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Ancient Forests and Landscaped Gardens (Part 1)
I'm very lucky when it comes to where I live. For a commuter area just outside the Greater London boundary, and within walking distance of a tube station, this place is a green paradise. Within half an hour's drive (often much less) or a few minutes walk we have dozens of woods and lakes and rivers, country parks, nature reserves and long distance paths. Yet there is almost no natural landscape - indeed, you would be hard put to find many instances of 'natural' landscape in the whole of the England, and certainly not in Essex.

Just across the road (two minutes walk, even with heavy traffic) and the recreation ground with its free tennis courts is Chigwell Row Wood. This is the most westerly part of what remains of Hainault Forest (on which more later), separated from it by the A1112, and it is the wood where we walk Dracopup at the end of each day, particularly when it is raining or the nights are drawing in too quickly.

Chigwell Row Wood

Nearly 16 hectares of ancient woodland, with a little bit of restored heath, it is crisscrossed by so many pathways that you can walk for about forty minutes and not repeat a path. However, the term 'ancient woodland' does not mean 'natural woodland', and this area has been highly managed for many hundreds of years (with a gap running from the late Victorian era to the last quarter of the 20th Century.)

The trees are mainly Hornbeam and Oak, and the Hornbeams, in particular, were pollarded hundreds of years ago. Believe me, this is not the shape that either normally grows! The wood is drained by the a series of ditches running downhill.

Woodland Track

it also has a typical Hainault Forest pond where large numbers of dragon and damsel flies breed.

Chigwell Row Wood - Pond where the dragonflies breed

Last summer I saw over a dozen big brown dragonflies hawking over the recreation ground at lunchtime, and what was so huge it could only have been an Emperor hovering in front of me one evening on a woodland path. Both took my breath away. Of course, the place is a Local Nature Reserve, with the emphasis on insect life, something the local council tried to point out by commissioning some insect marker posts

Spider Marker Post

Unfortunately, this is the only one still standing, and I don't hold out much hope for it. It used to be hidden in deep scrub and bramble, but the Woodland Trust, who manage Chigwell Row Wood have just bulldozed the undergrowth to form one of the typical clearings. These would, originally, have been grazed by deer and by cattle, but the only deer in our wood now are night-visiting Muntjac. I've only seen those as roadkill, but you occasionally see a fox in the twilight or hear woodpeckers rapping.

Open Glade

One of the things I most missed when I moved from Sheffield was the continual changing vistas from the roads and paths in that city. London didn't seem to have these - but our local woods and parks are full of magnificent views. Even Chigwell Row Wood has one, though you have to travel to the western edge of the wood to find it.

Canary Wharf

You'll be seeing more views of Docklands over this group of posts!

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Beautiful, and what a lovely thing to have so close to you.

We'll take you for a walk in the woods next time you come over. We haz cows too.

How beautiful. I must find a B & B in that area which takes dogs, so Mr FB and I can take up your offer of a tour in the area to the Iron Age sites. I suspect you are slightly too far from Bristol for a trip to be easily accomplished in a day, although with the advent of lighter nights on the run-in to summer, I certainly wouldn't rule that out.

Ina and I will take a look at the B&B/small hotel situation. We'd offer to put you and Mr FB up, but there would be problems with the cats and your dogs, I suspect.

Thanks you :) I'm afraid my lurcher sees cats as prey animals, which is one reason why he is always muzzled when out of the house if he will be going off the lead.

I've found a small hotel in Wales for Monday night which will take two dogs very happily. I'm off on a research trip for Primeval VS4. Not working is very liberating!

*happy sigh* I do love a good wood :-) Beautiful pictures.

I'm scared of the country. It moos. I've seen it through car windows. Nods.

You are right to be wary of cows.

Lovely woods, great photos - though I do hope you're appropriately wary if walking on dark winter nights. :(

Oh yes. Particularly as the yobs from the local ex-Council estate have been known to arrange dog fights and motorcycle scrambling in there. (I have the numbers by which you report both on my mobile.)

Thank you.

Love the icon, by the way, even though I do dislike Tennant.

Lovely pictures!

Would you mind if I occasionally use one of your pics in my manips? I'd credit you, of course.

Of course not! If you have difficulty copying them etc, just yell.

I shall! That first pic looks perfect for a raptor or two, looking back toward the camera. *veg*

I noticed that the pic is available in various sizes, so if I get inspiration, I'd probably dl the biggest size, to give myself as much scope as possible.

Thank you!

I'm not sure what protection is on that photo. If it won't download, be sure to yell.


Gorgeous photos. I used to be nearer a place like that when I lived in S. Norwood. Shirley Hills near Coombe Lane was a great place to walk in on my day off as it was just a short Tram ride away. It had loads of little gradients so good to get the blood pumping!

We're on one of the few hills in Essex. When I was learning to drive I lived in a flatter part (Newbury Park) and my instructor used to make me drive up here so we could do hill starts. Apparently there are very few places around here steep enough to challenge novice drivers.

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