Hainault Forest Website

Restoration of the land 1903-5



Annual visits to Hainhault and Lambourne Forest by members of The Essex Field Club provide early accounts of  Edward North Buxton vision, and the pioneering work that was carried out to lay the foundation of what the Forest is today.

A London County Council Forest Keeper amidst the bracken and oak scrub 1905.

With thanks to London Metropolitan Archives for the use of the photograph.

Petty Whin Genista anglica is still holding on in the heathland area. A rare Essex species.

Buxton used various native species to create an area of "Upland Down" with scattered thickets on Cabin Hill. The view 100 years later.

Lambourne Well rises at the base of the Bagshot beds and is a feeder of the Rom. Pollarding experiment at  Lambourne Well in April 1984.

In June 1903 the party travelled to Grangehill Station on the new railway from Woodford to Ilford. They were met by the Forest Keeper on Chigwell Recreation Ground, and were soon joined by Mr E.N.Buxton who was to act as conductor, and who had travelled from Romford by bicycle. They walked through the old woodlands to Cabin Plain and to the open plains of Fox Burrows Farm passing on the way handsome Wood spurge, Pignut and Yellow Archangel. Mr Buxton explained what had already been done with regard to the planting of the vast area of arable land with seeds of forest trees and bushes. Another member of the party Mr E.M.Holmes F.L.S. examined the grasses present, in order  to advise and recommend what species should be sown to closely resemble that which would originally have been found in the old forest. Mr W. H. Dalton gave an account of the geology of the area and after tea and a meeting at The Beehive Inn the party went to Crabtree Hill and were shown the base of the Bagshot sand at Lambourne Well where a spring arose and provided the western feeder of the River Rom.


A similar walk took place in June 1904 with the Dwarf Furze Ulex nanus (=minor) being found on the recreation ground. Its scarcity and local importance was stressed. In the pond Water Fern Azolla was noted. On the arable lands of Foxburrows Mr Buxton explained that in addition to sowing 400 acres of grassland he had been entrusted to cover some 60-70 acres, in patches of varying sizes, in native species such as oak, hornbeam, birch, holly, maple, ash, whitethorn, blackthorn, bramble, dog rose, brake-fern, broom, gorse and crab. This was to create an area of upland down with scattered thickets. There were still some grazing rights on the newly acquired land and these needed regulating. The absence of Beech compared with Epping Forest was commented upon. After tea was served in Foxburrows Barn, Professor W.R.Fisher gave an address on Forest History and compared the Crown Forests with those in other European Forests and their loss in this Country, citing James I as the first King who wished to maintain our English woods and not sell them off for revenue. He also cited Albert, The Prince Consort as the instigator of the disafforestation of Hainhault Forest as the only suitable sites on the rich clay for the establishment of farms based on the German method of agriculture. In fact the lands were poor and the resulting income was  well below what was predicted. A greater income would have been made by leaving the woodland as a standing crop.


Mr Buxton was unable to lead the walk in July 1905, his place being taken by Mr Francis Dent, who led the party through newly cleared rides in the old forest and by the gate into Cabin Plain where there was a capital growth of heather and gorse, but the seedlings had only thriven the ravages of the commoners cattle where protected by scrub. Tea was taken in the barn at Foxburrows Farm when Mr Dent explained the difficulty in getting the establishment of a good turf. Few experts consulted seemed to grasp what was required, and recommended grasses more suitable for agricultural purposes. Turf brought from Epping Forest consisted of bent, fine-leaved grasses and sheep's fescue. In areas treated with basic slag grasses such as Quitch (=Couch) and slender foxtail would probably disappear. A litter of Fox cubs had been found and it was hoped that Badgers would come from Epping Forest. Of bird life, there were extraordinary numbers of Partridges, Linnets were abundant, Goldfinches were regular breeders. Kestrels and Sparrow hawks were seen and Nightingales were plentiful.

The Beehive Inn, Lambourne End, now extended and refurbished as The Camelot.


The Essex Naturalist XII.  Visit to Lambourne Forest. Saturday June 6th 1903. Pages 245-247

The Essex Naturalist XII.  W.H.Dalton. Absence of Beech in Hainhault Forest.  Pages 340- 341

The Essex Naturalist XII.  Inspection of Hainhault and Lambourne Forest. June 4th 1904. Pages 351-356

The Essex Naturalist XIII. Annual inspection of Hainhault Forest. July 22nd 1905. Pages 159-160