Skip to main content
Updated date:

Heritage 63: There Are Trees ... and There Are Trees

"We're off to see the wizard -" He lives around here somewhere, judging by these oddities

Have you seen the like? Somehow maybe the seeds landed in such a way the shoots grew along the ground until suddenly they reached for the sky

Have you seen the like? Somehow maybe the seeds landed in such a way the shoots grew along the ground until suddenly they reached for the sky

Seen from another angle - it looks weird, doesn't it, when you see a tree 'snake along the ground' and suddenly rear up skyward. This is close behind the 1930 Tea Hut near the Robin Hood roundabout on the Epping New Road.

Seen from another angle - it looks weird, doesn't it, when you see a tree 'snake along the ground' and suddenly rear up skyward. This is close behind the 1930 Tea Hut near the Robin Hood roundabout on the Epping New Road.

A bough drops from a tree, nature takes a turn and new shoots grow from the 'orphan' bough. Happens more often than you'd think. Look around next time you visit your local natural woodland.

A bough drops from a tree, nature takes a turn and new shoots grow from the 'orphan' bough. Happens more often than you'd think. Look around next time you visit your local natural woodland.

Ever wondered ...

... How Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks or Snow White felt alone in the woods in the Grimms' fairy tales, the shapes of the trees, branches poking at them as they passed between these tall - gigantic to a child or even a teenager - sentinels of the forest?

You might feel as they did if you were in unfamiliar surroundings. Being there voluntarily, wandering, musing about the shapes and sizes of the tree trunks you'd be content to take in the forest air. In the night time, unaware of where you were any signs of habitation would be welcome... at first.

Still, that's all academic - you're here because you want to be. So enjoy the shapes and sizes of the trees as a visitor. You're my guest, welcome ...


Leaning towers - ever been to a woodland that's level, and yet you get the feeling it isn't?

That gotcha! Maybe somebody tipped a can of lager by the roots and the tree's still suffering from a hangover ...

That gotcha! Maybe somebody tipped a can of lager by the roots and the tree's still suffering from a hangover ...

... Seems that lager reached the roots other lagers couldn't ...

... Seems that lager reached the roots other lagers couldn't ...

... Maybe they went to the same venue and didn't make it all the way home

... Maybe they went to the same venue and didn't make it all the way home

This one's not altogether in the same category. The 'parent' had a definite leaning, but the offspring knew which was was 'up'

This one's not altogether in the same category. The 'parent' had a definite leaning, but the offspring knew which was was 'up'

Of course ...

Some trees would look comical even to a stranger, however they came to be here. The trees above remind me of a drunk old man, unsteady on his feet, feeling around for a lamp post.

The ground where I took these pictures is fairly level - unusual in this forest - but it seems maybe the seeds landed wrongly, or were moved by squirrels. There's no shortage of them around here either! As you can see they lean in either direction, left or right - it's almost as if the wind had selected them from all the others and blown ... hard. The trees are fairly well spaced apart, not close together as in some places in the forest, where trees have grown so closely grouped they've joined up at ground level. Also - I don't know if you've noticed - the trees are 'pollarded', tied together at one time by woodsmen and their branches grown outward. This was for the charcoal burners who worked in certain areas of the forest where there was a predominance of beech trees, their wood suited to charcoal burning which became an industry around the time Queen Victoria opened the woods to the public. When walking around this forest be aware there are trees where the boughs of beeches have dropped to the ground and broken up. Don't walk through the forest on very windy days, it can be dangerous and there's little warning - a loud groan, a creak and a heavy thump on the ground like a mini earthquake where a bough or boughs part with the main tree-cluster.

Life's casualties - old age comes to us all, but some won't take it lying down

Casualty of age, but youth keeps it from rotting on the forest floor ...

Casualty of age, but youth keeps it from rotting on the forest floor ...

Some roots still in the earth, and held up by saplings, another tree lives on ... Just

Some roots still in the earth, and held up by saplings, another tree lives on ... Just

Somebody's used this to erect a sort of practice shelter. Woodcraft Folk often find old trees to festoon with fallen branches,

Somebody's used this to erect a sort of practice shelter. Woodcraft Folk often find old trees to festoon with fallen branches,

Like an old tooth that needs to be extracted, a stump stands defiant. Gravity can wait

Like an old tooth that needs to be extracted, a stump stands defiant. Gravity can wait

Green all around, this old timer won't yield to fate, regardless of whether or not the sap still runs ...

