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The City of London Corporation supports humanitarian aid in Ukraine. Help and advice for staying safe during heatwaves and the hot weather

Date updated: 18/08/2022

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Things affecting your visit

There are a few bits of maintenance happening around the Forest this week which might affect your visit.

Maintenance

  • Forest wide:
    • tree safety works
    • grass cutting
    • hay cutting
    • woodpasture flailing
  • Birch Hall Park: pond repair works
  • Bury Road: wood chip collection
  • Kings Green, Loughton: war memorial restoration
  • Loughton Brook: tree safety works
  • Perch Pond: floating pennywort works
  • Pole Hill: path cutting
  • Railway Field: currently closed to the public
  • Rookery Wood: species surveying
  • Strawberry Hill Pond: tree safety works
  • Wanstead Park: fence installation at play area, netting in place at the Grotto
  • Yardley Hill: path cutting

Volunteer tasks

  • Tuesday 16 August: small tree thinning at Fleabane Wood with the Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers
  • Sunday 21 August: tree thinning and pollarding in Hangboy Slade with the Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers

Cattle grazing locations

Our longhorn cattle are now starting to graze on the Forest again! You can find them at:

What's happening in the Forest

From 1 September 2022, habitat works will be undertaken by contractors on the wood pasture areas in Epping Forest.

These works are restoring the protected ancient wood pasture landscape of Epping Forest by opening up previously shaded area, helping to look after our ancient trees and improve habitats for plants and animals which respond to more open habitats.

The works are likely to last until late autumn 2022.

Works will be occurring in the following areas:

  • Bury Wood – specifically
    • North Long Hills
    • Almshouse Plain
    • Cuckoo Pits - near Pear Tree Plain
    • Fleabane Ride
  • Chingford Plain – north east corner
  • Honey Lane Quarters – near Woodredon Hill

There will be intermittent path closures and movement of heavy plant and machinery down the paths.

We will try and issue updated information of any planned closures of shared-use trails ahead of time however this may not always be possible.

There is currently a very high risk of fire in Epping Forest and across the UK in general. Below, we've added some guidance on how you can help prevent fire.

What should you do if you see a fire in the Forest?

Call 999 and ask for the fire brigade. Give the location, use the what3words website or app or refer to local landmarks or Forest vehicle gate numbers.

Please always call 999 first, not Epping Forest. Please then report to Epping Forest by calling 020 8532 1010 which is a 24/7 phoneline.

Fires and barbecues are not allowed in Epping Forest

If you see people using barbecues, please contact the Epping Forest 24/7 phoneline on 020 8532 1010.

What activities can start fires?

Under Epping Forest byelaws barbecues and fires are not permitted anywhere in Epping Forest at any time of the year. Barbecues can make grass roots burn underground, so even if you think you have put out a fire, it can reappear further away having burned underground. Even a smouldering barbecue that appears to have been put out can still pose a threat and cause a fire.

A carelessly discarded cigarette can start a fire – so please dispose of cigarettes very carefully, stubbing them out in cigarette bins or even wetting them if you can, but not littering by dropping them on the ground. The London Fire Brigade drought advice is not to put anything burning on dry ground.

Discarded litter and particularly glass bottles can cause fires. The glass can act as a magnifying glass with strong sunlight which can ignite grass or the tinder-dry material in the Forest. Please take your rubbish home with you to dispose of responsibly.

Setting off fireworks or lighting Chinese lanterns is not permitted in Epping Forest and can result in wildfires.

The UK is at level 4 of a 1-5 scale fire severity index (with 5 being the most extreme). More information can be found on the MetOffice website.

How are we managing fire risk in the Forest?

We work on a risk-based approach and have identified sites which have a long history of wildfires.

We have worked with a specialist wildfire consultant and prepared eleven Wildfire Response Plans with both the London Fire Brigade and Essex Fire and Rescue Service.

The plans include details of emergency contacts and call out procedures, access points to site, equipment and water sources. We have also created fire belts – this is to slow a fire by reducing the amount of grass and vegetation available to burn in an area. This also gives access for fire services to be able to fight fires in Epping Forest.

What are we doing in the summer 2022 drought?

