Hainault Forest Website

Written and Designed by © Brian Ecott


November - December 2007


Sunset 16th November 2007

November and December's weather has been very mixed with temperatures rarely going above 12°c. Days have been sunny wet, misty and foggy and on several occasions a crisp frost and clear bright skies heralded dawn. On days like this a pleasant sunset could be seen from the forest looking towards Canary wharf, the City and the Post Office tower.

On the 8th November over 40 walkers turned up to walk round the Forest to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of "Walk to Health". Originally started by Linda Herbert, Events Officer and Sandra Hoiss, Woodland Trust Community Officer, the  Walk to Health now provides graded walks throughout Redbridge 2 or 3 times weekly for differing abilities.

The 7th December saw the launching of the Redbridge Biodiversity Action Plan. Biodiversity Action Plans BAPS arose from the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and from the UK Government's response in 1994 with their UK BAP. Regional BAPS followed including that of the Mayor of London and in turn many of the London Boroughs have their own, now including Redbridge. Redbridge has a very varied range of green space, including a Country Park, Nature Reserves, Farmland and Urban Parks, Gardens and Allotments, School Grounds and Waterways. These can form a green corridor connecting throughout London and into the Essex Countryside. Redbridge has a duty of care, as Biodiversity is ultimately lost or conserved at the local level. Biodiversity is of value in its own right and has a social and economic value for human society. The Redbridge Biodiversity Plan will be monitored continuously with information being sent to London which will hold meetings and Reviews in 2008 and 2010.

The launch was attended by Cllr Ronnie Barden, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Cllr. Loraine Sladden, Chair of Leisure, Local area committee Councillors and Iain Varah, Chief Officer of Leisure and members of the public who had been involved in the formulation, data input and voluntary work connected with the BAP. The Action Plan was introduced by Francis Castro, Team leader, Conservation Team and detailed by Fiona O'Connor, Conservation Team. Louise Wells , London Water Vole Project Officer outlined the need to put in measures in London and Redbridge to ensure the survival and recovery of Water voles in the area. She explained the Water vole's habitat and requirements and the threats to its survival. Paul Browne introduced a breeding and release programme for Water voles which was now taking place in Hainault Forest Country Park.

The current Biodiversity Action Plan includes policies for individual species including Water voles, House sparrows and Bats and habitats including Allotments, School grounds and Private gardens. Other species and habitats can be added as the need arises.

The very popular Christmas Decoration Workshop led by Linda Herbert, was attended by myself and twenty two ladies who produced very professional wreaths, table decorations and garlands. At weekends in December children were provided with materials in the Visitors Centre to make decorations, cut outs, masks etc. The displays in the Centre are well worth a visit.

On the 3rd November I led a late Autumn walk entitled a Journey through time. Apart from the good weather, the autumnal colours, the spindle berries and much wildlife we concentrated on events in Hainault Forest such as the Farm cottages, buildings including a forge which were built in 1856, the Lake dug and planted in 1910, the GLC plantation 1965-6, Old Dido's oak at Sheepwater, Pollarding of Hornbeams for charcoal, and Hainault Forest Oaks for shipbuilding including the "Fighting Temeraire" of Turner fame.

I attended the Social and Exhibition of the Essex Field Club in Chelmsford on the 1st December. I exhibited a selection of photographs of the wildlife of Hainault Forest that I had taken during the year. Over 100 members attended and there were many exhibits of interest. The Essex Field Club is the County's leading society for wildlife expertise and is well worth becoming a member if your have a specialised or general interest in wildlife, geology or conservation. The Essex Field Club has been in existence for over 125 years and was instrumental in supporting one of its members Edward North Buxton in securing a part of Hainault Forest as an open space forever in 1903.

Little owls are rarely seen wild in the forest but their roosts are occasionally seen. Two roosts were found in the hay barn recently. Amongst the white droppings were several pellets containing the remains of small mammals.

Fungi were still to be seen in the forest during November and December. Many remain throughout the winter and persist for several years especially on trees and rotting trunks and include the aptly named Turkey tail Trametes versicolor.



Launch of Redbridge's Biodiversity Action Plan 7th December 2007.

Paul Browne, Cllr Loraine Sladden, Louise Wells, Fiona O'Connor, Francis Castro.

Water vole. Launch of the breeding programme at Hainault Forest.

Christmas Workshop

Little owl roost in barn 26th November 2007

Turkey tail 29th November 2007.

