I am sure many of you will have watched the BBC’s ‘Wild Isles’ series, presented by Sir David Attenborough. 

In the ‘Woodland’ episode, Sir David’s comments had particular resonance for the work undertaken to care for Epping Forest: “Woodlands are now expanding, but the new plantations are mostly of low diversity. We need to give better protection to the native woodlands that remain.”

He is, of course, absolutely right! The ecological value of our 55,000 ancient trees –amongst the Forest’s over one million trees – is enormous. Our woodland provides vital spaces for invertebrates, birds and mammals to eat, shelter and breed.

Somebody else who champions the importance of the natural world is His Majesty King Charles III, and we were delighted to celebrate his recent Coronation, with several members of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee in attendance.

It is interesting to note that The King’s Coronation took place 141 years to the day of Queen Victoria’s dedication of Epping Forest, which was famously presented at High Beach on May 6, 1882. 

Epping Forest Guardian: Ben Murphy looks back at the royal heritage of Epping ForestBen Murphy looks back at the royal heritage of Epping Forest (Image: Ben Murphy)

Following the public campaign which resulted in the City Corporation’s successful legal battle to save Epping Forest from enclosure, Queen Victoria was invited to officially dedicate the Forest and she famously declared: “It gives me the greatest satisfaction to dedicate this beautiful Forest to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time.” 

It is a statement which has, for many years, left people to believe Epping Forest was owned by the sovereign and donated to her people. In truth the land was privately owned and purchased over many years by the City Corporation at enormous cost to help Londoners have a green space to enjoy.

In 1882, the Forest was an escape to cleaner air for people who lived in the East End of London. Queen Victoria perhaps would not have foreseen just how the people of this country would come to need this green space, with the threat of global climate change, but our King certainly has. 

The hundreds of millions of pounds the City Corporation has invested in green spaces around the capital has had a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. Long may it continue!

In other news, I was delighted to see that Jill Barklem's family have located the 400-year-old Hornbeam Tree which features in her Brambly Hedge books. Many local people will know that Epping Forest inspired Barklem to create these delightful children’s books, and to recognise this, we are working on an exciting new Brambly Hedge-themed walking trail.

Finally, we have an exciting season of Open Air Theatre planned for the summer months at Wanstead Park. As ever, keep an eye on our website and social media for updates.

  • Ben Murphy, Chairman of the City Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee