The festive season is drawing near and the excitement of finding out whether we are on Santa’s 'naughty' or 'nice' list is almost too much to bear!

This year, more than any I remember, friends and family seem to be thinking about the gifts they purchase and their impact on the environment. People want to support small, local and community businesses and to reduce their carbon footprint and non-recyclable packaging.

Well, if you are still looking to find the perfect local, environmentally friendly gift, where all the profits go towards maintaining a local charity, we have just the thing.

As a registered charity, Epping Forest is managed by the City of London Corporation, to protect the “green lungs of London” for everyone to enjoy.

Our shop at the Epping Forest Visitor Centre in Chingford is filled with a range of food products and Epping Forest branded items…and when we say ‘branded’ we mean ‘branded’!

The historic branding irons used by the local parishes for cattle grazing have been turned into mugs, aprons, and a range of items perfect for gifts.

There are also several books including the ‘20 Short Walks in Epping Forest’ and the ‘Official Epping Forest Map’, which make wonderful stocking fillers.

For many, this season is also an opportunity to pause and to pray.

As we celebrate the transition into a fresh new year, we also come together and think about those who are no longer with us.

Often, I meet people who tell me about their loved ones who benefited so much from our great forest and want to give something back.

One scheme we have created to allow lasting memorials in the forest is through memorial benches.

If you are interested in sponsoring a memorial bench in this unique and ancient woodland, contact 020 8532 1010 or email

For those who are struggling with financial pressures this year, please remember that your loved ones would always appreciate your presence more than your presents.

Epping Forest is open seven days a week and remains free to the public. The gift of a day out at this natural playground, where you can escape the pressures of life and to make memories with your family and friends, is priceless.

If you need any advice on where to begin your walk, or suggestions for trying some different routes, visit the ‘Where to go in Epping Forest’ page of our website or speak to our friendly and knowledgeable staff at the Epping Forest Visitor Centre at Chingford, located on Rangers Road (E4 7QH) / 020 7332 1911.

My final thought is please do look out for those around you who may be spending this Christmas alone. A moment of kindness can make a world of difference.

Whatever your plans over the festive break, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year.

A special thank-you to all of those who are having to work, particularly our dedicated team in Epping Forest.

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