Increased risk of wildfires in Epping Forest during heatwave

Increased risk of wildfires in Epping Forest during heatwave | Epping Forest Guardian

Increased risk of wildfires in Epping Forest during heatwave | This Is Local London

I hope you are all enjoying the beauty of high summer in Epping Forest.

A time when the shade of the ancient woodland offers a pleasant escape from the heat of the sun on those exceptionally warm days.

The warmer weather also offers the ideal opportunity for a picnic with family and friends.

However, the heat and increased visitor numbers also pose a threat to the forest’s health.

Our biggest risk at this time of year is wildfires, which is why barbecues and the lighting of fire is not permitted in the Forest.

Even fires raised from the floor can be a hazard causing a transfer of heat or sparks igniting dry grass or plants nearby. It happens more often than you think!

Did you know that discarding cigarettes and leaving glass bottles in the Forest can also be a cause of forest fire?

Carelessly leaving lit cigarettes or glass in the woodland, even from cars passing through the Forest, can, and does cause wildfires.

As many of you may recall, there have been some significant fires in Epping Forest, including the largest ever grass fire in London on Wanstead Flats in 2018 where 225 firefighters fought to protect the Forest.

The dry summer we have so far experienced also has an impact on the ponds and rivers in the Forest and many of the smaller ponds have completely dried up.

In Wanstead Park, where the adjacent River Roding is at 39 per cent of its usual water levels had left even the larger ponds dry in some areas.

Although we pump water into them every day, it is not enough to fill the ponds which desperately need rainfall.

We have put measures in place to protect wildlife, but please remember that if it does rain on our picnics, it is a blessing for our natural environment.

On a more positive note, we celebrated the government’s Planning Inspectorate decision to block a large distribution centre in Waltham Abbey, proposed by Next Plc, which was just a quarter of a mile from the most protected area of the Forest.

As Conservators, we were delighted with this decision, which further strengthens the planning protection of the local landscape character and preservation of the green belt.

I would like to thank the officers and volunteers who work tirelessly to defend Epping Forest against inappropriate development and air pollution.

We recognise the need for development and work closely with local authorities to create robust local plans which set out the planning framework and mitigation to damage it may cause to the Forest.

It is encouraging that both Epping Forest District Council and the government’s Planning Inspectorate continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the City of London Corporation in recognising the importance of protecting Epping Forest.

Of course, as well as protecting and conserving this unique landscape, it is important that it continues to be somewhere for people to enjoy their recreation.

We encourage you to visit our website www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/eppingforest to find out more about the many ways you can relax, or enjoy activities in the Forest.

We are also offering some wonderful events this summer season.

Please visit the website to find out about the Open Air Theatre season which continues in Wanstead Park with two wonderful family shows; The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny on 10 August and The Reluctant Dragon on 19 August.

We hope you may be able to join us for these ever-popular summer holiday events.

Ben Murphy is the Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest & Commons Committee

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