Walk to Health - Fifth Anniversary, 8th November 2007

and some final words for 2007..........from 1799!

Trees removed along Forest Road, Hainault to make way for the run in to the Velodrome being constructed behind the Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve. 14.10.2007.


The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all Ridicule and Deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the Eyes of the Man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself. As a man is, So he Sees. As the Eye is formed, such are its Powers.


William Blake writing to the Rev. Dr. Trusler, 23rd August 1799.



September - October 2007

Hoverfly Eristalis pertinax on daisy

Hoverfly Helophilus trivittatus on daisy

Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus on ivy.

Hoverfly Eristalis pertinax on ivy.

Autumn has finally made it's presence felt. During October  we had the first ground frosts and cooler weather. Some mornings  were  misty

and damp, and a spell of high pressure over Norway gave several cool sunny days at the end of the month. With little wind the trees are shedding their leaves naturally and they are fluttering  to the ground like snow.  Ash was the last to come  into leaf and  the first to shed its

SLUG Arion ater (brown form)

Ascomycete fungus Ciboria batschiana on old acorn. 6 Oct. 2007.

Peter Comber in Hainault Forest 27th October 2007 Photo: © Ron Andrews

Pair of Large White butterflies  11.September 2007.

leaves. In the woodland the yellowing leaves of Hornbeam and Maple cover the floor. Beech is a golden colour. The Horse chestnut's leaves were shed very early due to the high infestation of the micro-moth Cameraria ohridella. The oaks are still green


The leaf litter, fallen branches and dead trees are composed of complex organic molecules which will now be broken down to simple molecules or building blocks by many organisms such as earthworms, soil mites, slugs and fungi. Slugs such as Arion ater feed on leaf litter. It is a large slug approx 15 cms and there are several colour forms. In the form illustrated there is an orange foot fringe. The front end has a thickened area or mantle covering it and includes a respiratory pore on the right. The eyes are carried on tentacles.


Much of the debris is broken down by a succession of fungi which send out microscopic threads or hyphae that gradually break down the leaves and dead wood. The fungus benefits from nutrients that it obtains during the process. If the autumn is damp the fungus may appear on the surface as a macroscopic fruiting body, many of which are familiar to us as mushrooms and toadstalls. Five fungus forays took place in the forest and associated areas. The Essex Field Club held theirs on Cabin Hill and logged 79 different species including the uncommon Ciboria batschiana which is specific to old acorns.


Peter Comber led four of the forays and 59 attended his walk starting at The Visitors Centre on the 21st October when 63 species were found. Peter has been recording the fungi in Hainault Forest for 60 years. He first took an interest in fungi as a teenager when he and a pal used to go for walks in the forest. Peter has had to cope with the often changing Latin names throughout the years but now most have recently been given English names   For the locations and a full list of species visit the fungi list page.


Thirty two people attended my Autumn Equinox walk on the 23rd September and I led 40 members of The West Essex Ramblers around the forest on 17th October. On both walks we identified several hedgerow fruits and seeds including blackberries, haws, sloes, rosehips, elderberries, conkers, hornbeam seed and beech mast. Fruits of Purging buckthorn and Spindle were identified as poisonous. We also noticed that the summer flowers had gone and were replaced by two important flowering species - the Ivy and the Michaelmas Daisy. Both supply a welcome source of nectar and pollen late in the year for flies, hoverflies, wasps, bumblebees and honeybees. People are often puzzled by the Ivy flowers and comment on the fact that the leaves are different from the non-flowering stems. On the ivy on the 17th October six Red admirals were seen feeding.


It has been a good year for butterflies in the forest especially Red admirals,  Speckled wood, Meadow browns, Gatekeepers, Purple hairstreaks, Commas and Green-veined whites. A pair of Large whites were seen on 11th September.  Ringlets and White admirals were present earlier in the year.


Whilst wandering around the forest I have come across dog walkers who enjoy exercising their dogs ands who have some wonderful dogs whose breeds I have not known or rarely see. Breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute, Shih-Tzu, Newfoundland, Sheltie, Old English Mastiff, Affenpinscher, Schnauzer and Lhasa Apso. A dog commonly seen in the forest is the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. I met a couple leading a Norwegian Elkhound. Although it is very uncommon in the UK it is the National dog in Norway and during wartime individuals may be "called up" for service. Its name comes from the Norsk elghound which literally means Moose hound and it has been used for thousands of years for tracking, moose and bears. It accompanied the Vikings and hunted by scent and was used for herding and sled pulling. Its ears direct the scent to the large nose with deep open nostrils as seen in the picture. Why not visit the Dogs at Hainault Forest page to see some delightful pictures.


