Hainault Forest Website

 Gradual destruction of OUR Forest



The forest purchased by private and public subscriptions in 1903, was dedicated as a public open space forever in 1906.

On the demise of the LCC and GLC the forest was divided between Redbridge and Essex County Council by the Residuary Body.

The Woodland Trust would have you believe that it is their flagship woodland, it is not - the land wholly in Essex is in the ownership of the Essex County Council for the local people.

What you see below are some examples of the way the Woodland Trust have managed it for us and the ECC for the past 10 years.



► Several 200 year old healthy oaks and other maiden trees removed.


►Heathland mismanaged, destruction  of Petty whin over ten years.


►Destruction of the only two wildflower meadows, many species lost. Dumping of arisings on site - a poor management technique.


►Loss of Common blue and Orange tip butterflies, six-spot burnet moths and other insect species.


►Nightingale lost and other breeding birds in decline.


►Cattle to be introduced to all land managed by the Woodland Trust. 

    Restricted access, despite Act of Parliament 1903.  


►Barbed wire fenced areas and loads of gates. Fencing and access specifically mentioned in the 1903 Act.


►Blocked ditches, some even disappeared. Waterlogging. Eroded paths.


Latchford Meadow (not part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest)

Latchford meadow not cut since 2003 and now scrubbed over - wild roses, oaks, thistles, ragwort, docks, tufted hair grass. Butterfly walks were discontinued in the forest as species disappeared through lack of their food plants. Bird's foot trefoil no longer survives here, nor a small patch of Milkmaids, hence loss of Common blue and Orange Tip butterflies.

Andrew Vaughan, writing in Epping Forest's Country Care magazine EYE writes that in the last fifty years in Epping Forest District, 98% of rich grassland meadows have been lost for various reasons - housing, arable land and encroachment of scrubby species.....in ecological terms this is a disaster. Here's another disaster.

 Up to 1998 Latchford meadow was cut annually for hay for the farm animals. The little amount of Hoary Ragwort Senecio erucifolius that was there was hand pulled. According to the work schedule, it was supposed to be cut regularly but nothing has been done and in 2003 the area caught fire. Since it was surveyed during the summer of 2002 about 10 flower species have been lost. 

Photos: 13th August 2007 and 12th Oct. 2008.

Ruts on the London Loop path 9th October 2008 always with water in them even in summer time. Toby Bancroft, Eastern England manager of The Woodland Trust said that it was a cosmetic exercise to repair in July 2007 when he visited. Other hidden ruts here make walking dangerous.

Still nothing done!

Despite the recent heavy rainfall the ditch between the Heathland and Latchford meadow has never been cleared for over 10 years. This is like many other ditches which cross the site. Photo: 17th February 2009.

Behind Latchford Meadow (not part of the SSSI)

Area cleared of 24 trees including birch, hornbeam and some maiden oaks about 150- 200 years old. Some turned into seats. This was a Greater-spotted Woodpecker site. 19th January 2007.

Don't try to sit here! Same view 15th October 2008. Hidden by birch saplings and brambles. Cleared again recently.

Same area. Larger trunks removed from site, branches left there alongside the Woolhampton Way path which has been damaged by heavy machinery but not repaired. Will form part of an hard surfaced, all user path around the forest passing at the back of Woolhampton Way and Sunnymede. Photo 19th January 2007.

Two clauses in the Act of Parliament

14th August 1903

The Common field, Chigwell Row (not part of the SSSI)

Milkmaids or Thistles?

Which would you choose?

Is this how you'd like to see your Common managed or as the Woodland Trust manage it now?

Until the Woodland Trust took over management, the Common field was a mass of Milkmaids, foodplant of the Orange tip butterfly. The spring flowering was something that the villagers of Chigwell Row and Lambourne spoke about the Common field with pride. It was also noted by people in Hainault who made regular trips to see it. That is until The Woodland Trust decided to destroy it by neglecting the Common and allowing Ragwort, Thistles and Course tufted hair grass to seed year after year. Reversing this situation will be very difficult as the Common is virtually 50% thistle and 50% course grass. Of course local people's opinions and feelings don't count unless the Woodland Trust are appealing for money or bequests then you get a free lunch and are shown the bits that they want you to see.

