Winter walk through Epping Forest

‘The spirit of devotion for the woods, which breathes through the simple expression of the poet, is akin to “that hereditary spell of forests,” which Robert Louis Stevenson describes as acting ” on the mind of man who still remembers and salutes the ancient refuge of his race.” Such a refuge once was London. Indeed she makes her first claim on history as a mere stockade in the woods — the Llyndin of the ancient Britons. Her wood and fen and heath, with the sweet country which once surrounded her, have disappeared, while a part only of the Essex Forest remains to recall the once great forest of the East Saxon Kingdom, which had Lundentune for its port and ecclesiastical centre. The forest, however, has maintained its connection with the metropolis; it is essentially London’s forest to-day, and will ever be an integral part of her future, holding as it does a unique place among the forests of England and of the Empire.’

Epping Forest Visitor Centre at Chingford

So opens, London’s Forest by Percival J.S. Perceval published in 1909. I read this page sat on a log somewhere between Bury Wood and Woodman’s Glade. It was a freezing cold day back at the beginning of December. Puddles were frozen solid. Ice clung to leaves and bracken. As I moved away from Chingford Plain deeper into the woods through Round Thicket to Hill Wood there were no people around. I’d entertained fanciful notions of walking through the forest to the Christmas market at Epping but that idea faded after reading the passages from Perceval. Maybe I’d dwelt too long in the Radical Landscapes exhibition at the Visitor Centre at Chingford beguiled by tales of Black Mutton pasties.

Brook in Epping Forest

Then I became seduced by this nameless brook that babbled down from Hill Wood and seems to flow into Connaught Water, raising the question of whether this is the true source of the River Ching.

There seemed a certain inevitability in this forest stroll ending in the dark, as so many of my Epping Forest walks have done during the winter months in the past. And in truth I love navigating those final miles in the pitch black.

Welcome to New London book launch

Welcome to New London

I’m delighted to announce that my new book, Welcome to New London – journeys and encounters in the post-Olympic city is being launched at the brilliant Wanstead Tap on 10th & 11th October. Tickets can be purchased here and books will be available on the night.

Book synopsis

Iain Sinclair has described Welcome to New London as, “An invaluable and informed super-tour by the Cobbett of YouTube. As immediately readable and engrossing as a Rogers film.”

After the 2012 Olympics London once again entered a period of radical change, one that some people came to see as a battle for the very soul of one of the greatest cities in the world. John Rogers embarked on a series of journeys and encounters in a quest to understand what was going on.

In ‘Welcome to New London’ John Rogers invites us to join him on a captivating voyage through the ever-changing landscapes and communities of this iconic city. As a follow-up to ‘This Other London,’ ‘Welcome to New London’ continues Rogers’ exploration of the city from a unique perspective.

The story begins in 2013 as the Olympic village in Stratford transitioned to become a new permanent settlement, and the Stratford City plan became a reality. This excursion sparks an exploration of the Olympic Park and its surrounding areas, where a wave of development is reshaping the Lower Lea Valley.

The narrative seamlessly weaves through various facets of London’s transformation, from the Focus E15 Mothers’ occupation of homes on Carpenters Estate, a poignant symbol of the housing crisis, to the global attention garnered by campaigns like Save Soho and Save Tin Pan Alley. The book also chronicles the author’s involvement in efforts to help residents of the Sweets Way Estate and other housing campaigns, offering readers an intimate look at the human stories behind London’s changing landscape.

Intriguingly, the Rogers delves into the city’s ancient history following a chance conversation with a Pearly Punk King on the rooftop of the old Foyles building. This encounter takes him through Epping Forest to the prehistory of London in the Upper Lea Valley, unearthing Bronze Age burial mounds and their significance in understanding London’s historical roots and its enduring connection to its past.

Rogers embarks on a series of walks with acclaimed writer Iain Sinclair, providing a thought-provoking commentary on London’s future. And then somehow the United Nations sent him to Peckham to explore the concept of the ‘Open City,’ tying together the book’s themes and returning to the Olympic Park as a focal point.

“Welcome to New London” is not just a book about a city; it’s a vivid, personal account of a city in flux, where the author’s passion for exploration and his commitment to bearing witness to change converge. With its richly detailed chapters and thought-provoking commentary, this book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of one of the world’s greatest cities.

Please contact me via the contact form above for further info, events, interviews and any other enquiries.

Epping Forest walk from Loughton to Honey Lane Plain

You don’t need a reason to go for a walk in Epping Forest – ‘the people’s forest’. Just grab a copy of Buxton and an OS 174 map and off you go. I headed for Loughton where there’s a fetching new sign on Station Road (in the thumbnail above) – be great to see more of these around the forest fringe inviting people to abscond into the woods. Up the steep slope that leads to Loughton Camp then on to High Beach and down across Honey Lane Plain to the thatched stone cattle trough that I’d seen in J.A Brimble’s London’s Epping Forest. A light drizzle started to fall, so I headed back the way I’d come over down past the Kings Oak and Loughton Camp arriving in Forest Road in the last of the light.

