Epping Forest district
Epping Forest is a landscape of national and international conservation importance and a significant wildlife habitat. Epping Forest District is a very special place. It is the gateway between London and the unique charm and characteristics of the Essex countryside. One journey on the Tube can transport you from bustle and crowds of Oxford Street to a market town with countryside directly on its doorstep. Its links are such with East London that either a short cycle following tracks in the forest or along the towpath of the Lee navigation will reveal the charms of the district.
The district is an area of distinctive towns and rural villages set in pleasant countrysidewith a wealth of flora and fauna that has seen the benefit of long-term protection. The ancient forest from which the district takes its name is a prominent feature which weaves its way through the district. Add to this, the contrast of our river valleys especially the Lea and the Roding, our historic country estates and living past in the shape of Waltham Abbey, the Royal Gunpowder Mills and Greensted Church. It also includes the Grade II* listed Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge and the remains of two large Iron Age earthworks at Loughton Camp and Ambresbury Banks. The Forest hosts a range of cultural events throughout the year.
Situated at the northern end of the forest, Epping has developed around its market, which brings shoppers in from surrounding villages and towns every Monday. Epping offers plenty for visitors to do including Old MacDonalds Farm, popular with children and families; the magnificent grounds and Georgian mansion of Copped Hall; and North Weald Airfield with its range of business and leisure activities plus exciting events including the renowned North Weald Market.
The Lee Valley Regional Park runs along the western edge of the Epping Forest district and offers much to the leisure visitor. Cornmill Meadows, within Waltham Abbey for example, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has a wealth of birds and wildlife, including the only open access Dragonfly Sanctuary in the country. Also situated in Waltham Abbey are the Lee Valley Park Farms. Hayes Hill Farm has over 200 animals for children of all ages to enjoy and pet, from rabbits to sheep, chickens to goats as well as pig and ferret racing to watch. There is a new play area, farm shop and picnic area and the opportunity to take a stroll and discover the surrounding countryside. Another gem to visit is the newly opened Epping Ongar Railway, a heritage railway run by a team of enthusiastic volunteers, following a five-year restoration project. It operates steam and diesel hauled trains through 6.5 miles of picturesque rolling countryside and through Epping Forest, along the former London Underground Central Line.