Epping’s exciting future

PUBLISHED: 17:07 15 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:03 20 February 2013

A lazy summers afternoon in the forest

A lazy summers afternoon in the forest

Epping Forest's historic landscape has a bright future, reports Jo Jarvis

EPPING has long been seen as an oasis on the edges of London, thanks in no small measure to lure of Epping Forest. With an abundance of ancient trees, rivers, ponds and grassland to enjoy, as well as wildlife and grazing cattle to spot, the ancient woodland which stretches 6,000 acres between Forest Gate in the south and Epping in the north is the
ultimate escape from City life.

But while people run, walk or cycle through this geological gem, they are often oblivious to its history which is waiting to be discovered. This is all set to change in the near future after Epping Forest was granted £4.76m by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards the implementation of a £6.8m Branching Out project, which will be used to conserve and significantly improve the former royal hunting ground for visitors.

The money will help fund a new Interpretation Centre, next door to Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, and a refurbished Butler's Retreat with a large exhibition area, tearoom and a campus for visitors to learn about the forest. Easy Access Trails will also be developed to help people explore the forest more safely and more than 750 schoolchildren are expected to benefit from the experience of outdoor learning each year.

Finding more in the forest
Paul Thomson, who has been the superintendent of Epping Forest for the past six months, explained: 'The great thing about the HLF grant is that it does lots of things - it will help a number of projects that will contribute to the forest's healthy future. The hallmark will be the new visitor centre which will be adjacent to Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. It will have two floors and lots of exhibits and it will tell the story of Epping Forest's history - it's a tremendous story to tell.

'The forest is the oldest piece of land in Britain purchased for public access and conservation purposes -
a long time before National Parks existed. It is an example of what a few people did hundreds of years ago to safeguard a small piece of countryside and the story should be preserved for future generations.
'It's also such an impressive piece of countryside in its own right. It's a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and it has lots of rare
species so it's important we hang onto something that has
so much conservation heritage.'

Epping Forest has around 10,000 ancient trees and 1,200 have been identified as being of particular significance. Paul adds: 'Most of the trees are old pollards and they are key species because they are important in order for rare insects, mosses, fungi and birds to survive.'
The work, which has to be completed within the next five years, will also include a grazing scheme which will restore the number of cattle to a third of the forest. With these exciting developments, Epping Forest looks set to prosper as an oasis of peace and tranquillity for many more generations to come.

Pick up on Epping's past
Epping developed at what is now the northern end of Epping Forest. In 1253 King Henry III passed the right to hold a weekly market which helped establish the town as a centre of trade and a place of importance. It was on one of the main routes from London into East Anglia and as a result it had many coaching inns - 16 at one time - and it saw many travellers including Samuel Pepys in 1660, Charles II in 1684 and Queen Anne in 1705 and 1707. It was also associated with highwaymen and Dick Turpin supposedly operated here.

Epping Forest is the last evidence of the Forest of Essex which once stretched from Stratford Bridge to Manningtree. The name Epping Forest was first recorded in 1662 (prior to this it was known as Waltham Forest) although it is believed that it was formed earlier and there is evidence of Iron Age, Roman and Saxon history.

In the 12th century it was owned and ruled by the monarch King Henry III who was the only person allowed to hunt on the land. Since then the size of the land has shrunk because the monarch granted land to reward loyalty and buy-off opposition.

In the 1870s the City of London was concerned that access to the open countryside around London was threatened by development and it campaigned for its protection. The Epping Forest Act of Parliament, passed in 1878, entrusted the ownership of Epping Forest to the City
of London, to protect and conserve the unique open space for eternity.
Two centuries later and people continue to enjoy the open space and
are often inspired by it to write and paint.

Did you know?

• Epping Forest was the inspiration for the forming of the National Trust

• It is believed that the Saxons first settled in the Epping Forest area and gave the place variations of names that included Ippying, Ipping, Eppinghethe and Eppingthorpe

• The forest was featured on the 2005 television programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of the London area

• Epping Forest was the location for Living TV's Most Haunted Live for the New Year Live Show in 2003 which followed the footsteps of Dick Turpin

• In addition to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, further money to carry out future projects will be provided by the City of London and Essex County Council

Epping events

Saturday, September 5
Epping Forest Festival

Sunday, September 20
Friends of Epping Forest 24th Annual
Centenary Walk
The walk celebrates the passing
of the Epping Forest Act

Get in touch

The Epping Forest Visitor Centre is open 10am to 3pm
each day including Bank Holidays. Call 020 8529 6681

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