Epping Forest Countrycare Volunteer Walk 2013

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As a thank-you to all our hardworking volunteers we organised a circular six mile guided walk last month. Led by Kevin Mason, an interesting and diverse route took the volunteers through woodlands, grasslands and green lanes.


Taking a break in Norton Heath

We were blessed with a fine sunny day, and set off from the Chipping Ongar heading east through the fields alongside Cripsey Brook. After crossing the River Roding we headed across the old landfill site at the former LECA works. The volunteers noticed the spread of the invasive plant Goats Rue (Galega officinalis) across the site, which they work hard to control on the EFDC’s nature reserve and former landfill site at Bobbingworth.  The walk next followed  St Peter’s Way besides arable fields and through overgrown field margins.

Volunteers identifying wildflowers found along the way

Several stops were made along the way to look at the flora and for anecdotes about the sites we were passing. The walk made its way to Norton Heath for lunch supplied by the Norton Heath Café.  The heath is formed on one of the smallest Essex outliers of gravel and in the early part of the 20th Century was heavily excavated to provide gravel for the Chelmsford to Ongar road A414.  Norton Heath was designated a Local Wildlife Site in 2010.

The return trip was made through the fields and along Norton Lane in a westerly direction to reach Norton Mandeville. A stop was made at All Saint’s church and Norton Hall to admire the church and learn a little of its history. After the church we followed the farm track down to High Ongar.

We crossed the River Roding again at the footbridge and made our way back to

Heading home

Chipping Ongar passing the castle on route.  Fortunately we were back at the start before the rain came.

Despite the nettles the walk was thoroughly enjoyed by all and everyone is looking forward to next year’s volunteer treat.

The volunteers said:

“Very many thanks for such a lovely day today.  The walk was varied and interesting.”

“It was very interesting to hear some of the local history and to appreciate the splendid views.”

Emergency services tackle traffic incident scenario

Written on . Posted in Emergencies, Epping, Loughton, Media, North Weald Airfield, Ongar, Out and about, Travel, Your council

A collision involving cars and lorries required a multi-faceted response.

Harlow Fire Station organised a complex scenario at North Weald Airfield on Wednesday 17 July to simulate just such a multiple collision on our dummy motorway carriageway, which was blocked by overturned vehicles. As well as fighting fires, our Fire Brigades are heavily involved in rescue activities following major traffic incidents.


View photos in a slideshow by clicking on a picture and then click start slideshow.

At the front of the multi-vehicle pile-up was a Mercedes A Class car on its side, it had been struck by a tanker, with a motorbike and rider sandwiched on the ground between the two vehicles. Further down the carriageway a car was on its side and another on its roof, both with people trapped inside. Behind them was an articulated lorry also on its side. Its trailer had crushed a Ford Ka underneath when it toppled over. Another truck had crashed into the back of the trailer.

7 fire appliances responded to the scene: 2 from Harlow and 1 each from Ongar, Loughton, Great Dunmow, Wickford and Stansted. There were also support vehicles and a control centre on site. The East of England Ambulance Service participated with paramedics, doctors and ambulances. The 2 local air ambulances also landed on the adjacent grass. The Herts Air Ambulance was later called away on a real emergency.

After assessing the scene, the firefighters stabilised the vehicles to stop them moving.  They then used cutting gear was to release the occupants. Heavy recovery vehicles righted the articulated lorry and trailer and winched up the front wheels of the tanker so that the medical crews could deal with the injured motorcyclist. It was a boiling hot day, and in full kit the firefighters and paramedics had a very challenging time.

Julian Williams from Harlow, who organised the scenario, was very pleased with the results. He felt that much useful experience had been gained, and everyone had put in a great team effort. The Northern Showground was an ideal area for such an exercise, with room for the emergency vehicles, as well as plenty of parking space for the supervising officers and PR crews who also attended.


eNgage 2013

Written on . Posted in Arts, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Epping, Health, Loughton, Ongar, Our activities, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your community

Dance showcase, eNgage, came back with a bang for 2013 with fresh new talent from Epping Forest and beyond.