Caddis flies are waterside insects which will fly at night and are often mistaken for night flying moths. As adults they cling to waterside vegetation during the daytime and their lifespan is only a few days. I found an adult Limnephilus lunatus on the lakeside vegetation on a sunny morning. "Lunatus" refers to the moon shape marking on the wings.


Flocks of Black-headed gulls were seen flying and perching around the lake. They are now in winter plumage and have lost their black head and now have a black spot behind the eye. A few pairs of Shoveler ducks were seen feeding on the lake. The Crow family are well represented with a few Crows, many Jackdaws and large numbers of Magpies. Jays are seen feeding on acorn. On the grassland  Green woodpeckers were often  seen flying with a low undulating flight. In the secondary woodland and scrub on Cabin Hill, family groups of Long-tailed tit could be seen feeding, and around the farm Goldfinch flocks were often noticed.


Norwegian Elkhound

Caddis Fly Limnephilus lunatus adult.  21.10.07. Hainault Lake.


Autumn equinox walk. 23rd September 2007 on Cabin Hill.  Photo: © Michael Feldman


Hawthorn Haws

Rose hips

Blackthorn sloes

Woody nightshade berries




July - August 2007

The Common, Manor Road. 29th August 2007. Thistle seed blowing everywhere!

This is The Common in Manor Road, the part that is mainly in Lambourne parish. It is covered in Creeping thistle with some patches of Ragwort. In addition the new fields which the Woodland Trust acquired last year are yellow with ragwort and surround 50 acre meadow where horses are grazing.  Both species which come under the Weeds Act (1959) requires the landowner, the local authority or DEFRA to have them removed. The Common which has been "managed" by the Woodland Trust for nearly ten years is a disgrace. Older residents remember when it was cut annually by the greater London Council and Redbridge and had a variety of wild flowers. In the spring it used to be covered in Lady's Smock which was a spectacular sight.

Some of the varied kites being flown on the grassland area.

Some of the International Scouts who carried out maintenance work in the Country Park.

Members of the Walk to Health group at Lambourne Church with Linda Herbert, right.

Spear thistle.  29th July 2007

Field scabious. 29th July 2007

Ringlet pair.  13th July 2007.

The weather for the period has been very mixed but during the school holidays, whenever the sun appeared, kites were flown on the amenity grassland in the Country Park and there were some very interesting shapes and colours to be seen.


Late July saw the 21st World Scout Jamboree which was held at Highlands Park, Chelmsford. It coincided with the Centenery of the Scout movement. The theme was "One World - One promise". During their stay parties of Scouts came to the Country Park over several days and carried out tasks which included farm fence painting, stream clearing and work on the Nature Trail.


I led a walk "Looking for Plant Galls" on 22nd July. Twenty five people turned up on a fine day and although galls were not so abundant we did manage to identify over 40 species during the two hour walk. A display was set up in the Visitor Centre and several people took specimens home for further study. Two very abundant galls on English oak were Knopper and Gooseberry galls, sometimes galling the same acorn. Gooseberry galls have only been in the Forest since 2004.


Redbridge's longer Healthy Walk for August took place on the 29th when we walked from the Country Park to Lambourne Church on what turned out to be a very pleasant day. The walk took two and a half hours and led us through the woodland  and via The Camelot and Hoe Lane, across the fields to the Mast in New Lane, Lambourne and crossing Dews Hall field footpath to the Church. We returned via Featherbed Lane - an old Green Lane which took us to Cavills walk and then back to the Country Park. 


A few plants of the yellow Mouse-ear hawkweed are flowering on Cabin Hill, along with the pink spikes of Rosebay willow herb and Greater willow herb. Rosebay willow herb was rather rare in the 19th century but there were population explosions in the two world wars, but now it is common in the forest especially along the woodland edges. Also flowering during the period are Autumn hawkbit, Knapweed, Spear thistle and a solitary plant of Field scabious was seen for the first time on the planted wildflower  meadow on Hog hill.


Butterflies were abundant especially Meadow brown, Gatekeeper and Purple hairstreak. Several sightings of White admiral were seen in July and August again this year around Roe's well. It appears to be on the increase in this part of Essex. Several individual Painted lady butterflies turned up in August. A new sighting was the Ringlet which was first seen by Steven Stuart of Chigwell Row in the grassland in early July and a pair were captured by me on film on the 13th.


