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


Weather leads to local travel disruption

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Countrycare, Emergencies, Epping, Loughton, Media, Ongar, Our countryside, Travel, Waltham Abbey, Your area

Severe weather overnight is continuing to cause travel disruption across the region. Fallen trees and debris has affected road and rail routes across the county. Motorists are being advised to take extra care on local roads. Standing water may also add to the hazard of debris from trees and buildings.

Storm damage - take care on the roads

Contact numbers

Residents are being directed to Essex County Highways to report fallen trees on

  •  0845 6000 110

Essex Police has also issued two numbers for non-emergency weather related calls

  • 0800 092 0410
  • 020 7158 0124

Keep up to date

According to BBC Essex, there is widespread disruption across Essex. There are reports of power supply problems in Theydon Bois, Coopersale and High Ongar. The M11 southbound between Harlow and Bishops Stortford (Junctions 8 and 7) has been closed by a blown over lorry. The Central Line was closed between Leytonstone and Epping by several trees on the line. On the M25 the QEII bridge has been reopened.

Golding’s Hill in Loughton has been blocked by a fallen tree. A tree is down just past Rolls corner blocking entry to Chigwell. On the Dobbs Weir Road a Highways team completed the removal of a tree blocking the road. There was also evidence of another tree already removed in Lindsay Street. A tree is reported to be partially blocking the Four Wantz Roundabout at Ongar. Other roads will be affected across the district.

Other local headlines include the Helter-Skelter blown down on Clacton Pier and the Travelodge roof at the Army and Navy partially blown away and closing Parkway and other roads in Chelmsford.

Refuse and recycling vehicles have gone out this morning. However, many blue boxes and recycling sacks are being blown by the wind. Operatives are laying down wheelie bins where appropriate so they do not get blown about. Street cleansing operatives are emptying litter bins and will carry out litter picking where and when possible. Essex County Council has closed the landfill sites, so that will cause some disruption to collection arrangements.

Epping market is officially closed.

Epping Forest District Council’s Housing services has reported fence panels and TV aerials down which are mainly tenants responsibilities, and one house damaged by a fallen chimney in the Broadway, Loughton.

The Met Office reports that the strongest of the winds have now moved out into the North Sea and the Amber Warning for Wind  that has been in force for some time has now been cancelled.

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.


Stay alert – deer on roads

Written on . Posted in Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Our countryside, Out and about, Your area

Motorists are urged to take extra care when driving through the forest as accidents involving deer increase at this time of year as the rutting season begins.

Sadly 2 teenage girls died in a crash on the A10 after hitting a deer yesterday. We ask motorists to be particularly mindful of the potential for deer to run into the roads when driving through or near Epping Forest.

It is also important to keep disturbance of the deer in Epping Forest to a minimum during the rut, and dogs in particular should be kept under very close control.

During the rut, the bucks seem to become less aware of the dangers around them, such as cars on the roads throughout the Forest.

Advice from the National Deer-Vehicle Collisions Project

  • Do take note of deer warning signs – by driving with caution at or below the posted speed limit. Such signs are positioned only where wildlife crossings are likely.
  • The main national peaks in deer related traffic collisions occur during May, followed by mid October through December. Highest-risk periods are from sunset to midnight followed by the hours shortly before and after sunrise.
  • Be aware that further deer may well cross after the first ones you have noticed.
  • After dark, do use full-beams when there is no opposing traffic. The headlight beam will illuminate the eyes of deer and provide greater driver reaction time. But, when a deer or other animal is noted on the road, dim your headlights as animals startled by the beam may ‘freeze’ instead of leaving the road.
  • Don’t over swerve to avoid hitting a deer. If a collision with the animal seems inevitable, then hit it while maintaining full control of your car. The alternative of swerving into oncoming traffic or a ditch could be even worse. An exception here may be motorcyclists, who are at particular risk when in direct collisions with animals.
  • Only break sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic. Try to come to a stop as far in front of the animals as possible to enable it to leave the roadside without panic.
  • Report any deer-vehicle collisions to the police (who should be able to contact the local person best placed to assist with an injured deer at the roadside)’ and please record it on the National Deer-Vehicle Collisions Project website to assist with their hotspot research.
  • Finally, remember to … Stay alert – deer on roads!


National Deer-Vehicle Collisions Project

Deer Initiative in England


Jubilee Nature Reserve open day

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Environmental health, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Almost 200 people attended the Open Day on Saturday 14 September despite the poor weather. The event was held as a celebration of the hard work that has been put into the reserve over the last few years by the Town Council, its staff and contractors, and Countrycare’s staff and volunteers.

Archery Have a Go

Archery Have a Go

The Forest Fiddlers

The Forest Fiddlers










Several charities and local organisations were present including Ongar Community Orchard, Essex Wildlife Trust, tree surgery demonstrations, Epping Hawk and Owl Sanctuary, West Essex Ramblers, Essex Ferret Welfare Society, Conservation Hedgelayers and Ongar Mums Group. The Woodford Archers provided an opportunity for people to have a go at archery. Live music was provided by Forest Fiddlers and there was a choice of refreshments from Naked Sausage and Café 2U.

