A post-lockdown Forest walk
On the first day of non-lockdown, 2nd December, six members of the outdoor group gathered at Jacks Hill car park in Epping Forest for a walk. The day was cold but bright with little wind, altogether a pleasant day.
We set off south down the Green Ride and turned off to navigate a steep descent, a scramble across a stream and a climb up to the Deer Sanctuary. This time the deer were far in the distance and as the rut was over, everything was peaceful. We crossed Coppice Row and climbed back up to our starting point. 2.5 miles done and about 4 to go but nobody backed out and so we went down the Green Ride again, this time carrying on south and puffing a bit as we climbed the surprisingly steep ascents. As Phil said, it isn’t a walk unless you work your lungs a bit.
Reaching Loughton Camp we turned right, crossed the Epping Road and made our way to High Beach. Val was all for going down to the biker’s café for bacon and sausage but the rest of us were set on High Beach with its toilets so Val gave in. It is very noticeable that since the pandemic started, the car park at High Beach is crammed full and so it was today. Nevertheless we were served quickly at the little green tea hut – what is it called? – in my case with tea, pasty and fruit cake for a very reasonable £4.80. The pasties at this hut are marvellous!
After an enjoyable rest and chat with some of the many cyclists there we set off again, this time north up the General’s and Verderer’s Rides. We saw the rifle butts and stopped for a moment at the Big View, then on to arrive at the very busy Woodredon Hill where motorists kindly stopped to let us cross, round the back of Wake Arms roundabout and on to cross the Epping Road near the Upshire turning. Across to the Green Ride and south to Jacks Hill where our cars waited. The distance turned out to be 7.5 miles. A nice walk in fine weather and we all agreed that it is so much nicer to talk face to face instead of via Zoom.
Brian U., 2nd December 2020
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.
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)
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.)
Before 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.
Visit to Rainham Marshes
Birds, frogs, bees, teasels, Javelin train HS1, lizards…….. but no coffee!!
On Saturday 12 September myself, Cathy, Richard, Madeleine, Phil and Trev spent a few sunny hours wandering around the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes in Purfleet, armed with lunch, drinks and facemasks!.
Although this is an RSPB reserve, as well as birds we saw a lot of other animals and insects which made it an interesting visit. We saw at least 5 greenish brown lizards basking in the sun all in different places. I counted 12 different birds with a query as to whether we saw a Peregrine or not. We heard and saw Marsh frogs, which were very well hidden in the weed in the waterways. There were also a few damselflies flying above waterways and around us, with the occasional common white butterfly fluttering over the hedgerows.
You would think in an RSPB reserve you would only see birds but apart from the other wildlife we saw various forms of transport, with the railway line for Eurostar, C2C and the Javelin train HS1 running very near to the reserve. It is quite bizarre in that you can look in one direction and see this wonderful wildlife area with reedbeds, waterways, trees, various foliage and then turn around in the other direction and you see huge electric pylons that buzz above you, not to mention the remains of the firing ranges left over from when the area was used by the military.
We had a very relaxed time wandering around to see what we could find. Even though much of the reserve was overgrown and some areas still not open to the public, we had a good time. After months of being left without staff or volunteers to carry out conservation work the reeds and foliage had taken over.
The visitor centre and café at the reserve is not open yet so we were not able to have a coffee at the beginning of the walk or a well earned afternoon cuppa and cake at the end! When seeking out the toilets we had to be careful as we walked around the outside of the visitor centre as there was a bees nest just above our heads with very active bees flying around!. It was well worth the visit on such a lovely day.
Ann W. 13th September 2020
A walk along the Alders Brook, the River Roding and Wanstead Park
On a sunny Sunday 6th September, four of us (Paul, Cathy, Richard & Trevor) met at 12.30 outside the City of London Cemetery for a 4.5 mile walk, led by Paul.
We started off alongside the cemetery towards Rabbits Road, then followed a footpath known as The Bridle Path which ran between the Cemetery and the railway line. Paul related how years ago, when walking home from work down this path, he’d been confronted with a herd of cattle ambling single file the other way. After a bit of a stand-off, he’d persuaded the cattle into turning round on the narrow path and retreating back to Wanstead Flats. Luckily today there were no such incidents.
We carried on down the path, wending our way down towards the Alders Brook. We then followed the brook upstream till we met up with the River Roding. The Alders Brook doesn’t flow into the Roding at this point, but there is a watergate which operates when the brook is too full.
As we followed the Roding through what used to be a sewage works, and is now part of Epping Forest, we came across what appeared to be a small encampment with possibly a shrine. Someone was trying to personalise and even restrict what ought to be a communal recreation area.
Paul explained how sewage works, and other areas with very limited public access, have in the past attracted a variety of birds, and that the Roding acts as a migratory route for some species. We were lucky enough to see a Grey Wagtail and a Little Grebe.
We carried on into Wanstead Park and turned right to go round the largest of the lakes, the Ornamental Water. The water level was very low due to lack of rainfall and even water being diverted for use elsewhere. We saw a couple of Grey Herons, one in exactly the same place as Cathy and I had seen it just a few days before, though it did turn its head so we knew it was real. We went past the Grotto and followed the lake round before cutting through what in springtime would be a bluebell wood to the café for a welcome cuppa before the short walk back to the start.
Richard, 9th September 2020
Eastbrookend Country Park and The Chase Local Nature Reserve
Last Sunday, the 2nd August, Cathy, Richard, Trevor, Madeleine and myself revisited Eastbrookend Country Park and decided to discover a little bit more of the area next to it called The Chase Local Nature Reserve. We crossed over the car park by the Discovery Centre (RM7 0SS) to walk up The Chase, which by the map should lead to the reserve but as we could see water and a lake to our left hand side we decided to do a bit of an investigate and found there were two lakes surrounded by trees. This area was popular with the local fishermen who reminded me of the military in their green camouflage outfits. They seemed to take it very seriously, having set up their fishing tents, etc.
We followed the path around, passing by some Egyptian geese on a tree stump. Further round we reached the River Rom, surrounded by trees and plants and lots of insects! The insects had a lovely feast on Cathy, Madeleine and Richard! I seemed to have escaped with no bites at all even though they started to land on me. We carried on following the river as it meandered around and eventually came out to a small lane, which if you turned left will take you down to Dagenham Road or by turming right, further into the park. We crossed over the lane into The Chase Local Nature Reserve, having been given information by a dog walker with an impressively long beard and powerful looking dog! We crossed over into the nature reserve and came across lots of mounds of horse manure and we were alerted by another dog walker that the horses were running around in the field and to be careful.
We followed a path through the grounds, passing trees, and eventually came across a bird reserve that was fenced off and not open to the public. Shame, as there looked to be a few birds in the distance worth looking at. As a birdwatcher I’m ashamed to say I had not got my binoculars with me and was not able to see what the birds were. Who would know that there were such interesting places tucked away in the depths of Dagenham? Eventually we did see some horses which had hoods over their heads covering their eyes, being led by a lady and taken to a private paddock. Not sure why the horses had their eyes covered but didn’t like to ask. (Probably to protect them from the biting insects. Ed.)
Eventually we came back to Easterbrookend Park, where we sat on some wooden posts for a rest and a chat. There were a circle of these posts, evenly spaced around the mound of soil that we were on top of. Again, not really sure what these were for but it enabled us to socially distance. Maybe they were there from the previous pandemic who knows! It was a pleasant afternoon’s walk.
Ann W. 6th August 2020
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