In his first column for the Guardian, Graeme Doshi-Smith looks at the role Epping Forest is playing as restrictions start to ease.

It has been a long hard winter, but as the arrival of spring becomes more evident in Epping Forest, so too can we begin to see the green shoots of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

I want to thank all our visitors, staff and volunteers who are working so hard to keep the site safe.

Now, more than ever, Epping Forest is playing a crucial role in the physical and mental health of our communities.

And after nearly a year of Covid restrictions, it’s completely understandable that people want to get out and spend time with friends.

But we are still in a national lockdown and we need to follow the rules closely.

With infection rates falling and more people receiving the vaccine, there is light at the end of the tunnel. But we can’t afford to be complacent and allow this virus to spread.

As we move into spring, Epping Forest is coming alive. The buds are bursting and the birdsong intensifying.

With warmer weather and lighter days, insect and wildlife activity is increasing, with bees and bumblebees once again buzzing around seeking new opportunities for nectar.

The ponds are a hive of activity too, with frog and toad spawn beginning the life cycle of these amphibians in the woodland once again.

We are delighted to have worked with national wildlife charity Froglife last year to improve the habitat of Cow Pond, near Hollow Pond. We’re excited to keep a close eye on the progress of this conservation project, and we’ll keep readers updated.

At this time of year more human visitors venture out to benefit from Epping Forest too.

And as we ease out of lockdown, we will no doubt continue to experience higher visitor numbers, as we have done throughout the pandemic.

I am proud that so many people have been able to appreciate Epping Forest over this past year and we have been delighted to hear just how much it has meant to our local communities.

We hope that many of our newer visitors will continue to value this wonderful place.

As always, we are asking our visitors to help care for this protected woodland by ensuring that you take litter home with you.

Please also continue to keep each other safe and continue to socially distance.

Until the Government restrictions allow, we ask you to please make the most of Epping Forest by only visiting if you live locally and join our #StayLocalEppingForest campaign.

Discover more about Epping Forest at or on Twitter @CoLEppingForest, Facebook @Epping Forest City of London or Instagram @coleppingforest.

Graeme Doshi-Smith

Chairman, City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee