Countrycare records it’s 3,000th veteran tree

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Loughton, Media, Ongar, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Last month our Countrycare team recorded the 3,000th veteran tree in the Epping Forest district. By the end of May 2014 the total number of veterans trees recorded is 3,112. This figure includes ancient trees and together with 883 notable trees, the total number of recorded tress is 4,045.

Since 2006 Countrycare and its volunteers and tree wardens have been recording veteran trees in the District as part of a competition to find the 50 Favourite Trees in the district. Trees were nominated by members of the public and judged. 50 trees were selected and a book was produced. This evolved into a project to record as many of the district’s veteran trees as possible.

You can see the database of trees on the 50 Favourite Trees website.

Chigwell Oak

An Oak in Chigwell - 5.9m girth and over 500 years old

Willingale Oak

An Oak in Willingale - 5.7m girth and over 500 years old

Theydon Garnon Oak

Veteran tree in Theydon Garnon - 6.5m girth and over 500 years old

The data shared with the Essex Wildlife Trust to contribute to their biological records database, used to help in planning decisions. It also goes to the Ancient Tree Hunt who map the country and plot the trees on.

Epping and Hainault Forests

The Epping Forest District is blessed with the remnants of the great forests of Essex, which now survive as Epping and Hainault Forests. These 2 areas form a collection of veteran trees of European importance with Epping Forest having over 50,000 veteran trees. These areas were pollarded woodlands (the successive cutting of trees above the browsing height of deer and cattle).

Other woods, such as the Lambourne Woods near Abridge, were coppiced. But the widespread practice of pollarding was not confined to the forests and has left us with a legacy of many old worked trees. They mark the skeleton of the ancient countryside as they are found in the oldest hedgerows and mark the boundaries of the oldest woodlands. 

Even one veteran native tree can be a wildlife habitat in its own right. It is well known that Oaks host a huge variety of species, but it is only the big old trees with holes in the stem and decayed heartwood, that do this. Recording and mapping these trees will inform us of habitat connectivity between ancient woodlands and allows us to view the District at a landscape level. 

Veteran tree

Helen Read, Veteran Tree Initiative 1999 – “The term veteran tree is one that is not capable of precise definition but encompasses trees defined by three guiding principles. Firstly, they are of interest biologically, aesthetically or culturally because of their age. Secondly, they are in the ancient stage of their life (the last third) and lastly that they are old relative to others of the same species.”


Community orchard born

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

A community orchard in Ongar has been brought to life on a former allotment site owned by Epping Forest District Council. On Saturday 18 January 2014 The Friends of Ongar Community Orchard with local volunteers and our own Countrycare team planted a small Community Orchard of apples, plums, pears, greengages and cherries.

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

Councillor Brian Surtees of Ongar Town Council opened the day with a few words and although conditions underfoot were very wet, all the trees were successfully planted in time for a late lunch. This included apple pie, toffee apples and cider.

It will be few years before the trees bear fruit and The Friends of Ongar Community Orchard are looking for ways of involving the wider community in the life of the orchard, hoping the orchard will be used by local schools and youth organisations to promote healthy eating and sourcing food locally.

Part of a 3 year project by the Rural Community Council of Essex, the orchard has been funded by Edible Essex, the Big Lottery’s Local Food Scheme and supported by Essex County Council and Ongar Town Council.

Ongar community tree strategy

The orchard was the idea of local conservationist Alan Brett and the project started to take shape in 2008 when Epping Forest District Council published the Ongar Community Tree Strategy. The Strategy found evidence of several small orchards dating back to the 17th Century, remnants of which still survive today. There has been a decline of 81% in Essex orchard land between 1990 and 2007. There are around 250 East Anglian varieties of apple, pear and plum which need to be preserved for their local significance, genetic diversity, and landscape and wildlife value.

Community orchards

Community groups are being given help to conserve or create community orchards following an announcement in August 2011 by Eric Pickles MP to address the decline in traditional orchards. He said: “Community orchards are a brilliant way for communities to get together and grow their own.”

The trees were ordered from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, a charity dedicated to saving local fruits and orchards.


Countrycare volunteers go from strength to strength

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Health, Media, Older people, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The Countryside in the Epping Forest district is in much better shape thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Countrycare volunteers.

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

Last year was a record year for our volunteers who worked an amazing 745 volunteer days, mainly on Thursdays, doing conservation work. This compared to 722 in 2012. All these days were worked by 54 volunteers, including 8 new volunteers who joined in 2013. This works out at an average of 14 volunteers per day. Based on the minimum wage this saved the council over £30,000.

Countrycare volunteers chart 2007 to 201319 different sites in the district were worked on. Chigwell Row Wood was visited the most with 9 visits, followed by Bobbingworth with 6 visits and Roughtalleys Wood 5.

