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Epping Forest

Home > London > Day Trips | Fun Things To Do
by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published September 21st 2010
Before he hanged for his highwayman's crimes Dick Turpin's criminal career begun in Epping Forest where he worked as a butcher selling poached deer. This initial transgression lead him down a path of darkness that ended with a slow strangling from a short drop via a hideout in Epping Forest... So it's not surprising that Dick Turpin's ghost has been reported to have been seen, but mostly heard, galloping though the forest on horseback after dark...

As one of England's most infamous ghosts, since his death he's starred on 'Most Haunted', where Turpin was interviewed saying that he spends most of his time riding though the forest deciding who to rob next... Most Turpin sightings happen around Loughton, but while alive he was known for being able to travel great distances on horse, so you never know when he might turn up...and it's very easy to become lost in this forest...

Epping Forest is also the largest green patch in the patchwork of London, at almost 6,000 acres. It stretches 12 miles from Manor Park in East London to just north of Epping in Essex. So there's plenty to do here besides awaiting the sounds of Turpin's horse, Black Bess's hooves.

Would be archaeologists will be interested in visiting Loughton Iron Age camp. The main visible proof that this used to be a fort or castle is the way the land has a doughnut dip, which would have once protected the people who would have lived within the walls on the other side of the ditch; but there's also the remains of an Iron Age mill nearby and still the off chance of finding your own small relics if you scan ground. You're looking for flint arrow heads, shards of red, grey or black pottery and lumps of hardened clay. Ambresbury Banks is the other local Iron Age Camp not every forest has two. This second similar remains is more famous as it's linked to Boudica it's supposedly the site of her last stand against the Romans in 61, so maybe she's doing a spot of haunting here as well.

If you like your history a little more recent you can visit Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge which was Tudor built, so they're referring to the first Queen Elizabeth. Built in 1543, it's now open to the public who can take advantage of the great viewing platform which overlooks the forest, although these days you won't see any hunting.

But mostly this is a green space to be used as green spaces should be: for strolling, running or riding though, or picnicing, or even camping, in. Same as people have always used this space. Well, probably not always for riding bikes, but riding horses definitely. And for appreciating what nature can do if it's left to its own devices.

Some examples of nature getting on with its business here are the strange, and slightly eerie looking, ex-pollarded trees. These trees are the ones that used to have their upper branches pruned regularly to be used for fencing and poles etc., which are no longer being pruned and have been left to grown au naturale. They look sort of like the 'whomping tree' from Harry Potter and their strange shapes might have something to do with the ghostly sightings.

It used to be that us commoners had rights in the forest and some of them remain, for example the right to collect wood, which is limited to "one faggot of dead or driftwood" per day per adult resident. But mind Turpin doesn't have it off you...
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Why? Because you're not scared of ghosts...
Where: Walking distance from Chingford, Loughton or Epping
Cost: Free
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