epping forest

Ken Hoy's
Getting To Know
Epping Forest


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An updated, expanded edition of this Classic text book published by FoEF/proceeds go to FoEF -
was published in July 2010

Ken Hoy's Getting To Know Epping Forest

The Book now contains over 220 pages, packed with natural and historical information about the Forest,
referring to at least 300 place names,
and is well-served by 200 excellent (colour and b+w) photographs, maps and illustrations.
If bought from the Friends, the book will cost 8.95. Copies can be obtained from
Judy Adams
2 High View Close, Loughton, Essex
IG10 4EG
Please send Cheques payable to 'The Friends of Epping Forest'
if ordered by post, add 2.50(for each book) for p+p
(and enclose delivery details, please)
Below you can read some samples of the quality of the writing.
Fairmead Bottom: this is a large open area in the centre of the Forest, west of the Epping New Road and between Ranger's Road and the Robin Hood roundabout. On an early map there appears to have been 'Fairmead Bottom-Chingford' and 'Fairmead Bottom-Loughton'. The former included the area, which was once open but is now the scrubland either side of the Red Path and around Connaught Water continuing on to what is now called Chingford Plain. Thus it was overlooked by Henry VIII's hunting grandstand called 'The Greate Standinge' ('Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge') built in 1543 in the great Deer Park he enclosed at that time. Fairmead Bottom-Loughton, also part of the park, extended from Hill Wood across Warren Hill to Buckhurst Hill. The Forest Superintendent's house, 'The Warren', was once an Inn called 'The Reindeer', but at an earlier time it was also a grandstand or a hunting lodge overlooking both parts of the Park. At the northern end of the Fairmead Deer Park, where Hill Wood rises above the low-lying plain, stood a third hunting lodge called 'The New Lodge' although it existed before 1543. Fairmead Bottom was probably best known in the first half of this century for the great and ancient oak that grew on the slope above the northern end of Fairmead Bottom. It last bore leaves at the very beginning of the Twentieth century and the surviving dead trunk and branches was destroyed by fire in the 1950's. Guesses about its age varied from 500 to a 1,000 years - 700 or 800 being most likely. On the Chapman & Andre map, surveyed in 1772/3, an error or humorous cartographer named the area Fairmaid Bottom!
Hill Wood: This is the hill to the north of Fairmead Bottom. The Fairmead road runs down the hill from 'Miller's tea-hut' near the Robin Hood. The Forest rises some 150 feet from Fairmead Bottom to the top of Hill Wood near High Beach Church. Hill Wood is formed from the layer of stiff clay and gravels, called the Claygate Beds, which lie on top of the London Clay of Fairmead Bottom. The Bagshot sand bed, a layer of yellow sand that covers parts of High Beach, caps the Claygate Beds. Rainwater draining through the sand appears as a line of springs in damp hollows just below the road that passes the Church. These become the small streams that start at the top of Hill Wood where the bed of sand meets the clay. The streams quickly become one and run down through Fairmead Bottom into Connaught Water. The site of the ancient Fairmead Oak was on the lower slope of Hill Wood. Fairmead Lodge, which was demolished in 1898, was just to the west of the Oak. Fairmead Lodge was originally an old Royal Hunting Lodge, that although called 'New Lodge', was in fact older than the so called Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge that was built in 1543 by Henry VIII.
Chingford Plain, is the large open plain that stretches from Connaught Water westwards behind the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge to Pole Hill, Henry VIII probably created it when he formed his Deer Park briefly in the middle of the sixteenth century, but of course it may have existed previously. In the nineteenth century about 1860 it was ploughed and farmed. The ridges can still be seen on the Golf Course and the eastern part of the Plain. In 1940 deep ditches and piles of soil were formed across the Plain to counter the threat of landings by German gliders. Also during the War a barbed wire compound was made in the northeast corner of the Plain to create a dump for unexploded bombs. The fuses had been removed of course.
Dannet's Hill is the name of the hill where The Hunting Lodge, The Royal Forest Hotel, Barn Hoppit, the name of the enclosure containing The Connaught Tennis Club, Butler's Retreat, which is an old Tythe Barn, and Warren Pond are situated.
