As the newly-elected chairman of the charity which runs Epping Forest, it is my pleasure to write what I hope will be the first of many articles sharing some the work we do to look after this incredible natural environment.
This is an especially exciting time of year, because as we approach the Platinum Jubilee celebrations we have been reflecting on our royal associations with Epping Forest, past, present and future.
For historic royal connections, one only has to bring to mind our wonderful heritage building, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, which is sited right next door to the Epping Forest Visitor Centre in Chingford. This building is an incredible Tudor hunt standing, built at the request of King Henry VIII in 1543 and refurbished by Queen Elizabeth I in 1589, hence the name of the building. The hunt standing, which would have originally had an open upper floor, would have served as an exclusive grandstand building for those in favour with the royal party, to observe the hunt as it moved across Chingford Plain.
Another notable royal visit took place 140 years ago on May 6, 1882 when Queen Victoria visited the Forest, travelling by train to Chingford and then making an onward journey to High Beach, to visit the ancient woodland. This was following the ground-breaking legal battle fought and won by the City of London Corporation, to save Epping Forest from enclosure by private landowners. The Lord Mayor of London invited the Queen to celebrate its salvation with a ceremonial declaration: “It gives me the greatest satisfaction to dedicate this beautiful forest to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time.” Although it was the City of London Corporation that had bought the land for the benefit of the public, the Queen also relinquished her royal hunting rights across the Forest.
The official post of Epping Forest Ranger is held by the Queen’s Cousin, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, who takes a keen interest in the forest. He visited earlier this spring to see how restorative work to the Grotto at Wanstead Park is progressing.
Epping Forest was formally dedicated as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy when Prince Harry visited in 2017 and this year, we are honoured to have recently planted a field maple at Gifford Wood as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative https://queensgreencanopy.org/. We also have some exciting plans to further honour the Jubilee year with a tree planting continuing in Wanstead Flats in the autumn.
Furthermore, Epping Forest has been honoured again, as one of 70 ancient woodlands across the UK recognised by the Queen as part of the Platinum Jubilee as an ‘Ancient Canopy’. Another status which helps us protect this wonderful space for future generations to enjoy.
As the extended bank holiday approaches, I hope you all get a chance to enjoy the beauty of Epping Forest and its glorious royal history. Just one request – please leave it as you find it.
You may also be interested to know that new cycle stands are located across the London borough areas of Epping Forest, making it easier than ever to visit on bikes. Alternatively, you could walk or use public transport where available to help us reduce emissions and further protect the forest.
If you would like any help planning your exploration of ‘London’s Great Forest’, please visit the ‘Where to go in Epping Forest’ page at www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/eppingforest or contact our visitor centre at Chingford on 020 7332 1911 (open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm).
Wishing you all the very best for the Jubilee celebrations!
Ben Murphy is the chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest Committee