urban75 walk club: Epping Forest in the spring
Report by urban75 editor, April 2005
A walk through Epping Forest, Essex.
Loughton tube station, Essex
Loughton has had three stations - the first was opened in 1856 but when the line extended to Ongar in 1865 it started just short of the old terminus with a new Loughton station. The original became a goods yard which lasted until 1966 and I remember it well.
The replacement 1865 station was deemed unsuitable for tube trains and the current station was opened on 28th April 1940, just slightly east of the 1865 one.
The line was electrified and incorporated into London Underground (Central Line eastern extension) on the 9th September 1949.
Station sign with covered up Ongar branch
At Epping (one stop up from Theydon Bois), tube passengers used to be able to enjoy a ride on a delightfully anachronistic country branch line to the small town of Ongar.
Opened by the Eastern Counties Railway on 1 April 1865, the Ongar branch was mainly used for taking agricultural produce from the nearby farms into central London.
British Rail steam locomotives ran a shuttle service from Epping to Ongar from 1949 to 1957 before the line was electrified and incorporated into the Central Line.
I rode the Ongar branch several times before it closed on September 30, 1994 - see history of the Epping to Ongar railway
Happily, the line is currently in the process of reopening as a preserved line: Epping Ongar Railway website.
Railway Tavern, Loughton, Essex
True to tradition, we met up in a pub and enjoyed a few pints before setting off.
The Railway Tavern is conveniently right next to Loughton station, and their friendly staff served up a fine set of sandwiches. The beer wasn't bad either!
Group shot, Railway Tavern, Loughton
Getting this lot to stay in one place long enough to take this photo was a bit like herding cats, but here's the all-important 'about to start the walk' shot.
On the march
Heading to Epping Forest through Theydon Bois (pronounced 'boys').
The town is listed in the Domesday Book as having a mighty population of 10, which had risen to the heady heights of 538 hardy souls in 1841.
The railway arrived in 1865, with gas following in 1872.Water was piped in during 1879 with the 1931 census reporting a population of 1,504 in 395 households.
By 1991, the village had grown to 1,530 households with a population of 3,946.
Passing Theydon Green
Walking west out of Theydon Bois past Theydon Green.
I'm sure you'll be as thrilled as me to learn that Theydon Bois won the Essex 'Best Kept Village' award in 2004. Go Boisy!
Sixteen String Jack, Theydon Bois
This unusual pub name refers to Jack Rann who was hanged at the age of 24 in 1774.
Despite his young age, saucy Jack had packed a lot into his short life, managing to be tried and acquitted six times for highway robbery.
It turns out Jack was a dandy, described as being "remarkably clean and neat in his dress and always with sixteen silken strings tying his breeches to his knees and a satin waistcoat laced with silver".
The key to Jack's success in court was that he always carried out his crimes wearing a mask and dressed like a scruffbag.
Whenever he swanned into court in his Sunday finest, witnesses were unable to believe that he could possibly be the same guy, and was thus acquitted.
Jack became unstuck after he robbed Doctor Bell, a chaplain to Frederick the Great of Prussia, whose political connections ensured that Jack met the hangman's rope.
Sadly, we didn't get chance to investigate the pub, but word is that it's well worth a visit!
Stomping through Epping Forest, Essex
Formerly a Royal Hunting Forest, Epping forest stretches for over 12 miles from Manor Park in the south, through the eastern fringes of Waltham Forest, to Thornwood in Essex.
The forest covers over 6,000 acres - two thirds of which are woodland and one third rough grazing land and water - and is protected by the Epping Forest Act of 1878.
The area has been wooded for centuries with a history of ancient 'common' rights and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Bog trouble in Epping Forest,
Griff's 'ad-hoc' style of walk leadership meant that several people got very acquainted with this stream which was surrounded by a glutinous bog.
Here you can see a fellow walker slowly sinking into the mud, while there appears to be some confusion as to where we should all be heading at this point.
Lost trainer in the mud
A leap across the stream into a super-sticky mud bank resulted in one of Eme's trainers literally vanishing.
After some quagmire-tastic rummaging around, the shoe was thankfully recovered, albeit a little browner than before.
Walking through the forest
Epping Forest is one of the last parts of the great oak forests that surrounded London until medieval times and harbours over 360 rare plants and animal species.
Here you can see the urban75 mob slowly disappearing into the distance.
Epping Forest view
The forest is a beautiful place to roam around on an afternoon, although a tourist leaflet warns, 'be careful - although the forest is never more than a mile from a road, it is still very easy to get lost here.'
I think it's fair to say we won't be arguing with that statement!
Epping Forest view
We didn't manage to see any, but apparently there's about 500 deer roaming around in the forest, with a deer sanctuary nearby.
Epping Forest is the largest public open space in the London area, measuring 19km x 4km.
In the second half of the 19th century, great chunks of the forest were being enclosed for development with precious little regard for commoners' rights or the public's recreational needs.
The landmark legal battle against the enclosures resulted in two ground-breaking Acts of Parliament being passed in 1878.
The first entrusted the ownership and care of Epping Forest to the Corporation of London, while the second made similar provisions for other open spaces under similar threat.
Over the hill, Epping Forest
Heading over a hill, with Jake at the front of the party.
Plume Of Feathers, Loughton
I think it's fair to say that this wasn't the destination pub that 'circular' Griff had in mind, but after trudging through the forest we were ready for a pint and a bite to eat.
Sadly, the pub wouldn't let children under 14 set foot in the place (even in the afternoon), and would only let them sit in the concrete 'garden' if an adult bought them some food. Not exactly welcoming, then.
We took a look inside the bland, Wetherspoon-a-like interior and decided to beat it back into town.
Heading off from the pub
Suitably unimpressed with the pub, we decided to walk the mile or so to Debden station...
Trees, Debden, Essex
Debden is essentially one big housing estate, built between 1947-1952 as a place to rehouse Londoners who had lost their homes during the Second World War.
Wikipedia explains that Debden is "not recognised on most roadmaps and usually combined with Loughton, which can lead to some class divides between "old" Loughton and the "new" estate"
We found it a horrible place - bland, soulless and depressing with long featureless roads dominated by exhaust-spewing SUV drivers and wildly accelerating motorbikers.
So I took a picture of some nice trees instead.
Debden tube station
I'm sure that Debden is really a lovely place full of charming people, but we couldn't wait to get out of the place.
I'm afraid that the only good memory I have of the place is the chocolate machine on the station which managed to dish out two bars by mistake.
(Thanks to David Bosher for additional Loughton station info).