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Epping Forest, London

Epping Forest is a large area covering 2,400 hectares (5,900 acres) across Greater London and Essex County. The area of woodlands and grasslands lies on a ridge between the valleys of the River Lea and River Roding. It stretches a distance of 19 km (12 miles) in a north-south direction and not more than 4 km (2.5 miles) at its widest point.

Epping Forest features ancient woodlands, grasslands, heaths, marshes, rivers, streams, bogs, lakes and ponds as well as a diversity of wildlife. Once a royal forest, the City of London Corporation owns and manages Epping Forest. The range of habitats that the vast area supports makes it valuable for the various species of wildlife that thrive here. Three-quarters of the area is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.

  Epping Forest by Chmee2

About

Initially known as Waltham Forest, it was once a royal forest used as a hunting ground by King Henry II in the 12th century. King Henry permitted commoners to gather wood and graze their livestock in the forest but not to hunt. By the 17th century, the forest was a tenth of its original size and officially recorded as Epping Forest. It ceased to be a royal forest under the Epping Forest Act 1878 and placed under the management of the London local authority. In 1882, Queen Victoria declared Epping Forest opened to the public.

See & Do

Epping Forest is a vast area comprising over 50 distinct environments or habitats. Beyond the scenic walks, there are opportunities for mountain biking, fishing, horse riding and orienteering. Sports facilities include an 18-hole public golf course and 60 football pitches. Several roads crossing the forest and car parks located at various points make Epping Forest very accessible. Some parts are crowded especially on weekends but gets quieter if you wonder from the main paths. It’s best to make a trip to one of the three visitor centres for a map and information leaflets to make the most of your visit.

Visitor centre at Epping Forest by Acabashi

About two thirds of Epping Forest is woodlands while the rest comprises of grasslands and marshes. Common trees include oak, beech, birch and hornbeam. Others include maple, sycamore, chestnut, hazel, pine, plane and elm. In spring and summer, varieties of wildflowers such as bluebells, anemones, daisies and knapweeds bloom in an assortment of colours. There are also varieties of scrubs dwelling on the grasslands including blackthorn, buckthorn, holly and gorse. The diversity of habitats at Epping Forest attracts various wildlife including deer, bats, rabbits, vole, snakes, newts and various insects.

View from Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge by Ethan Doyle White

There are over 40 walking paths or trails across Epping Forrest ranging from the short to long walks. Short walks are generally less than 8 km (5 miles), moderate walks 8-16 km (5-10 miles) and long walks more than 16 km (10 miles). Wear a good pair of hiking boots or shoes since some areas can get quite muddy. Also, bring along sufficient fluids and food since such amenities may not be nearby during the walk. The short routes are easy to complete and suitable for those with young children. The moderate routes can take 3-5 hours and long routes longer if walking at a moderate pace with short tops during the walk.

Epping Forest has over 100 lakes and ponds with many located nearby the walking paths. Some are works of nature but most are man-made from excavation works including some intentionally created as part of the landscape. There are also a few created by bombs dropped during World War II! Freshwater fishes thrive in the lakes and ponds including trout, perch, chub, carp and pike. Epping Forest is an angler’s paradise with a quarter of the lakes and ponds allowed for fishing!

Frosty Lake at Epping Forest by John Davies

Visiting Epping Forest

Visit any of the three visitor centres for information, maps and leaflets including the Epping Forest Visitor Centre at Paul's Nursery Road, The View next to the Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge at Rangers Road and The Temple in the middle of Wanstead Park. Epping Forest opens 24 hours throughout the year though the visitor centres open only during the day. The nearest London Underground station is Epping Forest Station serving the Central Line and the nearest London Overground station is Chingford Station serving the Chingford Branch Line of the Lea Valley Lines network.

Epping Forest on the Map

The Warren, Loughton, Essex, IG10 4RW, UK

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