Over 100 young people with a passion to perform came together at Harlow Playhouse, on Thursday 27 June to dance the night away in front of a packed audience.

Groups from the district included three of the local primary schools and BTEC Dance and music students from Epping Forest College, who opened the show with a powerful piece; paying tribute to the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989.

eNgage welcomed new groups from outside the district including Scene II Theatre School with a spooky musical theatre piece from The Addams Family and Jason Theatre School who performed a funky tap number to get everyone in the party mood.

The show also played host to the première screening of the Map The Move film, created as part of the Make a Move legacy.  Map The Move was a digital media project, involving many community groups from the district.

Photographs by Melissa Page.

Tree Wardens undertake OPAL Tree Health Survey.

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Volunteering opportunities, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The Council’s Tree Wardens have started undertaking the OPAL (OPen Air Laboratories)  survey into the health of the trees in the District.  The survey is being co-ordinated by Imperial College London together with Forest Research and the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Horse Chestnut Tree

With guidance from Tree Warden Co-ordinator Kevin Mason a member of the Countrycare team, nine Tree Wardens attended a training session on 12th June in Roughtalley’s Wood, North Weald.

By taking part in the national survey and submitting the results the Tree Wardens are helping to discover more about the general health of our trees and give vital information on some of the pests and diseases that affect Oak, Ash and Horse Chestnut trees. Instruction was also given on identifying other potential pests and diseases which whilst not present yet, or at least not widespread, could have a serious impact on our trees.  Tree Wardens are part of an important surveillance network of people across the country protecting our trees.

The recordings are used by Forest Research – the Forestry Commission’s research agency.  The results from the survey will show the condition and health of the trees in parks, streets and woodlands across the UK and provide important information about the possible presence of certain key tree pests and diseases.

A national survey like this has not been undertaken before and it is likely that the trees surveyed by the Tree Wardens will not have been surveyed before.

The survey covers the location and species of the tree, its characteristics in relation to the trees around it and its condition; this gives a general picture about the health of the tree. Also covered was up to date information of pests and diseases on three of the most recognisable tree species: Ash, Oak and Horse Chestnut.

Bleeding Canker


One of the Horse Chestnuts surveyed by the Tree Wardens was discovered to have Bleeding Canker.  This is a disease caused by a pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi, which infects and disfigures the tree.  If the disease is severe it can kill the tree so it needs to be regularly checked.  Fortunately none of the Ash trees in the wood were found to have.
The Tree Wardens were also shown an unusual Cappadocian Maple (Acer cappadocicum) which is growing in the wood and there is a fine display of Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)growing in the wet grassland area.

Cappadocian maple


 To help with the survey please go to http://www.opalexplorenature.org/TreeSurvey
for the full instructions or alternatively contact Kevin Mason at Epping Forest Countrycare on 01992 788203

Check out the Map The Move film!

Written on . Posted in Arts, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Epping, Health, Loughton, Older people, Olympics, Ongar, Out and about, Sports, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community

This short film is the final step in a digital media project created as part of the Make A Move legacy.

Local groups of all ages and abilities contributed to the film by dancing a small part of choreography, created by Vanessa Gayton and Vicky Quirke, Dance Development Artists based on sporting moves.

The film takes you around the district to watch a small clip of each group perform their piece.  Look at for staff members of Epping Forest District Council!

The film had its premiere screening at dance showcase eNgage at Harlow Playhouse on Thursday 27 June.

Rus Pearson of Drake Music composed the music for the film with unused sound bites from the Make A Move soundtrack.  Videographer Erato Tzavara brought all the different clips together to make this wonderful film.

Make A Move was an amazing en-masse community dance project, bringing together over 200 people from the district to celebrate the 2012 London Olympic Games. 

Watch the video below for more information.

Women ‘Raced for Life’ at North Weald

Written on . Posted in Community, Epping, Health, North Weald Airfield, Older people, Ongar, Our attractions, Out and about, Residents, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community

Cancer Research UK’s fun run took place at North Weald Airfield on Wednesday 3 July 2013.