Ghosts of Epping Forest

Ghosts of Epping Forest – a walk in London’s forest

This walk starts in Loughton heading along Lincoln’s Lane towards North Long Hills. We then pass Three Bridges and Fairmead, Hill Wood and follow the path beside Avey Lane to the church at High Beach. We then walk along Manor Road to the Kings Oak talking about the legends of Hangman’s Hill which is said to be haunted, and also the story of John Clare’s walk from the High Beach asylum to Northborough in Cambridgeshire.
From the Pillow Mounds at High Beach the walk takes us past the Epping Forest Visitor Centre, across the road to Kate’s Cellar. Here I lose my bearings a bit and end up by the Robin Hood pub and Thai restaurant. I walk along Earl’s Path back to Loughton Station.

Includes footage of Andrew Kötting dressed at the Straw Bear, shot in Brompton Cemetery in 2016 for my documentary London Overground

Books mentioned:
Saving the People’s Forest by Mark Gorman
London’s Forest by PJS Perecval
Strange Labyrinth by Will Ashon
Out of the Woods by Luke Turner
Edge of the Orison by Iain Sinclair

Open Street Map “© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence
1866 Map of Epping Forest Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Fresh Fallen Snow by Chris Haugen
Tupelo Train by Chris Haugen

The Lost Pond – Autumn walk in Epping Forest

A few years ago I picked up a postcard in the Epping Forest Visitor Centre at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Chingford. It was a painting by Jacob Epstein of a pond surrounded by trees. A lady working in the Visitor Centre told me it was ‘The Lost Pond’ and that it was near Baldwin’s Hill. But somehow I never quite managed to find the Lost Pond on the few occassions I tried to find it, until I headed out with that intent the other Sunday, armed with the Corporation of London’s map of Epping Forest as well as the Ordnance Survey map.

There is also a passage about the Lost Pond in J.A Brimble’s London’s Epping Forest (pub. 1950). In fact, it appears that it was Brimble who gave the pond its name.

“Just before the ground begins to drop steeply to the valley, there is a pond set deeply in a dense surrounding of trees. It is right on the hill-top and is actually overlooking Bellringers’s Hollow.
The pond is not a natural one. It was made many years ago in supplying Loughton with gravel. But Nature and the passing of the years have concealed the scars, and the pond has settled beautifully into the Forest scene.
I don’t know that it has an official name. I have heard it called ‘The Gravels’ and ‘The Top Pond’. To us, it is always known as ‘The Lost Pond’. For, like many others, when first exploring the Forest, I walked blindly and stumbled on the pond by accident, afterwards being unable to remember how I got there, and where to find it again. It became ‘The Lost Pond’.”

The Lost Pond Epping Forest

The Lost Pond

Brimble also notes that it was a favourite haunt of the sculptor Jacob Epstein and that one day he found Epstein with his easle set up by the pond and he told the artist the name of the lake which then Epstein helped popularise. I wonder if this was the day the painting on the postcard was produced.

‘The Lost Pond’ is only one of several such attractive spots to be found in the woods. For the Forest only yields the secret whereabouts of these places to those who know her intimately.
J.A Brimble – London’s Epping Forest 1950

Out into the fields beyond Epping Forest

Forest and Fieldpath ramble from Loughton to Epping Long Green via Loughton Camp, High Beach, Honey Lane Quarters and Upshire

During this latter stage of the lockdown I’ve been craving the countryside. I’d walked out from Leytonstone to Upshire through Epping Forest then on to Epping a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to strike further beyond the forest. I had my sites set on Epping Long Green and the footpaths that lead across the fields to the outskirts of Epping town.

The Route

This walk starts at Loughton Station and enters Epping Forest from Forest Road. We then cross the Loughton Brook and follow the Green Ride a short distance before picking up the Three Forests Way to Loughton Camp. From Loughton Camp we continue to follow the Forests Way through High Beach then along the General’s Ride to Honey Lane Quarters to take in the fantastic view of the hills around Waltham Abbey. The path then leads us across Woodridden Hill and along Woodredon Farm Lane through the Woodredon Estate. We cross the M25 then take the Green Lane to Upshire and on to Temple Hill in Warlies Park. After a short rest and check of the map, the hike continues to the Boudicca Obelisk in Obelisk Field and then across the fields of Newhouse Farm following the Three Forests Way to Spratt’s Hedgerow Wood. The route continues north through Parvills Farm to Epping Long Green, where we enjoy great views across Nazeingwood Common.

Epping Green

We stick to Epping Long Green to the village of Epping Green then take the footpath beside Epping Green Chapel. This path leads south to Epping Upland and the 13th Century All Saints Church. On the other side of Takeleys Manor, a 16th Century moated manor house, is the footpath that leads us through fields of borage to the outskirts of the town of Epping in Essex.

Distance = 15 miles