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 |
2 High View Close, Loughton, Essex
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
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!). |
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. |