Large numbers of the Harlequin ladybird are present this year and can be found on the Black poplars, presumably feeding on the aphids which are the causers of the Spiral galls on the leaf petioles.


Dragonflies have had a good season. Broad bodied chasers, Emperors, Migrant hawkers, Brown hawkers and Ruddy darters were especially common. Common blue and Large red damselflies were seen on Roe's well and Sheepwater.


The Environmental Art and Craft sessions for children were very popular and well attended during August in the Visitor centre, in fact there were plenty of things to do and look at every day. Drawing and mask making were very popular, and exhibits of flowers, fruits, galls, photos and natural history objects were on display. A rabbit was brought from the farm which allowed children to stroke and pet it.


On the farm there were three guided tours where children could meet the animals and help the Countryside wardens with the morning feed. Sheep, geese, Paxo the turkey and the donkeys were encountered and some new arrivals were a particular attraction. The pair of calves which are of a Charolais cross were bottle fed as were the Nubian and Toggenberg goats. Children also met Bella the Shetland Pony and her foal. A barn owlet hatched about four weeks previous was seen and was starting to get its adult plumage.


Several dog visitors have been photographed recently in the Country Park and appear on the website.


Finally. Fancy helping at Hainault Forest? There are several areas where we need some help......DIY, tidying parkland, assisting in the gift shop and Visitors' centre. If you can offer your time and enthusiasm ....a few hours regularly or a half/whole day weekly, monthly please contact Fiona at the visitors' centre or phone 020 8500 7353. Thank you.

Calf, Nubian goat, Shetland pony and foal (Photo © Linda Herbert) and Barn owlet.

Bank Holiday Craft Fair.


May - June 2007

One of many Canada Geese families

Lousewort on Chigwell Row Recreation Ground.  5th May 2007.

Congratulations to Paul Hewitt, Staff and Volunteers of Epping Forest Country Care who manage the Chigwell Row Recreation Ground and in particular the small heathland area that it contains.

Scrapes of the ground during the winter months disturb the soil and expose seeds which may have lain dormant for many years. This work has resulted in the return of the Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica pictured left in May. Seven plants appeared and have since seeded. They are semi parasitic on the herbage.

Lousewort was once common in our heathland which lies at the back of Woolhampton Way. It was last seen there in any great numbers in 1990. The heathland flora occurs as a result of the glacio-fluvial deposit left after the last glaciation and which marks the southern boundary of the glacier. This deposit is divided by the Romford Road.

Common spotted orchid on Woodland Trust's new land. 10th June 2007.

Bag worm pupa on oak leaf.  10th June 2007.

Cucumber spider and egg case on oak leaf. 10th June 2007.

Capsid bugs - Calocorus quadripunctatus and Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus on oak leaves. 5th May 2007.

Male flower beetle on dog rose. 12th June 2007.

May's weather turned cooler after April's record breaking high temperatures. Rain and showers occurred until the 18th when a warm, sunny dry spell occurred. The Bank holiday 26-28th May was wet. June continued wet with a queue of low pressure areas crossing the country brought sun and showers, drizzle, thunderstorms and very heavy rain causing serious flooding in many parts of the country.

The pair of Swans who were nesting on the island in the lake failed to produce any offspring this year, and the Mallard ducklings were picked out of the water by Carrion crows. Coot and Moorhen bred successfully. The Canada geese which should have been kept off the island by the wire fencing which was put up a couple of years ago gained entry somehow on to the island and by the beginning of June it was apparent that they had been fruitful and large numbers of goslings in family groups and crèches were seen. The goslings soon lose their downy appearance and by the end of June were looking like young adults.

Common blue butterflies were seen on the 7th June along with Meadow browns in the grassland and Gatekeepers on the bramble blossom. The immigrant Painted lady first appeared on the 7th June. They spread from North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. Our butterflies may fly directly from North Africa or may arise from a second brood in Europe and can build up in numbers due to the life cycle being complete in one month. The White admirals that were seen last year appear to have recolonised the forest. Steven Stuart of Chigwell Row has reported seeing several towards the end of June. They require bramble flowers and honeysuckle lianas. White admirals appear to be spreading in Essex.

Several pairs of the Large red damselfly were seen egg laying in the Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve on the 22nd May, and Broad bodied chaser dragonflies were seen patrolling over Sheepwater on the 10th June. An unusual sighting was that of a male Banded demoiselle Calopteryx splendens flying along the edge of the field on the Woodland Trust Havering land. It is normally found near slow flowing rivers, but was possibly connected to the Spurgate Brook which follows the field edge. In this same field four spikes of the Common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii ssp. fuchsii were discovered by Alan Galpin of Lambourne End. A subsequent search of the whole field failed to reveal any other spikes.