People enjoying the event

People enjoying the event

The event was attended by Councillor Tony Boyce, vice-chairman of Epping Forest District Council (EFDC), County Councillor Maggie McEwen and EFDC Councillors Paul Keska, Derek Jacobs, Peter Gode and Gary Waller.

Ongar Town Council has leased the site from Essex County Council since 2007 and is working towards securing the freehold. The site has recently been registered under the Queen Elizabeth II Fields in Trust which will preserve the site in perpetuity for generations to come.

A commemorative plaque has been placed at the bottom of the steps at the main entrance from the High Street and was unveiled by Councillor Brian Surtees, vice chair of the Town Council.

The Town Council was also delighted to announce that the reserve has won the Essex Wildlife Trust’s “Living Landscapes Award” for improvement and community involvement. This provides deserved recognition for the amount of effort by Countrycare, the Town Council and its contractors which has been put into the Reserve over the last few years to develop it into the lovely site we have today. 

The site has been cleared and developed but there is still a lot of work to be done. If you would like to know more about the reserve or the council’s plans for the future, please contact your local councillor or the Town Clerk, Aimi Middlehurst, on 01277 365348 or


Successful summer events for Countrycare

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

Fantastic weather this summer has been great for British wildlife and for the local people who came to join our Countrycare team bug hunting, bird watching, picnicking, pond dipping and moth trapping.


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

We kick started the summer with a morning of bug hunting. 30 children came to Weald Common Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in North Weald to have a go at catching and identifying mini beasts in nets and pots. The highlight of the morning was a pink grasshopper, a genetic mutation of the common meadow grasshopper.

The following week we were bird watching at Roding Valley Meadows LNR. Joined by several junior ornithologists, we gave a lesson in bird identification and then walked around reserve looking for and identifying the reserve’s birds. The day was topped off with the making of birdfeeders.

Our most popular event was a teddy bears’ picnic at Linder’s Field LNR in Buckhurst Hill. 40 children and their teddy bears enjoyed a picnic on the reserve as well as mask making and tree painting – the paint was made by mixing dirt and water. The children also took part in a teddy bear hunt through the ancient woodland and more bug hunting.

At our annual pond dip at Nazeing Triangle LNR, local children caught damselfly larvae, mayfly larvae, water boatmen, diving beetles and newts. The most exciting catches of the day were the water stick insects and a water scorpion, a first for Nazeing Triangle. Both species are intolerant to pollution so indicating that Nazeing Triangle LNR has a very clean pond!

On a Friday evening in late August we held ‘mad about moths’ night. With a wonderful turnout from both people and moths, we recorded an amazing 23 different species including the light emerald, mother of pearl, and brimstone moths, all of which prove you don’t have to be a butterfly to be beautiful! Countryside Manager Abigail Oldham, also took small groups of people on bat walks. Armed with bat detectors and ID charts the groups went in search of the normally inaudible clickings of the bats’ echolocation. They were delighted to find pipistrelle bats hunting at the far end of the reserve – luckily nowhere near the moth traps!

Join us

Countrycare will be holding more events like these in the future. If you want to be told about them why not join our mailing list and not miss out on these fantastic events.

Contact Nicola Rogers, either email or call 01992 788203 to get your name added to the list.

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.


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.”

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
for the full instructions or alternatively contact Kevin Mason at Epping Forest Countrycare on 01992 788203

Children exhibit award winning art at District Museum

Written on . Posted in Arts, Chairman, Community, Countrycare, Museum, Our activities, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Young people, Your community, Your council

From Tuesday 16 July 2013, 15 children from St John’s C of E Primary School in Buckhurst Hill, will have their work on display at Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey.

The children, aged between 8 and 9 years, have been taking part in a special Arts Award project based on the work of artist Walter Spradbery.

They investigated the life and work of Spradbery, who lived in ‘The Wilderness’, a piece of land in Epping Forest next to their school, and who is buried in St John’s churchyard. They particularly looked at the famous posters he designed for London Transport, encouraging people to travel out to the forest to enjoy its beauty through his wonderful artwork.

The children worked with a current practicing artist, Valerie Osment, to create prints based on Spradbery’s work. This also helped them achieve the Discover level of Arts Award, a national programme which aims to inspire young people to engage with the arts and develop their talents. The children were very excited to have their certificates presented to them by John Spradbery, son of Walter, who was also once a pupil at their school. John was delighted the children had found such inspiration in his father’s work, and thought the whole project was ‘an incredible event’.

You can see the children’s work at the museum from now until the end of August. Opening times are Monday, Tuesday and Friday 10am to 4pm and Saturday 10am to 5pm or see

The District Museum is a registered Arts Award centre. To find out more about the scheme see

Epping Forest District Museum, 39 – 41 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1EL

01992 716882

Contact: Catherine Hammond, Education and Outreach Officer