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Situation and Extent. - Epping Forest is one of the great "Lungs" of London - the largest and in many respects the most important. It is situated in the western part of the County of Essex between the rivers Lea and Roding, and covers an area of 5,542 acres or nearly nine square miles. Its length is upwards of twelve miles from Leytonstone in the south to beyond Epping in the north, while its breadth varies from a quarter of a mile to two miles.
to reach the Forest. - The quickest and most direct
routes to the Forest from London are from Liverpool Street and
Fenchurch Street Stations. The chief points of approach are by Chingford on the
south-west and Loughton
and Theydon Bois on
the east, Epping
in the north, and Leytonstone
in the south.
Short Sketch of its History - In olden times a great
part of Western Essex was "waste" that is, it was uncultivated, and
consisted of open heathery spaces, woodland, and grassy commons. It
belonged to the Crown, and the forest laws of the Norman Kings were in
force. Under these laws (which enacted heavy fines, maiming, torture,
and even death to the unlicensed slayer of a deer or other animals),
the people suffered great hardships, and the grievances became so
burdensome that King John, early in the 13th century was compelled to
restrict their enforcement to that part of Essex known as the Forest of
Waltham, covering an area of 60,000 acres - of which the present Epping
Forest is but a fractional part.
Fight for the Forest. - The great increase of the
population of the country and the necessity for preserving open spaces
for the benefit of the people led to the formation of the Commons
Preservation Society, This Society made great efforts in favour of
preserving Epping Forest, but were for a time unsuccessful. At last
public opinion was aroused, acts of resistance to enclosures frequently
occurred, and by the powerful aid of the Corporation of London the
rights of the people were asserted, and by an Act of Parliament in 1878
the Forest passed out of the hands of the Crown, the Corporation of
London being made the Conservators.
Beauties of the Forest. - Visitors will find in Epping
Forest, within a thirty minute ride of the largest city in the world, a
"veritable paradise of sylvan delights," teeming with features which
fascinate the naturalist, the antiquary and the archaeologist. There
are trees which rival in size and antiquity Burnham's famous beeches, a
vast tropical undergrowth of furze and bracken, and historic
associations rivaling those of Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, or the New
Forest in Hampshire. Here, too, are delightful vistas along sylvan glades
and shady avenues, with frequent crystal sheets of water bordered by a
dense growth of gorse and bracken, bramble, holly and heather, and the
umbrageous foliage of beech and oak.
The Trees of the Forest. - These include the oak, beech (exceedingly fine specimens of which are found at High Beech, Great Monk's Wood and Epping Thicks), hornbeam, birch, maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, crab, cherry, holly and willow. Owing to the right of lopping many of these have a pollard appearance, but since the suppression of the practice the growth of many of these trees has been marvelous and straight trunks have greatly increased.
Plants. - Upwards of five hundred flowering plants have been noted in the Forest. Most of them are common enough, but the diligent searcher may still find others both rare and remarkable. Among the ferns are the common bracken, growing to a great height, the royal male, the polypody and the hart's tongue; while bulrushes, water-lilies, water dock, water-grasses, ranunculas and mare's tail are among the common water plants. When it is known that sixty-eight species of fungi and upwards of ninety mosses have been gathered, it will be seen how great is the harvest of the naturalist in the "garden of delights."
Animals. - Among the animals are the fallow deer and roe deer, found in herds in Monk's Wood and the more northerly parts of the Forest, hares, rabbits, badgers, foxes, stoats, weasels, squirrels, water-rats, mice, hedgehogs, and shrews. The common snake, viper, and slow-worm are still sometimes seen.
- Many rare and uncommon birds either make the Forest
their home or periodically visit it, while the ordinary denizens
include almost all kinds of British birds. The falcon is sometimes
seen, the sparrow-hawk, kestrel, buzzard, owls of many kinds, the rook,
jackdaw, crow, magpie, jay, ousel, and a hundred other smaller birds
are common, while the heron, bittern, coot, grebe and wild duck either
occasionally breed in, or sometimes visit the sheets of water.
When to Visit the Forest. - Those who know it best and love it most think that May or early June, when the trees are all in their glorious spring beauty and emerald freshness, when the hawthorns are white with blossom, and the primrose, wild hyacinth, and wood anemone peep out from mossy banks and October, when the autumn's mellowing tints o'erspread the trees, are the best and most delightful seasons to visit the Forest. But all seasons have their special charm, and June, July, and August, with their long bright summer days, are the favourite with most people, and a drive through the glades by moonlight is especially bewitching. Even in winter, when the trees are bare or only covered with frost and snow, and he waters are crisped with ice, the attraction of the Forest are great.
How to see the Forest. - The map will show that there are many good roads throughout the length and across the breadth of the Forest, and delightful drives may be taken but the charm of the Forest lies in its avenues, by-ways and thickets, along which conveyances cannot penetrate, and many visits to selected parts will be necessary to become thoroughly acquainted with all its beauties. So intricate are many of the actual paths - while in many places the visitor must make his own - that only a general indication can be given of the method of seeing a few of the more favoured spots.
Chingford to High Beech. - The route for driving by
road is plainly indicated on the map, but a most enjoyable walk thither
can be had by going up Rangers Road, past the Royal Forest Hotel and
Queen Elizabeth's Lodge, then skirting the western side of Connaught
Waters to the northern end of the lake.
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