London is renowned for having everything a city could offer, but for those seeking more of a "great outdoors" experience - well actually, look no further. Epping Forest - the largest public open space in the capital area -offers a magnificent setting for visitors to enjoy a wide range of leisure activities, from rambling to horse riding to mountain biking and much more.
Once a Royal Forest, it passed into the care of the City of London after The Epping Forest Act 1878, and as well as its long history has many literary and cultural associations. The poet Tennyson lived there for a time and the forest has been the setting of novels and stories by writers ranging from Charles Dickens to James Herbert. It offered a hideout for the legendary Dick Turpin, and reported sightings of the highwayman's ghost abound.
This ancient forest, with its nearly 6000 acres of woodland, includes areas of heath and grassland as well as streams and ponds making it the habitat for a variety of wildlife and a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as a Special Area of Conservation. The Epping Forest Field Study Centre provides lots of courses and eco-activities in this "outdoor classroom" which are suitable for all ages and levels of interest such as safaris for children and forest survival for adults.
When it comes to recreation, variety is the keyword in "The People's Forest", with golf, football, cycling, boating and model aircraft flying all to be enjoyed in splendidly scenic surroundings. Events such as open-air theatre and other activities can be booked at the three Visitors Centres across the forest, and the Centres also provide a wealth of information on all aspects of the facilities on offer.
Whatever the season this beautiful woodland with its unique character and atmosphere will appeal to people of all ages and interests. And its right on the city's doorstep.