The only surviving remnant within 50 miles of London of the great forests which once blanketed southern England. A deciduous wood, the main trees found there are oak, beech and hawthorn. Once there used to be many majestic elm trees in the forest, but the ravages of Dutch elm disease has as good as eliminated them.

Epping Forest lives in a perilous position on the Essex border of London, in land that is officially designated green belt but still seems to get dug up and developed far too frequently. Mentioned as far back as the Domesday Book, the forest was famously the playground of the Tudor monarchs: Henry VIII had a lodge built so that he had somewhere to rest during his deer hunts. This building still stands, now named Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge after his daughter, who also favoured the area.

150 years later the forest became notorious as the hiding place of the outlaw highwayman Dick Turpin, and the cave in which he hid from the forces of law and order is still visible (if you know where to look).

Pressurised by the expansion of the metropolis to the south and west, and by farmland on all other sides, the forest somehow still manages to survive and is a haven for foxes, deer, badgers, adders and assorted other British wildlife.

Personally I've lived near the forest all my life, and I love it with a passion. A walk through the forest not only changes with the seasons but even on a daily basis: early morning with a mist about your feet and rabbits popping out of their burrows to feed, late afternoon with sunbeams drifting through the tree branches while squirrels play in the brambles, or midnight, illuminated only by moonlight, when every sillhouetted tree looks sinister, and every sound is eerie. For more information and some pictures of this beautiful place, you should take a look at

The whole fight to control Epping Forest was immortalised by the Genesis' song Battle of Epping Forest. It was released in 1975 and is one of their best songs.

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