Around 1,800 women of all ages took part in the 5km and 10km Race for Life courses, either running, jogging or simply walkng around the airfield to help beat cancer by raising money for this vital medical charity. And they had a great time as well!

Race for Life
The organisers started setting up at lunchtime, and we also had a visiting Apache attack helicopter from Wattisham. By late-afternoon participants were starting to arrive. The trickle became a flood as the start time got nearer, and the car park was full.

After a warm-up session, the runners, joggers and walker were led in groups to the start line, with the runners at the front. The length of the course around the airfield was 5km, so the runners doing the 10km run did 2 laps, passing the finish line in special lanes on their first lap. The race was led by the council’s emergency response vehicle, with the airfield’s Fire 1 bringing up the rear with the back marker.

Everyone got round the course in the end, and there were lots of smiles and hugs at the finish line. Then it was time to recover from the effort.

Well done, ladies! You’ve all helped to get cancer on the run again at North Weald Airfield.

A bike tour with a difference visits North Weald

Written on . Posted in Epping, North Weald Airfield, Ongar, Our attractions, Out and about

Raising money for life-saving charities by touring around Britain’s air ambulances…

An unusual pair of visitors made their way to the Herts Air Ambulance on the Airfield during the evening of Wednesday 26 June, stopping first of all at the Hurricane Gate Guardian on their way in. Philip Summerfield and his friend John Porter are visiting as many air ambulances as possible in their two-week tour around the UK. By the time they had reached North Weald, they had already covered 1073 miles and seen sixteen of the life-saving helicopters.

Their journey had begun at East Midlands Airport near Phil’s home in Derby. On the day of their visit they had started from Newbury in Berkshire, and were continuing on to Cambridge and the Essex Air Ambulance’s base at Earls Colne the next day. Altogether they plan to cover 38 air ambulance bases and helipads during their 3,400 mile tour from Scotland to Cornwall.

Phil explained the reason for this incredible journey: “We wanted to do a tour around Britain and thought that visiting all the air ambulances would make a good theme and target of places to go. After all, bikers are at greater risk of needing one. We are also raising money for chosen air ambulances through sponsorship and donations using www.JustGiving.com/Teams/A2CT-2013. We hope that this will help to raise people’s awareness of the scale of air ambulance operations, which are funded by public donations.”

The pair stayed at the local Travel Lodge, and stopped off at the Gate Guardian on their way out to photograph their bikes with a sunset background.

Dutch B-25J Mitchell is the highlight of the Air Britain Fly-in

Written on . Posted in Epping, North Weald Airfield, Ongar, Our attractions, Out and about

The World War 2 bomber visited North Weald and made a great impression.

The annual Air Britain Fly-in was held over the weekend of 22-23 June. Windy and showery weather unfortunately limited the number of visiting aircraft, so it was a welcome surprise that the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s B-25 Mitchell bomber, PH-XXV, from Gilze-Rijen AFB in Holland paid us a visit on Sunday before it returned home.

The aircraft had also come in on the Friday to perform a display practice so that the pilot’s Display Authorisation could be signed off, enabling the aircraft to attend the air show at Manston on Saturday. We were thus able to inform people of its return via our Facebook page.

This meant that many visitors arrived specially to see the aircraft, boosting attendance numbers for the event. After some low passes, the Mitchell landed and taxied to its parking space where the aviation enthusiasts were able to take a close-up look.

Once they had finished their lunch, the eight-man crew prepared the aircraft for its flight back to base. On departure it did a low level turn before coming back for a low pass down Runway 12 before departing on track. It gave everyone some amazing photo opportunities.

The aircraft was built by North American at its factory in Kansas City, Missouri in 1944 as a B-25J-20-NC. It then joined the US Army Air Force until it was put into storage at Davis Monthan AFB in 1958.