During June and July about 30 species of gall were recorded. The Sea anemone gall Neuroterus saliens (sexual generation) first found last year was present in larger numbers on the Turkey oak on the 22nd May. A pimple gall Troiza remota was found on English oak leaves and an early stage of the bud gall Andricus solitarius (asexual generation). The early stage is covered by fine hairs. Pictures to be found on the Oak galls page.

While carefully searching for galls on tree foliage it is common to find various invertebrates. One unusual find is the pupal case of the Bag worm. This is a micro moth whose larva pupates on the surface of a leaf by building a case of natural material. Identity of this group is by the type of material used. In the one illustrated the larva has used pieces of grass stem. When the moth emerges the male flies away but the female remains encased for the rest of her life as she is born wingless. The male seeks her by her production of scent (pheromones) which he detects through his antennae.

A tiny yellow-green spider can be found amongst the oak leaves. This is the Cucumber spider Araniella cucurbitina. It builds a rather haphazard web amongst the foliage and can often be seen guarding an egg mass.

Capsids are mainly plant feeding bugs and are often brightly coloured. Two examples were photographed on the 5th May. Individual species don't have common names and their Latin names are a bit of a mouthful - Calocorus quadripunctatus and Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus.  On the Dog rose, metallic green flower beetles Oedemera nobilis are often found feeding on the flowers. The hind femur is swollen in the males.

On the 6th May the rain held off and I led a group of 35 people on a spring ramble. The early season this year meant that the Bluebells were not at their best and the Wood sorrel was over.

On the farm some four goat kids arrived. Two Toggenbergs and two Nubians. They have been bottle fed by the staff and are gradually being introduced out into the fields.


Nubian kid


March - April 2007

Lady's smock or Cuckoo flower on The Common, late Seventies. 

Photo: © Peter Comber

Same view of The Common 29th April 2007.  Very few Lady's smock this year. Photo: © Peter Comber

Remember when........

Remember when the Common was ablaze in late April with Lady's smock or Cuckoo flower when the Common was properly managed in the seventies and eighties. It was the talk of the villagers who still fondly remember it when it was regularly cut by Frank Galpin. It was part of their heritage and something that they looked forward to each spring. Travellers passing along Manor Road to The Beehive / Camelot or onto Lambourne End and beyond commented on it. Now since The Woodland Trust took over in 1998 The Common has sadly gone into a decline. A few plants still exist there along with rough grasses and thistles. Lady's smock is an annual plant and the Common requires cutting in  summer when seeding has finished and before the thistles flower.  All arisings need to be removed to allow a fresh grass sword to develop. In a couple of years people might again see their Common buzzing with bees and insects  and especially the Orange Tip butterfly. Not much to expect is it?

RED-TAILED QUEEN BUMBLEBEE. Bombus lapidarius in Lambourne Wood. Photo: 13th March 2007.

GREENBOTTLE FLY  Lucilia sp. on Hornbeam leaf. Photo: 26th April 2007 on Hornbeam, Cabin Hill.

ANGLE SHADES MOTH  Phlogophora meticulosa resting on nettle.

Photo: 29th April 2007.

HARLEQUIN LADYBIRDS Harmonia axyridis  mating on Turkey oak. Left - a pair of

var. succinea. Photo: 29th April 2007. Right: the male is an unspotted variety. Photo: 16th April 2007.

RIBWORT PLANTAIN Plantago lanceolata among the buttercups on Cabin Hill. 29th April 2007.

BLINKS Montia fontana ssp. chondrosperma amongst the short turf and moss on Hog Hill.   Photo: 1st April 2007.

There was mud everywhere at the beginning of March, but this quickly dried out and the winter weather was soon forgotten. On 19th and 20th March it was cold with sleet and on the 29th and 30th March it was overcast, cold and with some drizzle. Otherwise the weather in March was generally warm. For the whole of April the sun shone and there have been several occasions when the temperature reached 28°C especially over the Easter holidays. These high temperatures broke all records for April and spring in the forest arrived three weeks earlier than usual.