Magpie Hill : This is another old name shown on Buxton's map of 1882. as being west of Connaught Water near the NE corner of Chingford Plain. However, there is no hill there! The name probably should be applied to the rise of the land from the Plain towards Grimston's Oak. Cuckoo Brook drains the West Essex golf course from the Bury Road near Gilwell and from the land to the north as far as the Owl P.H. Near Ludgate House it enters the Forest and passes under the three rides before joining the overflow from Connaught Water. From thereon the combined flow of water becomes the River Ching. It used to be said locally that you could find "pot-boilers" in the bed of the stream. These were reputed to be large flints used by "early man" to boil water after they were heated in a fire. Those shown to me had certainly been cracked and crazed by heat! Like most of the Forest streams it is a 'natural' stream that contains at least one 'ox-bow' - disused meander loop.
Connaught Water, the construction of this eight-acre ornament water started in 1883. It was enlarged in 1893 and the islands made. The area already contained a small swampy pool fed by the drainage from Hill Wood, Fairmead Bottom and Thicket. In those early days the Conservators were concerned to drain the Forest to improve it for Commoners cattle and to increase access safely. According to Buxton, Fairmead Bottom was then swampy and covered in rushes. The early policies of the first Superintendent of the Forest, Mr D'Oyley, included improving amenities for the public by drainage, creating ponds and lakes and improvement of tracks into roads. The new lake was named after the newly appointed first Ranger of the Forest the Duke of Connaught, as was the new road, The Ranger's Road. The catchment area of Connaught Water is the woodland and plains northwards to High Beach from where the water is concentrated into two streams entering at the NE and NW corners of the lake. The lake was, and is, a popular spot where until recently boating was licensed. Skiffs and canoes could be hired by the hour. In hard winters it was popular with skaters. Fishing is controlled by an Angling society. Its reputation and records of a variety of wild fowl is considerable (especially at dawn in winter!).
Pole Hill: Is perhaps the most well known hill in the Forest. It is the subject of a locally common myth that it is "the highest point in Essex". It is 299 feet or 91 m. above sea level. But High Beach Church is 360 feet or 110 m. and Ambresbury Banks over 380 feet or118 m.! However it is justifiably famous because the line of zero longitude - the Greenwich Meridian - passes through it, as also of course it does through Walthamstow and Leyton, but on Pole Hill it is marked by an Obelisk that was the 'North' sighting point for the Greenwich Observatory telescope. Therefore, if you visit it, you can step from the Eastern into the Western Hemisphere ! A plaque on the Obelisk gives interesting details. From the mid-nineteenth century until 1930 a large brickfield (now built over) existed to the southwest and clay from that side of the hill was excavated for the bricks. It is well known locally that Lawrence of Arabia purchased several small plots of land on the top of the hill and built a hut and swimming pool there and was a frequent visitor. In 1930 the Corporation acquired the land from Lawrence and the top and southern side of the hill were added to the north slope, which had been part of the Forest since 1878. Lawrence's timber hut was demolished, renovated and re-erected at The Warren, The Epping Forest Office and HQ. If you have not been to Pole Hill, go! - The view from the top is very fine!
Little Wake Ponds. These are a little south of Wake Valley Pond, one being either side of the road. There is a third small pond on the east side of the road opposite the large Wake valley pond. At least the two southern ponds do date from the construction of the embankment of the road across the Wake Valley. They were dug then, in the 1830's, to provide the extra material for the embankment. The deposition of silt over time has caused all of these ponds to be less healthy for aquatic life than they once were.
'The Bomb Crater'. A short distance north of the small pond on the west side of the road is a small circular pond that although known locally as The Bomb Crater was in fact caused by the explosion of a V2 rocket in 1945. It formed a steep sided and deep pond: for a period this was also a favourite swimming 'hole' for local youths.