Kew Gardens as part of Darwin 200 are launching THE GREAT PLANT HUNT later this year. Packs are being sent to primary schools. Where will our local children at Chigwell Row Primary and Coppice school find a wildflower meadow to study?    http://www.greatplanthunt.org/about 

Milkmaids also known as Cuckoo flower or Lady's smock when the field was cut regularly as a hay meadow, by GLC and Redbridge. 

Main photo Peter Comber.

Common in spring 1st May 2007 Tufted hair grass, thistles and a handful of Milkmaids, foodplant of the Orange tip butterfly. Will we ever Milkmaids and Orange tips again here?

Common in autumn 28th August 2007. Thistles and Tufted hair grass.

Common in autumn 1st August 2008 Thistles waist high and seeding

The Common 8th November 2008. Two years worth of thistle, ragwort and course grass arisings 0.5m in height and 47metres in length. Some of the thistle seeds are growing on the heap. The water carries the nutrients from this rotting vegetation into the woodland.

Near Sheepwater (looking across the Common at Forest Cottage) 

SSSI status.

In 2007 the Woodland Trust cleared the ditch across the Common Field, but placed the spoil on the higher slope thereby cutting off the flow into the ditch. This was mentioned to Toby Bancroft East of England Manager, Woodland Trust at the time of his visit in 2007 and he said it was a cosmetic exercise (his favourite saying) to thread pipes through it. Two years on and the whole area is flooded as the water from the Common field is prevented from reaching the ditch. This area is particularly important as the area is a glacial clay which has come from the North Downs at the last glaciation. It was formerly known as Chalky Boulder clay and is always wet and sticky. It is basic to alkaline in composition and supports a unique woodland - a sub type of W10 oak/hornbeam woodland which in addition to Oak, supports Ash, Field maple, Sallow, Spindle and Dogwood. What it doesn't need is nutrients coming in from the rotting heap on the Common field. The Lesser spotted woodpecker is regularly seen here in the oak/ash canopy. A report on the 28th June 2008 on the SSSI condition was "unfavourable recovering" with a decline of breeding birds which warrants further investigation. Many factors may have contributed to this decline, but cutting down mature trees with all their supporting insects, caterpillars, aphids doesn't make sense until this investigation has been completed. Has this been done by anybody? All further felling and clearing should stop until this survey has been carried out. How long do we wait?  Sadly the nightingale was last heard in 2003.

View towards Forest Cottage, Chigwell Row.  1st March 2009

Another view 7th March 2009

Mud glorious mud - OK for Hippos.

Photo Peter Comber 2nd March 2009.

Large oak cut down  Photo:7th March 2009

Maiden oak removed. Estimated girth 1.9m a 150-200 year old. Old Dido camped under one of a similar size in 1890.  Photo:1st March 2009.

Mature Pussy Willow cut down Photo:7th March 2009.

Compare with mature pussy willow in Country Park attracting bumblebees and comma butterflies when photographed 17 March 2009.

Ash tree cut down Photo Peter Comber  2nd March 2009

Ash of similar size supports woodpeckers  Photo: 7th March 2009

Is this tree due for felling?

Photo Peter Comber 2nd March 2009.  Since the ditch hasn't been cleared the water makes its own way.

Removal of any mature tree especially Oak has several effects:


Each mature oak tree removes on average 180 litres (40 gallons water a day from its surroundings by transpiration - more in summer, less in winter. Remove the tree and the ground remains flooded or boggy. It also removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is therefore very important. QUESTION FOR SCHOOLCHILDREN - How many saplings do local children need to plant to replace just one mature tree cut down by the Woodland Trust?  What is a Carbon footprint?