Comma butterflies appeared on the 2nd March and Red admirals on 16th March. A pair of Brimstones were seen on the 27th March. Yet more butterflies put in an appearance on 1st April - the Peacock and the Speckled wood, with the Green veined white and Holly blue noticed on the 15th April, Orange tip males occurred on the 20th April and a lone Small heath butterfly on the 29th April.

A Red-tailed queen bumblebee was seen on the 13th March in Lambourne Wood. This was one of the things to look out for,  for inclusion in the BBC Spring Watch phenology records. The warm weather brought out many insects including Squash bugs on dock leaves, Cardinal beetles on the Grey poplar, the black and red Froghopper, metallic Longhorn moth Adela reaumurella  males were swarming around the females on the fresh green oak leaves. As their name suggests the males have very long antennae - about six times their body length, but the females have very short ones. A fly caught my eye basking on an hornbeam leaf. Its thorax and most of the abdomen was a metallic bronze colour. Only the tip of the abdomen was metallic green. This was identified as an old Greenbottle fly. They go this colour as they age and the damaged wings confirm this. While photographing Three cornered leek on Hog Hill I noticed a Snake fly. This and several other insects can be seen on the minibeast page. Tiny green caterpillars of the Tortrix moth hang from oak trees on fine gossamer threads and get caught up hair and clothing during a woodland walk. I spotted an Angle shades moth resting on a nettle leaf. It is normally found between May and October. It flies by night, resting on leaves during the day.

On the 12th April Pine ladybirds and Orange spot ladybirds were seen. Throughout April the immigrant Harlequin ladybird was seen often on the Turkey oaks. Most were Harmonia axyridis var. succinea, although I did see an unmarked male pairing with the H.a.var succinea. on the 16th April. It will be interesting to see what effect this ladybird has on the populations of other ladybirds, moths etc. The larva is a voracious feeder on other ladybird and moth eggs.

Ribwort plantain made a lovely display amongst the buttercups on Cabin Hill. It is an attractive plant when in flower. The only patch of Wood anemones in Hainault Forest didn't flower this year. This might need to be addressed to encourage it to spread. The bright yellow dandelion-like flowers of Coltsfoot was in flower on the equinox walk 17th March on the Havering link path, on the new Woodland Trust land and around the Hainault Lake. It flowers before the leaves appear which supposedly are shaped like a Colt's foot.  Blinks is a very tiny plant growing in the short wet turf amongst the mosses on Cabin Hill. It has a tiny white flower. Flowers are often in groups of two or three (see lower right edge of photo)  and there is a tiny three seeded capsule (see middle left edge of photo). Bluebells have flowered since the middle of April.

The Mute swans are nesting on the lake island and last years male cygnet was found dead on the 16th March, possibly killed by his father who had been trying for several weeks to get him to leave the lake. Skylarks are commonly heard flying above the grassland in the Country Park and on the new fields at Havering Park Farm, where Lapwings have been noted. I was lucky to see a Lesser spotted woodpecker tapping the branches of an Oak tree on Cabin Hill. They are very small birds. Migrant birds have arrived. The Chiff chaff on the 26th March, Blackcaps on the 15th April. A Cuckoo was first heard on the 20th April and I spotted one flying and calling on the 29th April.

The Ash tree has just started to come into leaf at the close of April, but the English oak has been in leaf and flower from the 12th April. Both came out together in the first week in May last year. Remember "Oak before Ash, we're in for a splash" but it hasn't happened yet. Hawthorn too started flowering on the 12th April. In the dog free area close to the visitors centre are several London plane trees. I had never noticed the flowers before, and they proved interesting. On the tip of the branches, on the new growth are the female flowers which form a red ball like cluster. There may be one or more on a stalk. On last years and older wood hang the clusters of male flowers which are duller. The Plane doesn't need insects for pollination as clouds of pollen are shed into the air from them when shaken or when the wind blows.

As mentioned in the last diary frogs spawned on the 28th Feb. in Roes Well. On the 16th March there was approximately 50 clutches of Frog Spawn in Bomb crater pond on Cabin Hill. This is a temporary pond often drying up and unless we get some rain it may spell disaster for the tadpoles. There was Toad spawn in the lake on 21st March, but not as much as last year.

Fallow deer appear frequently on the new land and their tracks or slots are seen in Lambourne Wood. Hares are also common in the surrounding fields. On Sunday 29th April Sarah White photographed a Common lizard in the glade by the heathland, sunning itself. Like grass snakes the common lizard is present in the area but seldom remains long enough to make a splendid photograph.

