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City of London, Epping Forest

Location:

Habitats:Broad-leaved woodland & Scrub

Livestock:Longhorn Cattle

In brief:Herded Longhorn cattle on woodpasture, acid and neutral grassland and lowland heathland on the edge of London; Epping forest is a multi – functional open space of international conservation importance

Contact:Jeremy Dagley

Tel:020 8532 1010

Email:jeremy.dagley@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Weblink:www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/living_environment/open_spaces/epping_forest.htm


Epping Forest is the largest public open space in the London area, at almost 6,000 acres. It stretches 12 miles from Manor Park in East London to just north of Epping in Essex. As well as being a popular area for recreation and enjoyment it is also of national and international conservation importance with two thirds of it being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.

In the second half of the 19th century large areas of the Forest were being enclosed for development, with scant regard for commoners’ rights or general recreational needs. Subsequently the Epping Forest Act of 1878 appointed the City of London as the Conservator of Epping Forest and its strictures still govern how the Forest is managed today.


Epping Forest now combines the roles of scenic open space, important wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. It hosts numerous events and activities and encompasses the Grade II* listed Wanstead Park, two Grade II* listed buildings – the Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge and the Temple - and the remains of two large Iron Age earthworks at Loughton Camp and Ambresbury Banks.

The Epping Forest management team has the task of maintaining the natural habitats developed over more than 1,000 years of use by people and their grazing animals. These traditional uses created a diverse landscape that includes areas of historic wood-pasture, green lanes, ancient pollarded trees and grassy plains. The Forest is internationally renowned for its ancient pollarded trees - primarily Oak, Beech and Hornbeam. The site has a diverse flora and fauna, including 500 rare and endangered insect species and Fallow and Muntjac deer populations.

The Conservators have re-introduced traditional management techniques, such as grazing and pollarding, to ensure that the veteran trees and their associated flora and fauna survive for future generations to enjoy. Grazing by cattle has taken place continuously in Epping Forest for well over a thousand years. Grazing by free-ranging commoners’ cattle continued throughout the 20th century although numbers started to decline as farming practices changed.

In 1996 the impact of the BSE crisis finally broke the tradition. Fortunately grazing continued on a small heathland area of the Forest where a commoner had entered into a partnership with the Conservators by introducing a limited number of English Longhorn cattle to rejuvenate the rare heathland flora. These Longhorns became the basis for a conservation herd that was re-established on the Forest at Fairmead and Chingford in 2002. A herdsman was employed to keep the cattle within this area where they have now grazed for several summers. The herd has now grown to 50 cows which are grazed in smaller groups.

The City of London’s skilled Forest workforce is assisted on many conservation projects by enthusiastic groups of local volunteers including the Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers and the Wren Group.

The Epping Forest Field Centre at High Beach, managed by the Field Studies Council on behalf of the City of London, provides courses on natural sciences and geography for schoolchildren and a wide range of professional and general interest courses for adults.

Useful and practical conservation tasks for adult, youth and school groups are organised by the Epping Forest Centenary Trust. All abilities are catered for and tasks carried out under proper supervision, (contact The Environmental Awareness Officer or The Conservation Project Officer, Tel: 020 8508 9061).