Green all around, this old timer won't yield to fate, regardless of whether or not the sap still runs ...

Often you'll find trees that have fallen ...

They've been in a group of smaller trees or bushes, their fall stopped by a fork in a tree, their roots sometimes still attached to the earth and each year they'll put out new shoots, become heavier and one day the fork can't hold them longer.

The trunk drops to the earth, sometimes the roots still attached to the earth in the hole they left when they first keeled over. Rabbits prosper in these woods, the fallen trees provide 'entrances' to networks of burrows or warrens. They would once have been guarded by a warrener whose job it was to watch the rabbits didn't stray. Over the years when the Norman lords - who brought many more rabbits, provided as ready food supplies by King Alfonso of Aragon to William in support of his invasion or crusade to oust King Harold (seen on the Continent as a usurper). The rabbits became a pest when they finally escaped the warrens, mingled with those rabbits that had become established in England from the time of the Romans ...

But we're not here to discuss the rabbits or why they're here. They've become denizens of the forest, part of the fixtures and fittings. along with many non-native tree species.

Like bad teeth, old stumps litter the floor, some barely more than roots

The same earth used anew ... These saplings are close together and may one day grow into one, and compete for moisture

The same earth used anew ... These saplings are close together and may one day grow into one, and compete for moisture

A 1970's London Buses advertising slogan ran, "Our routes pass your branches". There are no branches near these roots

A 1970's London Buses advertising slogan ran, "Our routes pass your branches". There are no branches near these roots

... Whereas somebody's cut very close to the ground here, and exposed the rings that give the tree's age. No great age in Epping Forest terms, though

... Whereas somebody's cut very close to the ground here, and exposed the rings that give the tree's age. No great age in Epping Forest terms, though

Signs of decay proliferate in the forest ...

Managed by the City of London authorities, the forest is nevertheless allowed to grow naturally, and consequently - as natural woodland does - trees age and deteriorate. Deterioration doesn't necessarily mean rampant decay, where diseases run wild through species.

Steps are taken to arrest tree diseases, but that's not simple deterioration due to old age. Just as we grow old, need support and eventually die, so do trees. Their 'failure' just happens to be more publicly witnessed. Some trees don't keel over with age and stand like decaying teeth, trunks eaten away by insects and predatory growth such as fungi. Often with their death they make way for saplings that grow from seeds the mother tree dropped in their later life. Their decay feeds the new growth. Sometimes a tree is cut by forestry workers to prevent the spread of disease, its roots are still alive, active and a sapling or saplings push(es) through the cut or next to it, arching out and upwards to catch the light. Again, fungi proliferate on one side of the root and feed on the dampness.

Often again, mosses gather around the truncated roots, grow thickly on the damp so you'll find mosses and fungi feeding together. Which wins is one of life's success stories, one species versus or alongside another.

Lastly ... Aged ...Bowed maybe, but still leafy

Looks like a pair of trees wrapped closely around each other. I nicknamed this 'the elephant tree' (you might've seen it from the more obvious angle in an earlier page on this forest, reputedly the oldest in England at least)

Looks like a pair of trees wrapped closely around each other. I nicknamed this 'the elephant tree' (you might've seen it from the more obvious angle in an earlier page on this forest, reputedly the oldest in England at least)

Finally, life's mysteries combine in one tree

It might look hideous now, but once upon a time this tree could've looked normal. It could be the case that, in order to reach for the sunlight, this tree 'turned' on its axis, and turned again. Look at it from another angle and an elephant's or mammoth's head appears to glower at you - or even (if you squint a short while) a courting couple.

Where it turned, and turned again it produced something like an elbow, that became a head when the trunk turned once more. It's either a very old tree, or its shape belies its age. The jury's probably still out on that one.

I hope you've enjoyed your pictorial trip through the south-eastern corner of the main Epping Forest area. There are other pages that cover different aspects of the forest from some of its human visitors - past and present - to its four-legged inhabitants. And its well-rooted inhabitants.

Walk carefully through the forest ...

© 2021 Alan R Lancaster

Related Articles