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Topography of the Forest

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SNOW SUNDAY

Much of the low lying land borders the Romford Road, and consists of London Clay laid down under deep seas following the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago. Much of the area was farmed during the second world war, later to become playing fields, and now grassland for recreation and picnics. One area was set aside as a tree nursery for the Greater London Council, and a number of trees not normally associated with woodland can be found. Other areas on the clay have developed Hawthorn scrub, and this has been invaded by Michaelmas Daisy. A lake is shown on the maps of 1774 but has been much enlarged. Water from the lake becomes Seven Kings Water, an important waterway through the Borough of Redbridge.

With thanks to David Martin for kindly drawing the topography map.

 

The uppermost layer of London Clay was laid down in much shallower seas and is known as Claygate Beds. It consists of clay and sand particles. It forms the ridge of Hog Hill and Dog Kennel Hill and the larger part of the north of the Forest.

 

Lying on the Claygate beds to the north are Bagshot Beds forming the higher points in the Forest at Crabtree Hill 80m.and Cabin Hill 94m., which are gravely sands laid down in shallow seas. Much of the area is grazed by rabbits, and consists of Mat grass Nardus stricta and Sheep's sorrel Rumex acetosella showing its acidic nature. Many of the forest's mature Beech trees Fagus sylvatica are found on Cabin Hill.

Several Springs are to be found within the Forest area. The water from Lambourne Well drains into the River Rom. Roe's well is said to be named after the Roe family that have remained in the area from the twelfth century.

The last two geological areas are the result of the Anglian Ice Age about a half million years ago. As the ice moved southward clay, chalk and flints were deposited beneath the ice. The resultant Boulder Clay  covers much of Essex, with Hainault Forest as its southern boundary. It is a wet sticky clay, rarely drying out even in summer. Ash Fraxinus excelsior favours the boulder clay, as does Spindle Euonymus europaeus, and it supports a good spring flora. The boulder clay extends a good way up Weddrell's plain the towards Cabin Hill and is a favourite area to direct Cross Country Runs! Where the grassland is managed alongside the Manor Road,  a large area of Lady's smock  Cardamine pratensis is in full flower in the Spring.

A small area of Glacial Sand is found in the forest by Chigwell Row Church.  The glacial sand crosses the Romford Road into the recreation ground. In the forest the glacial sand supports a heathland flora including Ling Calluna vulgaris, Dwarf gorse Ulex minor and the related Petty whin Genista anglica. At one time it was intended to graze this area with sheep, but the area is now invaded with coarse grasses such as Deschampsia caespitosa which need to be controlled.

 

To the south of the present day Forest lie the Thames terraces, of which the Boyn Hill Gravel  is of economic importance.

Heathland on glacial sand.

Photo: 16th August 2006.