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
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...
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.
Your money or your life!"
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
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.