Firstly, Happy New Year! We sincerely hope 2022 can bring brighter days for us all, and indeed, on a more local level, we hope that you will have lots of opportunity for exploring and enjoying the unique, ancient woodland of Epping Forest this year.

During the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout the subsequent lockdowns we began a #StayLocalEppingForest campaign on social media. This was to ease the pressure on the ‘honey pot’ areas of the forest and to promote how different, perhaps lesser-known areas, could be enjoyed much closer to home across all 6,000 acres (as well as almost 2,000 acres of buffer land the City of London Corporation have purchased to further protect the boundaries of the forest itself).

Furthermore, the campaign supports our aims to encourage people to access the forest without using their car. This will help with sustainability and cleaner air in the local area generally, but will also help to decrease harmful pollutants from cars which we know are negatively impacting the biodiversity of the forest habitat. To this end we are pleased to have secured funds from Transport for London for more cycle stands in the central and southern parts of Epping Forest; these are due to be installed in the early spring.

To find out more about this campaign and for guidance on areas of Epping Forest near where you live, and how you can best enjoy them, sign up to our social media pages @Epping Forest City of London on Facebook, @CoLEppingForest on Twitter and @coleppingforest on Instagram, as we often promote ideas for different areas to visit. You can also sign up for our regular digital magazine, Forest Focus, using this link

Despite the shorter daylight hours and challenging temperatures of these winter months, our Epping Forest team continue to work outside taking care of London’s great forest, ensuring it is spring-ready and at its best as a biodiverse habitat for when the warmer weather finally arrives.

In February and March we are working with charity Thames 21 on a restoration programme to improve the natural ecosystem of the River Roding running alongside Wanstead Park. This work will involve lowering trees from the riverbank into the water. This will narrow the river in places, diversifying the water flow pattern and provide areas of refuge where marginal aquatic plants can grow and fish can shelter. We will be calling for the help of volunteers on this project, so please do stay in touch with our website / social media for details.

Work also continues on the ten-year pollarding scheme, involving the pollarding of 150 hornbeams. This is taking place primarily in the Bury Wood area, but there are also similar, smaller operations at Hangboy Slade and Rushey Plain. These works will help to stabilise these important ancient trees, increase their longevity and improve light levels reaching the woodland floor, allowing the development of ground flora, diverse habitat structures and increased biodiversity.

Graeme Doshi-Smith is the chairman of the City of London Corporation Epping Forest and Commons Committee