Galls are appearing earlier this year. On the Turkey oaks are the Sea anemone galls of Neuroterus saliens. These appear to be more numerous than last year. The Gooseberry gall Andricus grossulariae  is very abundant. On an English oak tree behind the Café I found a new gall for Hainault - the Cotton Wool gall Andricus quercusramuli which occurs on the developing catkin buds.

Walks have been very popular and well attended. I led the Lower plant walk on the 4th March looking and collecting mosses, lichens, ferns and liverworts. 21 attended. 30 attended the Equinox walk on the 17th March led by Daphne Gilbert and 40 attended the Nature Trail walk led by Linda Herbert where we stopped to look at the sculptures and an area where Wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides was in flower.

Flowers of LONDON PLANE Platanus x hispanica  Photo: 20th April 2007 in the Dog free area near the Visitor centre.

COTTON WOOL GALL Andricus quercusramuli on English oak behind café. Photo: 29th April 2007.

Forty people attended the Nature Trail Tour led by Linda Herbert on the 21st April.


January - February 2007

Ramblers walking around the Havering land appear not to notice the Fallow deer (Four bucks and five does) in the next field. Photo: ©Sarah White.  2 Jan 2007.

2006 was a year of events celebrating the Centenery of the purchase and dedication of the new Hainault Forest in which the Earl Carrington declared "this magnificent forest open and belonging to the public forever and ever". Thank you to the Country Park staff, Officers of Redbridge Council, The Woodland Trust and local organisations who helped make the Celebrations worthwhile.


In the first week of 2007 with little public consultation (except for a few notices pinned up) The Woodland Trust erected a barbed wire fence enclosing Latchford meadow and the Heathland area at the back of Woolhampton Way. A two metre swathe was cut through heather and dwarf gorse to erect the fence and all but one mature plant of petty whin was destroyed - all this to graze a couple of steers. Dwarf gorse Ulex minor is a rare and declining plant in the UK occurring in less than 100 locations and Petty whin Genista anglica is very rare in Essex occurring in a handful of locations. A number of  trees, oak and hornbeam some aged between 100 - 150 years were cut down and removed from the site and the larger trees were sculptured into seats where one can sit and contemplate the destruction instead at marvelling at the site of Greater-spotted woodpeckers who frequented the trees and were a pleasure to watch. Behind this area is a two acre strip which was grassland 40 years ago and with more thought this could have been cleared of scrub, rather than felling mature trees.


All this for a grazing experiment to create an 11th century wood pasture landscape. The Corporation of London have spent over two years consulting Epping Forest locals and visitors regarding grazing experiments. Hainault Forest is about a tenth of the size of Epping Forest and fencing is appearing all over the place. Does the Woodland Trust appreciate that we are in the 21st century, things are different now, a millennium later there is a vast local population that enjoy the forest for exercise, walking, playing, cycling, horse riding, orienteering, enjoying the wildlife and flowers. To walk through the forest on a summer evening in June and catch the scent of the honeysuckle in bloom is an unforgettable experience. Global warming is the topic of the day. Removing mature trees is not a good policy - they have much to offer the environment - taking up carbon dioxide and supporting a vast array of insects which in turn provide food for a healthy bird population.


We teach the children to get involved in "plant a tree" schemes and at the same time cut mature ones down. What sort of example is that. The heathland which has developed on a glacio-fluvial sandy deposit from the last ice age is an area of low nutrients and the last thing that it needs is cow dung. Rather the removal of years of leaf litter a bit of tender  loving care is all that is needed and the cattle kept away.  After all Epping Forest Country Care are developing their patch of heathland on the other side of the road in Chigwell Row Recreation Ground Nature Reserve without grazing!

The fence cuts through the heathland flora, destroying a quarter of the Dwarf gorse and all but one plant of Petty whin.

Once a living tree supporting woodpeckers now a seat. Sit here and contemplate how many trees the children need to plant to replace its vast area of foliage.

On a more positive note the winter walk which takes you around the newly acquired land has often given sightings of a small herd of Fallow deer in an adjacent field. Starting from the Visitor's centre or the Camelot car park the walk is approximately 3½ miles in total. Click here to link to the winter walk page.

The weather for the period was dominated by a series of rapidly following High and Low pressure areas passing over us giving rain, showers, sunshine, wind and overcast days. Gales blew on the 18th January and brought down several trees in the forest including a magnificent beech on the golf course which had a girth of 3.2 metres. The first fall of snow on the 24th January left a light covering, but after a few frosty mornings from the 1st - 6th February a heavy snowfall started in the early hours of 8th February and brought chaos to the roads and local schools were closed. Many children were in the forest making giant snowballs and snowmen. Some rode toboggans down the hog hill slope.