Thanks to increasing number of volunteers Countrycare can tackle more ambitious conservation work and increase the amount of countryside management work carried out on the district’s 9 local nature reserves (LNRs) and other local wildlife sites.

Great for the environment

Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder at Epping Forest District Council and Countrycare volunteer said: “On behalf of the council and the Countrycare team I would like to express my gratitude for all the hard work and enthusiasm put in by the volunteers for the varied work including pond restoration, path building, coppicing and hedgerow management.”

“On those occasions when I participated with the Countrycare volunteers during 2013, I found the experience extremely satisfying and a refreshing change from my usual council responsibilities.”

“I would encourage anyone who has spare time on Thursdays to give it a go – it’s great for your health, great for the environment and great for the community.”

Want to volunteer?

You can find out more about volunteering with Countrycare at or send an email to


Neighbourhood Development Plan for Chigwell

Written on . Posted in Business, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Consultation, Councillors, Countryside and wildlife, Housing, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Trees and landscapes, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

Local shopping at Chigwell ParadeChigwell residents are being offered the opportunity to shape the future of their area. Chigwell Parish Council has taken the first steps towards preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan covering the whole parish by submitting an application to Epping Forest District Council.

Any Parish or Town Council can prepare a Neighbourhood Plan. The Plans give communities an opportunity to shape the way in which their local area develops over the coming years. Neighbourhood Plans must take account of the District Council’s Local Plan and can be used to develop a shared vision for the local area by:

• Suggesting where new homes, community facilities and other forms of development should be built;
• Identifying and helping protect important local green spaces; and
• Influencing what new buildings should look like.

Epping Forest District Council has a duty to publicise the proposal for at least six weeks but the consultation period has been extended to eight weeks to allow for Christmas. A copy of the application, along with further information on neighbourhood planning, can be viewed here.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder for the District Council said: “Neighbourhood Plans can be a very useful tool in planning future development and I hope as many Chigwell residents will comment on the proposals as possible. This is a consultation on the identification of the potential plan area, not a formal consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan itself, which will come later. The consultation commenced on 16 December 2013 and, in order to allow for the Christmas period, will run for 8 weeks until 5.00pm on 10 February 2014.”

Comments can be sent by email to or by post to:

Forward Planning, Epping Forest District Council, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ.

Councillor Bassett added: “Please be aware that all comments received will be publicly available and may be included on our website. Personal details such as the respondents address, telephone number and signature will not be published.”

Images of Chigwell

What next

Neighbourhood Plans were introduced by Government through the Localism Act in 2011.

Once they have successfully completed the preparation process, Neighbourhood Plans will legally have policy status and will be used to help decide planning applications. Within the parameters set by the district-wide local plan, a neighbourhood plan must be used to positively encourage sustainable development.

Following the end of the eight week period, the District Council must decide whether to designate the proposed neighbourhood area. If agreed, the Parish Council may commence work on preparing the Neighbourhood Plan. A draft Plan must be subject to a formal 6 week public consultation before being submitted to the District Council for examination by an independent Examiner. If the Plan is approved, a referendum is held within the Parish to decide whether the Plan should be used by the District Council to decide upon planning applications within the neighbourhood area.

Within Epping Forest District, Moreton, Bobbingworth and the Lavers Parish Council are already working on a Neighbourhood Plan for their area.

Waltham Abbey school children plant trees

Written on . Posted in Community, Countryside and wildlife, Media, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Despite the winter chill, pupils from the Holy Cross Infant School in Waltham Abbey spent the morning of their Eco Day outside planting trees. Epping Forest District Council Community Services staff brought along 30 saplings, which were all planted on the school field.

Pupils with a tree that they planted

Jacqui Bailey the learning mentor at the school also joined in. She said: “The children had a great time and the trees look lovely on the school playing field. We are looking forward to seeing them grow into a lovely shelter from the sun during the summer and into an attractive home for wildlife, which the children will be able to observe.”

The Head Teacher Mrs Deirdre Mooney said: “These trees will not only look fantastic in the years to come but will also provide a learning resource for our children. I would like to thank the Woodland Trust, who provided the trees and Epping Forest District Council who helped to plant them.”

The trees included dog rose, wild cherry, holly, dog wood and hawthorn bushes and trees. Each class took it in turns to plant a tree and by the end of the day every child within the infants had planted a tree.

Councillor Elizabeth Webster Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Wellbeing, visited on the day and met the members of the school council and the eco committee. She said: “I was delighted to visit the school and join in with the tree planting. I had a lovely day there and the children seemed to enjoy themselves too.”