Mature oak trees in spring host vast number of insects which will support many small nesting birds, chiff-chaff and other warblers rely on the canopy to feed their broods, blue, great tits, woodpeckers and others nest in crack and holes in old trees. Oaks are home to rare lichens,  mosses and galls. No one has yet recorded mosses, liverworts and lichens  in Hainault. QUESTION FOR SCHOOLCHILDREN - How many species of  invertebrates, mammals, birds does a mature oak tree host? What is a food web? Who eats acorns?


Part of Hainault Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest designated by Natural England ( a Government Quango - formerly English Nature)   Latest report June 2008  "Unfavourable recovering" decline in bird life.

The Heathland (not part of the SSSI)

In 2007 a two metre strip was cut through the small fragment of heathland. This destroyed all the mature plants of Petty Whin. This heathland is unique and special being developed on glacio-fluvial till deposited here after the last ice age and represents the southernmost limit of the glacier. Heathlands are rare in Essex and so too are Petty whin, Dwarf gorse and Heather or Ling. Over ten years the area has been systematically destroyed. Trees have been cut down including some planted by the GLC in 1965. False acacia has sent up suckers with dangerous thorns, and the cut limes and other trees are sending up coppice wood. Natural England said that these tree stumps should have been poisoned or stumps removed when cut and not allowed to run riot. How is the resultant heathland to be managed now with half inside the fence and an equal amount outside the fence. All the volunteers that the Woodland Trust had, came regularly to clear the heathland. This was never followed up each year and so the volunteers faced the same problem. From a group of 25 volunteers, numbers dwindled each year until only one or two Woodland Trust members turned up last year.

A Petty whin plant in May 2006 one of six destroyed during the fence construction in 2007. The manager said he didn't know they were there despite my warning over several years to be careful with the heavy machinery that came to cut the pathway. Surely a managers job is to know their site especially the rarities - at least that is what I would expect.

In 2005 because of the continuing destruction of the Petty whin I planted some seed under a rose bush amongst the fine grasses which were common on this site and in which Petty whin survives. They flowered for the first time in 2007 and in 2008. There has been an invasion of Tufted Hair grass over the whole site and the Petty whin has now to survive in the circled area. Photo:  7th March 2009

Lousewort is a plant which used to occur on the heathland, but not seen since the early nineties.

A new hard path is proposed round the heathland. This will require more heathland to be cut down. Not all people or horses like hard paths and so more heathland will be destroyed by walking off path. We managed 100 years without hard paths now the Woodland Trust are putting more down. One is a roadway to allow their vehicles to get to their land as they have no access any other way. Some users call it the M1.

Part of the heathland area crosses the Romford Road and emerges in the Chigwell Row Recreation Ground local Nature Reserve. This is managed by Epping Forest District Country Care. After seeking advice from Ken Adams, Botany and Bryophyte recorder for the Essex Field Club they scraped off a couple of inches of soil, releasing some buried seed and in May 2007 the plant reappeared, and was doing well in 2008, and a vast area appeared in 2009. Well done to EFCC and volunteers.

Photo: 5th May 2007 Chigwell Row Reserve.


Essex County Council gives an annual grant to

The Woodland Trust to manage the forest for us.

If you are unhappy with the way that the Woodland Trust have managed OUR forest for the Essex County Council, or its future plans: 

Copy this page and e-mail to neighbours, friends, teachers and local schools. Talk to teachers, friends and forest users.

E-mail The Woodland Trusts manager Geoffrey Sinclair


with a copy to Essex County Council Ecologist Luke Bristow


who would like comments on past management

Alternately write a letter to The Woodland Trust

Dysart Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 6LL

or write a letter to Luke Bristow,  Countryside and Ecology Officer
Natural Environment, Environment and Commerce
Essex County Council,  PO Box 11
County Hall (E3)  Market Road, Chelmsford. CM1 1QH


ask to be involved in the Public Consultation process.

Contact your MP or local Councillor or Redbridge area 3 committee.

Write a letter to The Ilford Recorder, and the local Guardian group.

Write or copy to Brian Ecott  brian@hainaultforest.co.uk


            Don't leave it to others.     Every little helps