitor. The most important event in the ramblers calendar in the area is the traditional Epping Forest Centenary Walk, an all-day event commemorating the saving of Epping Forest as a public space, which takes place annually on the fourth Sunday in September.

ee also

*Edward Buxton (conservationist), who played a part in saving the forest for public use
*Stephen Pewsey, Historian


External links


* [http://www.orionharriers.org.uk Orion Harriers]

Mountain biking

* [http://www.eppinghardcru.co.uk Epping Hard Cru]
* [http://www.epping-forest-mbc.co.uk Epping Forest Mountain Bike Club]


* [http://www.field-studies-council.org/eppingforest/ Epping Forest Field Centre]
* [http://www.english-nature.org.uk/special/sssi/sssi_details.cfm?sssi_id=1001814 Epping Forest SSSI (English Nature)]
* [http://efcv.uel.ac.uk/efcv.html Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers]
* [http://www.explorersproject.org.uk Epping Forest Conservation Scout Project]


* [http://www.epping-forest.co.uk/ Images of Epping Forest]

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