Friends celebrate the Epping Forest Walking Festival

Yesterday (Sunday 22 October 2017) the Friends of Wanstead Parklands led a walk around Bush Wood and Wanstead Flats. This, the last in this year's series of five walks, was the group’s contribution to the 2017 Epping Forest Walking Festival.

Epping Forest is 15 miles long and covers 6,000 acres. The Walking Festival, now in its second year, was conceived as a way of using a range of free events to celebrate the range of possibilities that the Forest offers walkers. It also showcases the kinds of activities regularly organised by Forest partners such as the Friends.

Starting at 11:00 am outside the Quaker Meeting House on Bush Road, yesterday’s walk took about an hour and a half, and first explored the woodland which has grown up around the avenues that radiated out in a “quincunx” pattern to the west, north and south of the now-vanished Wanstead House.

Some venerable survivors of the Child family’s planting were pointed out, as well as the gate pillars of Wanstead Park at the end of Overton Drive. The group also looked out for interesting fungi, though the lack of recent heavy rain and the activities of collectors meant there were not many to be seen.

The group followed Evelyn Avenue for some distance, the now rather scruffy successor to one of the great formal vistas laid out by Sir Josiah Child and his son Richard, later Earl Tylney of Castlemaine. As the walk approaches the block of former police flats now called Belgrave Heights, other vestiges of seventeenth and eighteenth-century landscaping connected to the vanished Great Lake were pointed out, as well as traces of the Roman road to Great Dunmow.

The walk did not neglect later improvements, drawing attention to Superintendent McKenzie’s nineteenth century planting of plane trees, and the early twentieth-century unemployment relief schemes which gave Wanstead Flats one of the largest concentrations of sports pitches in the London area.

The official walk ended at a bus stop on Blake Hall Road, but the increasingly sunny weather inspired more energetic spirits to continue through Wanstead Park and on to Valentines, where there is currently a small but excellent wildlife photography exhibition by young local photographer Gideon Knight at the Mansion, and an exploratory dig by the West Essex Archaeological Group.

The Epping Forest Walking Festival continues until 29 October. Why not try some of the other events?