Work continues on the Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve in Forest Road. The dozen Hazel coppiced trees which badly needed light had the Holly removed from around them last autumn, and they appear to be doing well and together with the young saplings are all sporting an array of catkins on the 14th January. A work party is there most Sunday morning - why not join them.

The adult male swan or cob has become aggressive to his cygnets and will soon drive them away so that he can settle down once more with his female or pen to raise this years brood which should appear late April. Cormorants appeared on the lake on occasions as did the Shoveler ducks. All the usual water fowl were there - Tufted ducks, Mallard, Pochard, Great crested grebes, Moorhen and Coot. Flocks of Black-headed gulls are seen around the lake and several are already displaying their black heads, which they lose in winter. On Roe's Well a Heron was seen on 22nd February.

Small Fallow deer herd on 13th February 2007.

First snow of the year,   24th January 2006 Photo: © Glenn Mulleady

I led a Tree Identification Walk on the 4th February. It was frosty and sunny and 32 adults and children came along. Twigs were compared with a coloured handout and some took home samples for future reference. Catkins were seen on the hazel coppice on Cabin Hill but the tiny female flowers had yet to come out. On an old fallen Ash tree we saw the fungus King Alfred's Cakes Daldinia concentrica in large numbers. Other winter fungi frequently encountered at this time are Hairy stereum Stereum hirsutum and Jelly ear Auricularia auricula-judae..

Throughout the period a flock of Jackdaws has been in the Country Park feeding on the grassland and perching in the trees. Their call "Jack" is very distinctive. Robins are singing and Great, Blue and Long-tailed tits flit around the trees and scrub feeding often in family groups. Likewise large flocks of Chaffinch.

On the 20th February Skylarks were in flight and singing over the grassland in the Country Park and also over the new land at Havering Park Farm. Flocks of Redwings were seen busy stripping Hawthorn berries along the hedgerows of the new land on the 4th, 5th and 7th January and again on the 14th February accompanied by a few Fieldfares when they fed in the grassland.

King Alfred Cakes on a fallen Ash tree  28th Feb 2007.

Hairy Stereum bracket fungus on  hornbeam log.  23rd Jan 2007.

The Ivy flowers which provide a source of nectar for late flying insects now have ripe berries. These are an important source of food for winter and early spring visitors such as the Blackcap.

On 21st February Sarah White was litter picking around Roe's Well when she noticed a pair of Frogs preparing for spawning. It was on the last day of February which was sunny with heavy rain showers that about a hundred pairs of frogs spawned there. Last year the Frogs spawned on the 18th March.

Walking over the grassland at the back of the lake on the 25th February I came across a white wormlike structure, some white jelly and some black egg masses. I had seen this on a previous occasion several years ago and understand it to be the discarded oviducts, egg albumin  and egg mass from a female frog that has been eaten by a large bird of prey

Ivy berries.  7th February 2007.

Pair of Frogs prepare for spawning in Roe's Well, 21st Feb 2007  

Photo: ©Sarah White.

A large bird of prey has eaten a female frog and discarded the oviducts and egg mass on the grassland behind the lake.  25th Feb 2007.

Frog spawn batches in Roe's Well 28th February 2007.

A group of volunteers met on the heathland on Sunday 25th February and were pulling up blackberry plants and tree saplings including birch, sallow and aspen. One volunteer pulled up a silver birch sapling only to find a huge gall attached. The gall was 11cm wide and 8cm depth. These galls are formed by a soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens getting into a wound and causing abnormal growth of the tissues. During the morning a couple of sightings of a Red admiral butterfly were noted. These one time migrants are now known to survive the winter here.

Sarah White was again picking litter at Lambourne End when she discovered a pint glass which had lain in the forest for about 30 years. The engraving on the side was H. J. Cocks Lambourn End. There was also a picture of a beehive.  This in fact was a glass from The Beehive Public House which is now called The Camelot. Henry Cocks and his wife Olive were the publicans there for many years. The pub changed its name in the nineteen seventies.

Birch root gall on the heathland. 25th Feb 2007

Engraving on a pint glass found in the forest. Photo: © Peter Comber

A magnificent beech tree succumbs to the gale force winds on Thursday 18th January on the edge of the golf course. Francis Castro of Redbridge Conservation Team stands by the tree to indicate scale.