or Epping, whatever.
So 3 posts down, and I’ve already left London. Well kind of. It may be the largest open space in London, and managed by the City of London Corp and on the Central line, but it’s pretty much Essex (half London, half Essex if you’re being pedantic). It certainly doesn’t seem like London in any case.
It took us about an hour on the tube from North London, getting the Central line from Zone 1 all the way to Loughton in Zone 6 (still less than £3 on an Oyster off-peak ticket). It is also accessible from Chingford Rail station, which has regular trains to Liverpool Street Station. Getting to the Forest was very easy from Loughton station (probably due to the use of a smart phone though, as it wasn’t well signposted). It was less than 10 minutes in a straight line from the station, down the helpfully named ‘Forest Road’.
We went on a pretty miserable Saturday morning and pleasingly saw lots of users of the forest – dog walkers, horse riders, groups of walkers and mountain bikers. Yet still spent the majority of time in peace. Which was good as it struck the right balance between eerily quiet and frustratingly busy.
As a cyclist, I was particularly jealous of the mountain bikers, who looked like they were having an amazing time. Although there were a few signs warning them out of vulnerable areas (this seems to be an area of conflict in the forest) , there are lots of big wide paths for cycling as well as specially designated trails. Be warned, they did go zoom past quite quickly as there are lots of (amazing looking) steep bits.
It’s a shame it’s seems that if you want to use your bike for these sorts of activities you need a car to do it, as transporting a bike around London is so difficult. (Taking a bike on the tube is extremely restrictive). Nevertheless, there are also cycle hire options in the area.
We walked from Loughton to Theydon Bois through the forest in a about 2 hours. Following the main paths, it is fairly easy navigate, with maps dotted around at car parks. Obviously it’s a pretty massive place, so I wouldn’t recommend going to far off the beaten track as even though it’s surrounded by roads and paths with people, it wouldn’t be too hard getting lost!
Yes London has many open spaces for walkers – Hampstead Heath, which is also managed the City of London Corp. being the obvious example – but Epping gives something different, the pure vastness of the place and the gorgeous valleys are definitely worth the visit.