Another walk in the south of Epping Forest

On Thursday 17th September, Jinan, Lynne, Phil, Marian and Jenefer joined me for a repeat of the walk which some other EFOG members did on 6th September.

We started promptly at mid day, and I chose a slightly different route at the beginning. This took us on to Manor Park Flats – part of Wanstead Flats otherwise known as ‘The Triangle’. This enabled a long-distance view westwards, right across to the Highgate Hills, 8 miles away. It was difficult to make out the group of walkers near Highgate looking back towards the Flats.

As well, I was able to point out the roof of the early 19th Century manor house from which the area ‘Manor Park’ gets its name. Prior to that, what small community there was (before the coming of the railway, really) was called Little Ilford. On the Flats here is the recent site of one of the temporary mortuaries, set up for the Coronavirus (C19) epidemic. Now this has been dismantled, the ground has been tilled and seeded with wildflowers in the hope of producing a meadow.

We passed through the remains of a circle of tree on the Triangle, once surrounding Newham’s Cold War Command Centre. It remains buried underground, but we saw a pile of concrete blocks, evidently remains of the more above-ground part of the structure, disturbed in the recent usage. I was also able to point out the most southerly tree in Epping Forest – quite a fun fact, I thought, and a surprise to some as they hadn’t realised Wanstead Flats is an integral part of the Forest.

This part of the Flats was for a long time the assembly point for cattle drives from distant parts of the country, assembling here for the London markets. The cattle that to some extent continued this tradition ceased to roam from further up in the Forest to cause enjoyment, consternation and wonder to locals and visitors, in 1996. This was after the mid 1990s BSE ("Mad Cow Disease") and later Foot and Mouth meant that no more cattle were released.

Leaving the Forest at Rabbits Road bridge (there was once a warren here), we walked the half kilometre length of footpath which separates the cemetery from the railway. It is quite narrow, and not the sort of place you would want to meet a herd of bullocks wishing to go in the opposite direction to yourself. Which is exactly what happened to me years ago. I told the little group the tale (tall or broad as it may seem), and assured them that I did manage to persuade the 50-odd head to turn back so that I could get home.

sw 200917 30967artEntering Aldersbrook Exchange Lands (Epping Forest) near the River Roding.The Aldersbrook, to which the path gradually descends, was totally dry. I have never seen that before. It is certainly nothing to do with global warming, I am sure! A young lady was cropping wild plants, and gradually tidying up what can – or could – be a lovely area, whilst some young men were lurking in the nearby undergrowth. I have no reason to believe there was any connection between those two activities, just people – like ourselves – doing their own thing.

Reaching the Roding, the encampment and shrine mentioned by Trevor in his write-up of the previous walk (see here) was still present, although changes had been made. I have mentioned this to the Conservators of Epping Forest by means of their email contact, but have not even received an acknowledgement. Our little group did have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of this – as I put it ‘personalisation’ of the Forest – but whatever they may be I feel deeply about this, as it really is one of my favourite local places and its ambience is – for me – spoilt. I shan’t be going there again.

We were back in Epping Forest, but as I explained, a somewhat unique part of the Forest as it used to be a sewage works. But that’s another and longer story. (see here if you want it)

wp 200917 30980artThe Grotto in Wanstead Park. The vegetation in the foreground should be the Ornamental Waters!Leaving ‘The Old Sewage Works’, or Aldersbrook Exchange Lands, as Epping Forest will have it, we entered another unique part of the Forest – Wanstead Park. Most of you will know now that this was the grounds of a great house, and has different bye-laws to the rest of Epping Forest. We walked anti-clockwise around the largest lake, the Ornamental Water, but it isn’t very ornamental at the moment, as so much of it has dried up and even vegetated over. Again, this has nothing to do with global warming.

Chalet Wood – now increasingly known as 'the bluebell wood' – looked a bit messy, as the deterrent logs, set to indicate pathways, have either rotted or been moved, and that often to build ‘wigwam’ style shelters. This seems to be a very popular sport or exercise, perhaps some form of woodcraft, but the logs were put there to protect the bluebells and allow them to increase. It’s an example of differing requirements in a busy park. Unfortunately – like so much that man is doing to our environment either deliberately or unintentionally – the environment suffers for it. And ultimately, so will man himself – if we aren’t already. (cough, wheeze, lack of sense of smell, etc.)

200917 wp cattle artA distant view of Quinny, Nina and Naru, the English Longhorns on their first day in Wanstead ParkBefore pausing for half an hour or so in the sunshine at Wanstead Park’s nice little refreshment kiosk, we were lucky to catch sight of Quinny, Nina and Naru. These are three English Longhorn cows, brought only that day to the park from further up in the Forest as a trial to see how they get on. If successful, we may once again have cattle in the south of Epping Forest! These are not the (sort of Frisian) bullocks that used to roam freely, mentioned earlier, and they are G.P.S. constrained to only keep to certain areas of Wanstead Park, but so many people around here are so excited to have cattle back, or to see cattle here. That might have been shown by the enthusiasm of herds of – not cows – children running towards them! They are not petting animals, and local people and visitors will need to understand that if the cattle are to enjoy being here, and for the trial to be successful, then the cows’ needs will have to be respected.

We arrived back at the City of London Cemetery gates, from where we had started, at something like 4pm, having covered something like 4.5 miles.

Paul Ferris. 20th September 2020.