As we approach the summer solstice on June 21, we begin our transition into the long-awaited summer months. The trees are now in full leaf, the bright flowers are in bloom, bringing cheer to the meadows and verges, and the wildlife is making the most of the warmer weather in Epping Forest.
The change of season is also reflective of changes in many of our own lives, as we recover from the pandemic. I’m pleased to report that there is much to celebrate in Epping Forest.
We have been delighted to see beautiful wildflower meadows flourish at the site of what was the temporary mortuary facility on Wanstead Flats and at Whipps Cross, newly created as part of the redevelopment of the highway, now thriving and no doubt benefiting the happy local pollinators.
In September last year, we planted a 42-acre wildflower meadow at Patmore’s Field in High Beach, part of the Buffer Lands surrounding Epping Forest, as part of the City of London Corporation’s Carbon Removals Project. Many people will know about the important role trees play in removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, but did you know that wildflowers also play a very important role in using the energy of sunlight, through the process of photosynthesis, in removing carbon dioxide?
As part of this process the flowers convert CO2 into plant matter, releasing oxygen into the air and locking the CO2 into plant material through their roots and into the soil.
Did you also know, that when trees die, they release some carbon back into the air – one of the many reasons we spend so much time actively managing our 55,000 ancient trees in Epping Forest.
This project is part of the City Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy which commits it to achieving net zero carbon emissions for its own operations by 2027.
Another very welcome sight at this time of the year is the longhorn cows grazing happily around many forest locations. This summer, to celebrate the work of the longhorns and to highlight why it’s so important to have the cows out in the ancient woodland, we have a new exhibition at the Epping Forest Visitor Centre at Chingford (E4 7QH) ‘The Cow in the Woods’. This exhibition is free of charge and is on until September 18, open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. As part of this exhibition there will be two adult art activity days, on June 21 and July 6.
We are also excited to host our biggest ever season of Open Air Theatre at The Temple in Wanstead Park this year. There’s a full and varied programme which kicked off with Peter Pan on June 4. Forthcoming shows include Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pirates of Penzance, Beatrix Potter, and The Reluctant Dragon.
For full details of all the events on offer this summer, visit www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/eppingforest
Having recently celebrated Volunteer Week, may I add my personal thanks to all of the unsung heroes of Epping Forest. From litter pickers to conservationists, from trustees to Verderers, I am astonished at the volume of helping hands which allow us to operate this special charity for millions to enjoy. Thank you!
Ben Murphy is the Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest & Commons Committee