IN THE FOREST, SOMETHING STIRRED…
Words and pictures from our online reporter Ken Amery
On this occasion, it was nothing too frightening, as 32 parishioners and their friends travelled to Epping Forest at the invitation of Imogen Wilde, who is now ecologist with the Corporation of London in Epping Forest .
A prompt departure from the village car park quickly found us on the M25, very thankful that we were not in the very long traffic jam on the other carriageway. We arrived in the forest at 11.00 a.m. for our guided tour of Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, with one of Imogen’s colleagues. This was an informative and amusing look at the life of the Lodge from Henry VIII’s time to the present day. The Hunting Lodge, or as it was originally known – the Great Standing, was built for Henry and his friends to hunt deer in the forest. Well, not quite hunt, as by this stage Henry was, as our guide described him “an old fat King and not too agile”, well he was 51 years old!
The ‘hunters’ stood on the first floor of the Lodge while deer, previously rounded up were driven toward the Lodge, where the ‘hunters’ with their cross bows, picked off the deer one by one!
The Lodge is a fine example of its type and it can be clearly seen that it was built with the old fat King in mind, with large doorways and an easy-to-climb staircase. Although it later became known as Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, there is no evidence that either she or her father ever used it! This is in spite of a legend that suggests that on one occasion, Elizabeth rode her horse up the staircase.
After lunch at the pub, conveniently placed next door, we went through the forest with Imogen who explained much of the ecology of the area. We quickly learnt the difference between pollarding and coppicing and the way the oak trees in this area are tended to produce the best for the trees themselves, the natural inhabitants of the forest and the thousands of visitors. Even a sudden shower could not dampen our spirits and our walk then took us through a herd of English long horned cows. For those who were a bit wary of cows, she explained that these were, “elderly ladies, living out their retirement”. Even after this statement, not all the party were totally convinced of their safety. At the end of the walk, we parted from Imogen, who invited us back to explore other parts of the forest. Everybody was impressed with her depth of knowledge and obvious enthusiasm for her work.
There was no time for a pause as we were due at Waltham Abbey for our guided tour. Waltham Abbey, or more properly the Abbey Church of Waltham Cross and St Lawrence, proved to be a lovely church, where Harold prayed on his way to the Battle of Hastings. It is here that his remains are reputed to lie, although his body was moved at least three times. The inscription reputed to have been found on a coffin in the abbey at some remote period seems quite apt “Here lies the Unfortunate Harold”. The tour of the outside of the church was interrupted somewhat by the arrival of more rain, but we continued inside and took the opportunity to closely examine some of the interesting memorials and architecture. The church has the distinction of being the last one to be ransacked during the dissolution of the monasteries. The present church, which is the nave of the old abbey, was only saved from destruction, like the rest of the building, when the local inhabitants insisted that this was their parish church.
After persuading a nearby café proprietor to stay open to serve 32 very thirsty travellers, we made our way home, again avoiding most of the traffic hold-ups.
A thoroughly enjoyable day giving many of us the opportunity to renew an old friendship and for quite a number of our party who had not been on one our trips before, the opportunity to make new ones.
20th July 2004
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