Epping Forest Information
Called the ‘People’s Forest’ by Queen Victoria, Epping Forest was once a favourite hunting ground of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. With marshes, rivers, bogs, and heath, as well as some of the oldest wooded land in the country, the forest is nestled between the Lee and Roding Rivers.
The previously royal woods and grounds, now covering some 2500 hectares, was given to the public and has thrived as a place to take part in all manner of activity. It is used daily by mountain bikers, orienteering enthusiasts and ramblers, as well as joggers and horse riders. Accommodation for such enthusiasts is abundant, with some of the best camping and caravan sites in the east of England.
The Lee Valley Camping and Caravan Park is less than an hour from London, and just a few minutes from Epping Forest. The centre itself includes an 18-hole golf course, cinema, and athletics centre – just in case you don’t have the energy for the Forest! Accommodation can be booked in log cabins, or bring your own caravan or tent: an ideal location for the outdoor holiday.
If you fancy something a little different, then a visit to the Secret Island Royal Gunpowder Mills offers a full day of activity for the whole family. The children will love Professor Nitrate’s Mad Lab, and the chance to blow the place sky high! That is, of course, if they have finished the top-secret mission they will be given on the Military Truck Tour. But who will win the day on the Test Range, where kids can pit their skills against the parents on the rifle range, archery range, and even the rocket launch pad.
As well as hunting in the forest, Henry VIII also made Waltham Abbey the last that he dissolved during his reign. With the gardens showing the very best of the English love of everything horticultural, there is a dragonfly sanctuary that is awash with buzzing colour. The Abbey is no more than remains now, but give a real sense of history - King Harold was buried here, and the tomb is well visited. The town is lively on a Saturday night, with many of its traditional pubs putting on live music. The nearby White Water Centre is just over the border in Hertfordshire, and families will have a blast canoeing, kayaking, and wild-river rafting during a day out to this great venue.
Walking through the surrounding countryside, small villages like Theydon Bois will delight, though Loughton is a hidden, little known, historical treasure not to be missed. Named in the Domesday Book with the name of Lochintuna, an iron-age earth fort was discovered in 1872. There are plenty of walks in and around the Epping Forest area, but walking from the Fort to the heart of the Forest is one of the best and will also take in Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge.
For those seeking an outdoor, but more relaxing, visit to Epping Forest, a trip to Connaught Water should be top of the list. At 10 acres, it is one of England’s largest waters, and is home to a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. It is a popular attraction for walkers, birdwatchers, and anglers, and a peaceful retreat to relieve the pressures of modern day life.
For the outdoor experience of Essex, Epping Forest, with its villages and outlying urban areas, is hard to beat. Anywhere.
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"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken" - Frank Herbert