The Mitchell was subsequently sold, joining the civil register as N320SQ, and was converted for cargo operations. During 1989 the aircraft was bought by the Duke of Brabant’s Air Force in Holland and restored to its original configuration.

In 2004 this organisation merged with others to form the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight, which now operates the aircraft. It has not flown for several years, but is now back on the European display circuit, and we were pleased to have welcomed the B-25 to North Weald.

The Mitchell’s current scheme represents an aircraft flown by the Netherlands East Indies Air Force from Australia during World War 2. Dutch crews in the RAF also flew Mitchells from Lasham and Dunsfold as part of 320 Squadron in 2 Group, Bomber Command.

Other warbird visitors over the weekend included the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Sea Fury T20 and an L-29 Delfin Soviet jet trainer of the Red Star Rebels team, which had taken part in the air show at Manston as well.

Epping Archers still on target after 40 years!

Written on . Posted in Community, Epping, North Weald Airfield, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Our attractions, Out and about, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Young people, Your community

They celebrated their ruby anniversary with a Family Fun Day at North Weald Airfield.

The all-day event was held on Sunday 23 June using their dedicated archery area. In the morning there were competitions for juniors and seniors, each using 36 arrows at 30 metres range, with 32 archers taking part. The wind was strong and blustery, so the conditions were a real challenge.

Throughout the day anyone could have a go at archery skittles, which were grouped on tables and had to be knocked down at 10 yards range using six arrows. During the afternoon, there were games of archery darts at 15 yards range using 18 arrows, with participants trying to get the highest score around the board.

The winners of each competition received a trophy, and the youngsters had a bouncy castle to play on. The event also raised money for the Herts Air Ambulance through the sponsored morning competitions and entry fees for the fun shoots. Club Secretary Gordon Tigar was delighted that several of the original founding members were able to attend and take part in the activities 40 years on!

The club has its origins in the Epping Sports Centre. This opened in 1970, and archery was one of the sports. A separate club began in 1973, which was run on an informal basis; rules were simpler then and much of the current legislation did not exist. In February 1975, the club was formalised with the election of a committee.

The Epping Archers have been shooting on the Airfield since 1990. The club currently has 14 young people on its waiting list. They can take archery as part of their PE GCSE or the Duke of Edinburgh award.

In October 2007, the club was the fourth to achieve archery-specific Club Mark status. This is an initiative by Sport England to provide a cross-sport quality accreditation scheme for clubs with junior sections.

The archers are just one of many clubs who use the Airfield for leisure activities on a regular basis.

North Weald fire crews tackle complex training scenarios

Written on . Posted in Epping, North Weald Airfield, Ongar, Our attractions

The Airfield’s new fire training ground is used for the first time
We provide daily Cat 1 fire cover at the Airfield, but have not been able to use a specific training area until now.

Back in May we created a special fire exercise ground on the old motocross area at the western side of the Airfield. This has a retaining bund and a multiple layered surface with a membrane to retain water and foam, allowing it to evaporate naturally.

We have also created a special rig to simulate an aircraft fuselage and its engines, allowing us to undertake complex training scenarios. Fires in the cabin area are particularly hard to put out as the oil tends to re-ignite because of the intense heat inside. Additional fire trays add to the challenge. These are filled with water and oil is added to provide the fuel for the fires.

We used the area for the first time on 21 June as part of our normal cycle of continuation training and to validate our latest Operations Officers. 

Although we use water for most of the training as this takes longer to put out the fires and so gives the crews more experience, we also practise with other media such as CO2 and powder extinguishers. One of the exercises involved using dual media – powder inserted through a water spray to put out an engine fire.

For the final scenario we lit a fires on all parts of the rig and the other training trays as well. In this case, the foam tank in Fire 1 was used to train a new crew in using the equipment. They extinguished all the fires and still had foam to spare. It was a very impressive demonstration of our capabilities.

The two-day training exercise also involved hose deployment and attending incidents at remote parts of the Airfield to test our response times. This is all part of our regular and ongoing fire training, which involves full debriefs by our Junior Officers, who organise the training scenarios.