Tree wardens attend East Anglian forum

Written on . Posted in Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Environmental health, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes, Your council, Your environment

4 Epping Forest Tree Wardens plus Countryside Assistant Kevin Mason, joined 65 other tree wardens from across East Anglia for this years’ Tree Warden Forum on Saturday 5 October. This year it was held at the Rothamsted Research Centre in Harpenden and hosted by St. Albans City Council.

Explanation of "Willow Power" to the tree wardens

 The theme for the forum was making trees matter to everyone. The speakers were from the Forestry Commission, the Ancient Tree Forum the Tree Council and scientists from the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL).

Lectures were given by Jonathan Spenser Head of Planning and Ecology at Enterprise England, the forestry commission agency responsible for managing the national forest estate. The talk looked at; Trees and the past, what trees were used for? How the landscape evolved, what the future holds for trees in Britain.

This was followed by a talk by Jon Stokes Tree Warden Programme Director at the Tree Council. The theme of this talk was making trees matter to everyone, focusing on the issues faced by our trees today and how we can people more involved in native trees.

The National Willow Collection

The next talk was from David Lonsdale from the Ancient Tree Forum previously Head of Tree Pests and Diseases at the Forestry Commission.

The talk was about tree pests and diseases in a changing climate. There then followed a long list of the diseases currently affecting native trees in this country. The tree diseases were mainly different strains of Phytophthora (Greek for plant destroyer).

The final talk of the morning was from the scientists at OPAL who explained all about the Tree Health Survey. The Epping Forest Tree Wardens already knew all about this having attended our training day in May.

Rows of different willow species

Rows of different willow species

In the afternoon there were field workshops looking at how to carry out the Tree Health Survey which Epping Forest Tree Wardens had already completed.

Finally we looked at the national collection of Willow which is in the grounds of the centre. There are over 1,300 species of Willow, one of the largest collections anywhere in the world.

The centre is developing the use of willow as a biomass energy crop, which when burnt is carbon neutral so helps tackle climate change.


Planning application validation requirements checklist consultation

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Chigwell, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Consultation, Epping, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

The Department for Communities and Local Government recommend that Local Planning Authorities regularly review their own validation requirements. Our current validation checklist now needs to be updated to make sure our requirements remain relevant and appropriate to current policies and legislation. Therefore, we are reviewing our checklists and would appreciate your feedback.

A draft validation requirements list has been produced for consultation. The draft validation requirements have been simplified from our previous requirements so that it provides more explanation as to the instances when we should require information from you to support your planning applications. The format has also been converted into an easy to read table to make it user friendly. Some changes have also been made to bring the list up to date where changes have been made to planning legislation, policy and guidance upon which the requirements are based.

Epping Forest District Council is undertaking a 21 day consultation period commencing on 18 September 2013 so that the deadline for comments is 5pm on 9 October 2013.

View the consultation and comment upon it here

Or email us at for more details.


Nature reserve work wins awards

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Conservation and listed buildings, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Media, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Bobbingworth Nature Reserve has won 2 awards, the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge Award and the Essex Wildlife Trust Living Landscapes Award. A commemorative plaque was unveiled celebrating the awards on Wednesday 11 September 2013.

Councillor Will Breare-Hall, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Councillor Mary Sartin, Chairman of the Council revealed the plaque to local residents, staff and contractors who worked on the former landfill site.

In recognition of the hard work and determination of local Parish Councillor Colin Thompson, a naming ceremony took place to change the name of the viewing mound to ‘Colin’s View’.


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

Councillor Will Breare-Hall said: “I am delighted that Bobbingworth Nature Reserve has been officially recognised in this way. So many people have worked so hard to make it what it is today, which is a beautiful site entirely unrecognisable from what it was. It is truly an asset to the whole district. Many congratulations to everyone who has contributed to the Nature Reserve’s success.”

Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge Award

The Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge Award was received in 2012 during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year. The award demonstrates a clear commitment to protect public access to outdoor space and to safeguard opportunities for outdoor recreation, now and forever. It also serves to raise awareness of the importance of public open spaces for the quality of life, health, the environment and amenity.

Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) Living Landscapes Award

The EWT award is given to sites which enhance wildlife and create a landscape that enables species and people to move through. The criteria are whether the project is good for wildlife, good for people, and good for the local economy. The award was presented to Epping Forest District Councils Countrycare team.


Problems with Online Planning Applications through the Planning Portal 29 July 2013

Written on . Posted in Building control, Conservation and listed buildings, Planning, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Your council, Your environment

The Planning Portal has experienced a critical infrastructure failure today and as a result the Planning Portal website, which is used for the submission of electronic planning applications is currently unavailable since this morning.

The Department for Communities & Local Government who administer the Planning Portal have apologised for the inconvenience that this is causing and advised they are working resolve the issue as a priority to restore service as soon as possible.

Epping Forest Countrycare Volunteer Walk 2013

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Residents, Sports, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Volunteering opportunities, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

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.”