Like many, I have responded to the demise of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, with mixed emotions this week. I have felt a profound, almost familial sense of loss, while also wishing to celebrate a remarkable long life of service and the commencement of a new era.

The late Queen has always looked kindly upon the role that Epping Forest, a former Royal Forest, plays in the health and well-being of the country. This has been recognised publicly by a plethora of awards and distinguished statuses, including that of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy and the Queen’s Green Canopy Ancient Woodland.

As you may also know, the Sovereign personally appoints a Ranger of Epping Forest - currently HRH The Duke of Gloucester - who works alongside the Epping Forest and Commons Committee to protect and conserve the ‘green lungs of London’.

As the United Kingdom seamlessly transitions from one Head of State to the next, so do the seasons. The autumn weather blends from sun to showers and warm days into colder nights. Epping Forest is ready to begin its own transition to perhaps its finest hour, the richness of autumn, and at this time of national mourning, offers the soothing powers of walking under its glorious canopy.

One of the first autumnal offerings in Epping Forest are the wonderful forms of new fungi appearing as if by magic overnight. The fungi in the Forest play an important role in the eco system and many of the varieties found here are extremely rare. They are part of the reason why the Forest is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation, so I remind visitors that to pick fungi from the Forest is against the byelaws for a good reason.

Another sign of early autumn in London’s Great Forest is the start of the deer rut, which usually starts around the time of the autumnal equinox, this year falling on September 22. The male fallow deer (bucks) become aggressive as they try to outdo other bucks to mate with the females (does). At first you may hear the bucks calling to warn off his competitors, but this can become a dangerous battle between the bucks where they clash antlers.

Watching the deer in battle is an impressive sight but can be very dangerous. A rutting male deer may see you, or your dog, as a threat so if you come across deer at this time - please keep your distance, do not disturb them.

Roads are hazardous for both the deer and drivers during the rut as the animals act unpredictably. Deer crossing suddenly can and do cause very serious accidents – which sadly can be fatal for deer and people alike. Remember, the roads we drive on dissect their woodland home, so it is our responsibility to always drive with consideration for them.

If you are visiting, please be aware that wood pasture improvement works will be taking place this month. These habitat works will help restore the protected ancient landscape of Epping Forest by opening up previously shaded areas, improving the habitat for ancient trees and the plants and animals. More details can be found at

Finally, a book of condolence has been opened at the Epping Forest Visitor Centre in Chingford for anyone who would like to pay their own tribute.

God Save The King!

  • Ben Murphy is the chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest Committee