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Heritage - 54: Fresh Trails (on Well Worn Tracks)

Bracing walk, exhilarating trek, romantic winter's stroll... Enjoy a winter's day out in the Forest. You might glimpse a deer or two, or rare long-horned cattle

Winding bridle-paths abound in the forest. In most places they're passable  on foot and they're used by cyclists... Today I saw three youths on mono-wheels use them across Fairmead Road between two sections of the same bridle path

Winding bridle-paths abound in the forest. In most places they're passable on foot and they're used by cyclists... Today I saw three youths on mono-wheels use them across Fairmead Road between two sections of the same bridle path

These two images show the bridle path as it snakes westward from Fairmead Road.

These two images show the bridle path as it snakes westward from Fairmead Road.

Low winter sun between the bridle path and the (now) unmade road that used to connect Fairmead Road with the A104 Epping New Road...

Low winter sun between the bridle path and the (now) unmade road that used to connect Fairmead Road with the A104 Epping New Road...

This road kinks a little to the left, although is fairly straight and - but for a hummock to deter motorists - reaches the main road opposite the entrance to the City of London Forestry Depot on the  east side of the A104

This road kinks a little to the left, although is fairly straight and - but for a hummock to deter motorists - reaches the main road opposite the entrance to the City of London Forestry Depot on the east side of the A104

Relaxing stroll or taxing hike...

Your decision of course.

I sometimes take a camera. [Nothing technologically demanding, its a Canon compact. I'm not advertising it, but you might as well know at what level I am with cameras these days, having owned a Box Brownie and several single lens reflex film cameras in the past from Zenith to Petriflex and Praktica. Not 'being made of money' as the saying goes here in Britain, and a pensioner to boot, I have to cut my cloth cannily. It's a workable little compact, easy enough to understand the workings (and I haven't exhausted the possibilities yet, still on a learning curve). So what you see is what's there, no fancy stuff, no clever lenses].

I enjoy using the camera. I'll see a tree, maybe fallen in old age, maybe felled - diseased - a distinctive shape, angle, canopy or lack of in these wintry shots. I visit the forest during different seasons and will create pages like this one for each time of year I've been. Lots of shots, you understand, and using them once each will free up space on my laptop for fresher scenes. Who knows, I might yet capture a muntjac or fallow deer on here. For now I'll concentrate on the likelihoods. The stuff that can't elude me, unless trees suddenly develop a talent for uprooting themselves. Not being shy things, like the cattle kept on the forest's edges, they wouldn't do that... would they? Ever heard of a shy birch, or beech?

High Beach, Epping New Road, Loughton, Essex, England

On the map, leave the Epping New Road (A104) on Fairmead Road opposite the Robin Hood Thai restaurant (erstwhile pub that still sells some brands of local real ale), turn right for the large (free) car park on the small plain across the road from and adjacent to the King's Oak hotel. There's a young oak sapling planted by HRH Harry, now Duke of Sussex, and views across the Lea Valley. A visitor centre close by opens Thursday-Sunday with exhibits from around the immediate area. Good walking down through the forest with several 'watering holes' (read pubs) that welcome children. There's also an open-air pool at the back of the hotel with its large recreation garden.

Close to Cross Road, off the Epping New Road...

The sun struggles to stay in the sky, but this is mid-winter. Gravity seems to win, hands-down

The sun struggles to stay in the sky, but this is mid-winter. Gravity seems to win, hands-down

Looks like somebody lies in wait, to pounce on an unsuspecting passer-by

Looks like somebody lies in wait, to pounce on an unsuspecting passer-by

Hollowed-out tree trunk that resembles an old man resting against a post to get his breath back after an exhausting walk

Hollowed-out tree trunk that resembles an old man resting against a post to get his breath back after an exhausting walk

A lot of the flora - particularly elderly trees - has fallen victim to the passage of time. In some parts of the forest the undergrowth has overcome the taller denizens

A lot of the flora - particularly elderly trees - has fallen victim to the passage of time. In some parts of the forest the undergrowth has overcome the taller denizens

 "Just resting..." Another grand old survivor, hollowed out by disease, gamely throws out new shoots in spring.

"Just resting..." Another grand old survivor, hollowed out by disease, gamely throws out new shoots in spring.

Not far from the 'Original Tea Hut' just off Cross Road (that leads to Fairmead Road), the sun bravely hangs on to shine through thicker growth - a last gasp before succumbing to dusk...

Not far from the 'Original Tea Hut' just off Cross Road (that leads to Fairmead Road), the sun bravely hangs on to shine through thicker growth - a last gasp before succumbing to dusk...

Communities of trees and people...

