Epping Forest: Warren Hill to Strawberry Hill Ponds

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Two hours before sunset on a Sunday – perfect time to head out on a walk. But I was soon cursing getting lost in the suburban swamp around Buckhurst Hill station (as delightful as it is I was keen to get into the forest) until I came across this majestic house. From my idiot’s knowledge, to me, it symbolises the dream of interwar suburbia – a Hobbit shire in the London commuter belt.

I found the Forest path in what my OS map labelled Powell’s Forest. The birds were warming up for the evening roosting burst of song. These paths led down smoothly undulating slopes then up and over Warren Hill.

The trees hail the luminous sunset as it breaks across the Lea Valley. I’ve been glancing at the Transactions of the Epping Forest Field Club, published in Buckhurst Hill in 1881 and imagine them walking this way in stout boots and thick wooly socks full of the zealous cheer of their mission to, “the study and investigation of the Natural History, Geology, and Archaeology” of the Forest.

I‘m always lost in Epping Forest even with an OS map and sticking close to the paths. It’s one of the reasons I love walking there some much and find it so restorative. There on our doorstep a wilderness, where the ancient order prevails …. until you hit one of the forest roads and nearly get mown down by an aggressively driven 4×4. But even then once you’ve breached the road, a few yards back into the woods and the spirit of Pan reclaims your soul. I wonder if the forest spirits have the same effect on the drivers of those beasts when they pull up and head out for a stroll. Maybe it explains why there is so much ‘dogging’ in the car parks of a night time.

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I turned back from the road that runs past Connaught Water with the sun descending behind the still bare trees. The path took me up to Strawberry Hill Ponds, a place so still and calm that I waited to see if the Lady of The Lake would emerge hoisting Excalibur aloft, although at this stage I would have asked her if she could procure me a pint and a packet of cheese and onion crisps instead.

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