In an endeavour to have more family time – which, as my son grows older is actually becoming less and less, I’m trying to make sure that we go out as a family at least once a month. I’m already fearing empty nest syndrome, so need to cherish these last few years before he doesn’t want to go out with mum any more!
Days out can be expensive, so I’m sharing a ‘Things To Do For Free In…‘ series, covering Essex and London at the moment. There are also several posts I’ve shared of Free Days Out – these are places we’ve gone to in the past!
We recently went out to Epping Forest, which spans both Essex and London. I’ve said that this is a free thing to do in Essex as we went to High Beech which is in Essex ^_^ During this visit to the forest, we went to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge which is in Chingford, London – but still part of Epping Forest. Confused? Don’t be!
Epping Forest is a massive 6,000 acres!! Two thirds of the Forest has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). There is so much to do in Epping Forest – walking, horse riding, fishing, running, cycling, golf and there are also special events throughout the year. Check out the Epping Forest website for up to date information.
On this day, we went for a walk in the forest – it was not too chilly, but it was muddy, so we did have to don the welly boots! We also got stuck in the mud a few times with much hilarity!
Parking up near the Kings Oak pub in High Beech, we set off into the forest. Parking around the forest is free. There are some designated parking areas, but a lot of people do just pull up where they can. Take a picnic to save on food costs, although there are several pubs and restaurants that you can dine in and grab a drink.
The easiest way to show you around Epping Forest is through the photographs that I took. I won’t share them all here, but you can see the full set on my Flickr.
Epping Forest is famously associated with notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin. High Beech is home to Turpin’s Cave, his hideout in the forest. The exact whereabouts are unknown, but one place is said to be Wellington Hill, which is where we happened to walk down.
There is also a spooky phenomenon that occurs at a slip road in High Beech, which is called Hangman’s Hill. If you park your car at the bottom of the hill at night, turn off the engine and the lights, your car slowly starts to roll uphill! Local legend says that it is being pulled towards an ancient tree by a hangman’s noose. I’ve actually done this and can confirm that it is seriously spooky!
The forest is so ancient, that walking through it does feel like there is this air of mystery and history surrounding you. We found a few mushrooms on this walk – one of my favourite things to look for when on a woodland walk, as you know!
Since spring hadn’t quite sprung, there wasn’t too much to see in the way of wildlife and nature, but we still managed to find some interesting things – there’s nothing better than a forage around the forest! We also saw a local riding school trotting through on horseback.
We then moved the car along to another part of the forest, and managed to bag the last space in the small car park. The land here was flatter – and muddier too! We saw lots of interesting things…
…including the super rare, fuzzy dice tree ^_^
Epping Forest is a wonderful free place to visit in Essex (and London!), go for fun muddy walks in the winter, forage for mushrooms in the autumn, look for budding flowers and shoots in the spring, and enjoy the forest at its full splendour in the summer!
Have you been to Epping Forest? What are you favourite things to do in the forest?
Let me know in the comments section below this post!