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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.

   How 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.
   Ordinary single fares to Chingford are 1/5, 1/1, and 10d. - to Loughton 2/-, 1/5, and 1/1. But cheap daily return excursion tickets are issued during the summer to either station at a third class return fare of 1/- and to Theydon Bois for 1/3.
   It is now possible to reach Chingford from the remotest parts of London by tram alone, through Leytonstone and Leyton.

   A 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.
   During the reigns of earlier Tudor Sovereigns the Crown rights were for a time vested in the religious houses, such as Waltham and Barking Abbeys, and from the Forest they derived a great part of their sustenance and revenues. But on the dissolution of the monasteries at the time of the Reformation the rights again reverted to the Crown.
   The necessities of Charles 1. led him to adopt various expedients for increasing his revenues. At one time the extension of the Royal Forests was tried, so that he might exact exorbitant fines from those who held land within the enlarged boundaries. In the case of Waltham Forest its complete afforestation was attempted, and this would have done away with many of the privileges enjoyed by the people, great discontent was caused, and this led to the intervention of the Long Parliament, which prevented its destruction and defined its boundaries.
   Among the privileges claimed by the people were the right of pasturing their cattle in the forest, the right of pannage, and of lopping the trees for firewood. To preserve the rights of the Crown and enforce the forest laws Forest Courts were established, and fines and various punishments were inflicted, but many were willing to undergo the risk so long as they could add to their larder a good fat buck or other animal beside their other privileges.
   The forest laws remained in force till the beginning of the 19th century, and were effective in preventing encroachments on its area, till some of the Lords Warden of the Forest betrayed their trust, and made money for themselves by permitting enclosures, and letting the laws fall into abeyance.
    By the middle of the 19th century wholesale enclosures had taken place, and in 1851 the commissioners of Woods and Forests recommended, and Parliament sanctioned, the complete destruction of that part of the forest called Hainault Forest, which actually took place. Within the next twenty years, of the 6,000 acres which the Forest then covered, at least half were enclosed and partially built upon.

   The 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.
   By this Act Epping Forest is no longer a Royal Forest, the rights of the Commoners are defined and confirmed, and 5,542 acres are preserved for the use of the public for ever as "an open space for recreation and enjoyment" The natural aspect of the Forest must now be preserved, so that persons may here study nature unaffected by art.

   The 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.
   From the higher points may be seen a great expanse of surrounding country, the valleys of the Thames and the Lea, and the plains of Essex; and the tired citizen may enjoy all these delights, "far from the madding crowd," at a very trifling outlay.

   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.

   Birds. - 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.
   Moths and Butterflies are found in large numbers, upwards of sixty kinds having been enumerated, while beetles and other insects abound.

   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.

   From 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.
   From thence there is a clearing which leads past "Grimston's Oak," one of the "monarchs of the Forest." Bearing to the right it opens into the road through Fairmead and past Fairmead Lodge, from which the route is direct to the King's Oak on High Beech Hill. Here a splendid view of the surrounding country is to be obtained. A short distance further up the road will be found the "Queen's Oak," planted by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the dedication of the Forest. The visitor will find plenty of accommodation for refreshment in the neighbourhood.
   High Beech Church, "the church in the Forest," built by the late Mr. Baring, who resided at Leppit's Hill, is in the vicinity. The churchyard contains the tomb of Viscount Horncastle, first Mayor of Hackney.
   High Beech may be reached also by road through the Forest from Loughton (2 miles). Pedestrians should enter the Forest by Staples Pond at the foot of Staples Hill, the hill being crossed diagonally to Loughton Camp, an ancient British Camp. Thence a very beautiful view is obtained of the Forest southwards. On nearing Blackweir Hill a broad avenue leads to the King's Oak, a short distance from High Beech.
   From High Beech to Loughton. - The return journey (3 miles) might be varied by going northwards from King's Oak about half a mile crossing eastwards to the Epping Road by Wake Valley Pond, descending through Monk's Wood, by Baldwin's Hill and Staples's Hill to Staple's Pond.
   The Ambersbury Banks, the supposed site of the defeat of Boadicea is best reached from Theydon Bois. Passing Theydon Green and proceeding along Coppice Row to the Almshouses, the Forest can then be entered. Crossing the Epping Road, the Warren, the chief haunt of the deer, may be visited. The return may be made by the Wake arms, through the Furze Ground and Debden Green to Loughton.
   Further excursions can be made as fancy leads to Chigwell, with its Church, Grammar School and gabled inn, "The King's Head" (the "Maypole" of "Barnaby Rudge"); to Waltham, with its Abbey, built by Harold, and said also to have been his burying place; to Chingford Old Church or to Yardley Hill, from either of which fine views of the country and Forest are to be obtained; and to Epping, with its lower forest.
   In addition to the natural delights of the Forest, there are many attractions and arrangements for the comfort of visitors at Queen Elizabeth's Lodge, at Hawkwood and Fairmead, at High Beech and a score of other places in or around the Forest refreshments can be obtained.
   Provision for golf and other games is made; horses, donkeys, and conveyances can be engaged for rides and drives, boating may be had on Connaught Water, and fishing may be indulged in on all the waters except during the close season.


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