Each of these images is special in its own way. Each shows an aspect of the forest peculiar to deciduous forests in the northern hemisphere. In some areas the ground between trees is practically bare, little or no undergrowth features. It's the type of tree obviously. Silver birches soak up all the nourishment from the earth, all the nutrients and moisture. Beeches almost dominate their territory Then you come to oaks and other hapless denizens who have to compete with practically every growth from creepers to thorns and so on. Some oak saplings everywhere between the northernmost part of the forest near the town of Waltham Abbey to the southernmost in Wanstead Park and on Wanstead Flatts, are inundated by creepers and thorns from the moment they sprout from the acorn. The fire on Wanstead Flatts last July dealt the death blow to many young trees and the parasites that grew on or around them. Pathways on the edge of Wanstead Park cleared of thorns early in 2019 are 'under siege' again within half a year! In less frequented parts of the forest up near the A104 Epping New Road look like the Everglades, with pools of black water waiting for some unsuspecting walker(s) to put a foot wrong. Close by, across the road from the Wakes Arms roundabout to High Beech the ground is spongy even after several dry months. The forest's long-horned cattle were grazed here in the spring some time ago, where their hooves sank in. They were moved across the road not long after before being put out to pasture close to Chingford Plain some miles south-west.

You'd hardly believe that less than half a mile west of here, where I took these pictures, are houses, riding schools and educational schools spread out along winding lanes and downhill towards Sewardstone (part of Chingford). More can be found along Wellington Hill and another community along the bottom of the hill from High Beech. near the golf course. They all seem to blend with their surroundings regardless of age or architectural style.

Epping Forest features and local attractions

Epping Forest features and local attractions

ViewRanger map of walks and walk features in the area of Epping Forest featured on this page

ViewRanger map of walks and walk features in the area of Epping Forest featured on this page

Your money or your life!"

Highwaymen skulked in the area by the Epping road to 'make a living from passing trade'. I've mentoned it before, Richard 'Dick' Turpin made this his hunting ground before fleeing north - only to be arrested for horse theft near Doncaster inYorkshire

Highwaymen skulked in the area by the Epping road to 'make a living from passing trade'. I've mentoned it before, Richard 'Dick' Turpin made this his hunting ground before fleeing north - only to be arrested for horse theft near Doncaster inYorkshire

Another highwayman who took advantage of passing trade the colourful 'Sixteen-string Jack', who also came to a sticky end on the triple gallows at Tyburn (now Marble Arch roundabout)

Another highwayman who took advantage of passing trade the colourful 'Sixteen-string Jack', who also came to a sticky end on the triple gallows at Tyburn (now Marble Arch roundabout)

Enough to chill the very soul! All you want in a cold coach in mid-winter is to be confronted by a masked highwayman.

Enough to chill the very soul! All you want in a cold coach in mid-winter is to be confronted by a masked highwayman.

Frosted trees and fallen leaves make for a pleasant Christmas greetings card. Taken on a bracing winter's walk

Frosted trees and fallen leaves make for a pleasant Christmas greetings card. Taken on a bracing winter's walk

Cold pools warn of soft, giving earth. You don't want to be knee-deep in this, however pleasant the background looks!

Cold pools warn of soft, giving earth. You don't want to be knee-deep in this, however pleasant the background looks!

Ideal hideouts for highwaymen and 'footpads'...

"What's a'footpad?" I hear you say. Put simply a footpad was a thief or robber who made his or her way around the forest on foot. They had no access to or didn't want to have to stable and feed a horse. It took longer to catch them than the highwaymen who had a higher profile existence, and relied heavily on the loyalty of their associates. Footpads could blend in with their surroundings, dodge under trees where their pursuers on horseback were hampered. Some were servants cast out, who knew every inch of the forest by virtue of their calling.

On the other hand many highwaymen were workshy dandies, like 'Sixteen String Jack', who wore different coloured ties to his plus fours and hose (a pub in Theydon Bois, now under conversion to flats was named after him). On the other hand Richard 'Dick' Turpin was a local man from the Dagenham area of South Essex. Turpin fled to Yorkshire and was apprehended on an unconnected charge of the theft of a black mare and foal in the Doncaster area (the 'Black Bess' legend arose from a misunderstanding in the telling over years). He wrote a letter to his brother requesting a character reference, intercepted by the local postmaster, his former teacher who recognised his handwriting and alerted the authorities to his whereabouts in prison at York Castle. He was hanged at the local execution site at the Knavesmire, now part of the racecourse.

© 2019 Alan R Lancaster

Comments

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 27, 2019:

They're all there, waiting to be found if we've got the time to look, Liz. They're everywhere people haven't got the inclination for discovery, right under our noses.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 26, 2019:

You trace an interesting and well-illustrated trail. We are very fortunate in what some might describe as 'our over-crowded isle' to still have areas of great beauty where we can escape from it all.

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