We have prioritised staff in higher risk areas to carry out fire watch patrols. Our staff are extinguishing disposable barbecues and advising users that are not adhering to our instruction not to use barbecues. We are educating users about the risk that lighting barbecues or fires, smoking and leaving litter can present in starting wildfires.

We have placed additional signage and notices in all our higher risk areas reminding visitors not to leave litter, cigarettes or use barbecues.

We have also taken as many staff as possible away from other duties to help with patrolling our busiest and most vulnerable areas. They are preventing the use of up to 100 barbecues a day.

The current fire risk is likely to be in place for some time. As a result of there being so little rainfall it could be months until the ground is sufficiently saturated before the fire risk to the Forest can be lowered.

For neighbours to the Forest, we understand that there may be heightened concern about the current situation, however the highest risk to properties is burning embers in the air which can be carried on the wind, so our priority is fire prevention within the Forest.

We are working hard to patrol high risk areas of Epping Forest. We would kindly ask visitors and those living close to Epping Forest to remain vigilant and if you see or smell fire / smoke please follow the instruction by calling 999 immediately and then reporting it to Epping Forest on 020 8532 1010.

A family friendly music festival weekend will take place on Chingford Plain over the weekend of 10 and 11 September 2022.

Chingford Plain has a long history of hosting community events from Victorian Bank Holiday fairs with up to 200,000 people to more recently the Forest Festival and regular fun fairs.

The event will feature a stage and marquees with a range of music acts and lots of activities for children. Details of the event can be found on Line Up's website.

The event closes each night at 10pm and is being licenced by the London Borough of Waltham Forest to ensure transport considerations, litter, noise and impact on residents is carefully planned for. More details can be found on London Borough of Waltham Forest's website.

The organisers also commissioned an Environmental Impact Assessment to make sure that there is no impact on wildlife or flora in the Special Area of Conservation (SAC). A range of measures are in place to ensure the SAC and wider Epping Forest is protected. The organisers have also provided an FAQ page on their website to answer questions about how the event is being managed.

The Epping Forest and Commons Committee agreed to the event taking place on Chingford Plain provided the conditions of the Premises Licence (from London Borough of Waltham Forest) are met.

It is also recognised that Epping Forest provides much of the open space in the local area and has a role to play in providing space for a wide range of recreational activity. This is why the Epping Forest events policy earmarks some spaces, such as Chingford Plain, as suitable for large events.

Wanstead Park’s 300-year old cascade lake system, which was originally constructed circa 1715, has had a long history of low water levels.

The City of London Corporation purchased what remained of Wanstead Park in 1880 to prevent further loss of the parkland landscape to development. At its greatest extent (circa 1800) there were nine lakes in the lake cascade system. Of these The Great Lake, The Reservoir, The Lake Pond, and the Square Pond have all ceased to exist. There have been significant changes to the size of Heronry Pond and the interaction of the Ornamental Water and the River Roding. At one time the River Roding was linked to the Ornamental Waters and flowed through the lake.

Today five lakes remain. They run in a semi-circle in an anticlockwise direction. The Basin, which is the head of the cascade in the ownership of Wanstead Golf Club, the next four lakes running down the cascade are Shoulder of Mutton, Heronry, Perch Pond and the Ornamental Waters
(which is in the flood plain of the River Roding) are all under the City of London Corporation ownership.

The areas surrounding the Park have changed massively over the centuries. The park catchment for water run off to feed the lake cascade system at one time extended as far Eagle Pond. This water ran through the ‘River Holt’, a ditch created by Adam Holt the gardener to the Earl Tylney.

To the east and south of the park, the Lake House Estate and Albersbrook Estate where also once part of the originally parkland. These developments reduced the catchment area further.

Works were undertaken in the early 1906/07s to reline the Heronry Pond and is much the same as we see it today. In the second world war the northern edge of the Heronry Pond was hit by several high explosive bombs. Then, in 1944, a V1 flying bomb landed right in the middle, creating a large crater. Repairs were carried out but were not successful in stemming leakage. Further attempts at repair were made in the 1950s but unfortunately we still have issues with leaks.

Originally, the Lord of the Manor was able to dam the River Roding to direct water into the Ornamental Water. Later, the City of London Corporation, while not able to dam the river, was able to pump from the Roding. This practice happened until 2000. In 2001 a borehole was sunk to pump water from the aquifer into Heronry and Perch Ponds – which continues to this day.

We have a license from the Environment Agency that limits the amount of water we can extract – so that the aquifer can recharge with water. We currently pump to the maximum capacity of the pump which is 16 hours a day into the Heronry and Perch Ponds which in turn overflow in to the Ornamental Water, providing its only means of being topped up.

Detailed hydrological assessments undertaken by specialist engineers have shown that there is insufficient natural water to keep the lakes filled. Water losses from leakage and evaporation outstrip the amount of water entering the lakes and if water was not pumped into the lakes they would ultimately be much reduced in size, if not lost.

Interventions to increase water levels

The City of London have taken a number of steps to address the low water including commissioning a detailed Parkland Plan and Hydrological Survey. In 2019, a 330m ditch starting near Blake Hall Road was cleared to enable water to move more freely helping it reach the lake system rather than be absorbed into the land.

We are currently working on these areas to increase water into the lakes including:

  • Designs and specifications are currently being drawn up to install land drainage to capture water to feed into the Ornamental Water.
  • Designs to replace the pumping infrastructure at the River Roding are being worked up with a view to reinstating winter pumping from the Roding. This would be subject to a license agreement being granted by the Environment Agency.
  • We have been awarded a development grant from the Mayor of London’s Green Resilient Spaces fund for a feasibility study looking at possible Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme (SuDs) ad part of developing wetland habitats at the park and to try to get more water into the lake system.

In 2018, the Environment Agency confirmed the water bodies as “High Risk”. To ensure that the dams operate safely during major flood events, consulting engineers were commissioned and, following a 1-year study in 2020 recommended approximately £1M of improvements to the lake dams including:

  • Regrade some of the earth dams to ensure they are at a consistent level – in the event of water flowing over them to ensure water overtop the entire length of the dam, minimising earth erosion due to strong flows.
  • Installing concrete edging beams on some of the earth dams.
  • Regrading of the downstream face of the Heronry dam.
  • Maintaining a short grass surface to the dams to minimise earth erosion in the event of overtopping.

A further study was recommended to assess the flood interaction of the River Roding and Ornamental Waters. This study was completed in November 2021. It recommends minor works to build up levels either side of the two earth dam embankments on Ornamental Water. It also states that if there is a prolonged period of draught longer than 18 months that this could cause issues with the two earth dams – due to drying out. Funding for this essential safety work has been secured and works will be implemented over the next 2-3 years

How we manage water levels

The water levels in the lakes are maintained through pumping water from a borehole. The pump is operating at maximum capacity and works for two periods of eight hours with an eight hour aquifer recharge period.

Borehole water can be pumped directly into the heronry pond where this can be seen exiting a pipe near to the tea hut. Borehole water is also pumped into the Perch pond where it enters the pond below the surface so cannot be seen.

Once the Perch pond is full then the water overflows and goes into the Ornamental Water via a small stream through the Dell.

In the winter months we seek to get as much water as we can into the Ornamental Waters, however, in the summer months to keep water levels in the Heronry pond sufficiently high we need to pump more frequently into the Heronry pond. This means that water levels in the Ornamental water do get lower and the stream through the Dell can stop flowing for a while.

Water levels and wildlife

Staff and volunteers monitor the wildlife of the lakes. However, if you have any concern please contact the Epping Forest Team.

If you see animals in distress, you can find out what to do on the RSPCA's website.

The North Essex Parking Partnership will be implementing an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) involving red routes (no stopping) on the following roads: Avey Lane, Church Lane, Church Road, Claypit Hill, Cross Roads, Forest Side, Lippitts Hill, Manor Road, Mott Street, Pauls Nursery Road, Pynest Green Lane, the road between Manor Road and Avey Lane, Wake Road, Wellington Hill an the access road to Forest Visitor Centre. These restrictions will be functional from 8am to 10pm every day. from 1 April to 31 October each year. This change is intended to come into effect on 6 June 2022 and may last up to 18 months. 

See the North London Parking Partnership website for more details of this ETRO including how to feed back on the proposed change.