Leader calls on residents to Shop Local

Written on . Posted in Arts, Business, Council tax, Countrycare, Democracy, Health, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Olympics, Our activities, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Private housing, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Your money


When I became the new leader of Epping Forest District Council back in the summer, the country was poised for the Olympic Games.

The Olympics proved to be the most fantastic success. As a Country, we staged probably the best Olympic and Paralympic games ever. At a time when the economy is flat and families are struggling to make ends meet, we all showed the rest of the world what Great Britain can achieve.

I am very proud to say that Epping Forest District played its part in our national success. The Lee Valley White Water Centre outside Waltham Abbey was completed on time and budget, giving thousands of people their first taste of the Olympic rapids before any of the other new venues had opened.

But this was just the platform – we helped to provide a stage but it was the people, the volunteers, the spectators, and most of all, the athletes that made the Games such a success. And as we look ahead to 2013 that is how I see the job of Epping Forest District Council – to provide the stage and the conditions in which the residents of Epping Forest can perform to their maximum potential.

So how do we do that?

To begin with we must leave as much of your money in your own pocket as possible. We are a low tax council. It is three years since the last increase in the Epping Forest District element of the Council Tax. We have one of the lowest Council Taxes in Essex.

We are pro-business. A healthy business sector means jobs and services for local people. Pay and Display parking charges in our towns are among the lowest you can find. Many car parks are free at weekends in the run up to Christmas. Working with local businesses, we promote our town centres, visitor attractions and tourism for local residents and visitors alike.

We are pro the environment. There is terrific demand on local housing because people want to live here. We do all we can to defend the Green Belt and we are trying to provide homes to meet the needs not only of people today, but our children and grandchildren in the future.

Healthy living and an active social life go hand in hand with a good life at home and work. We provide leisure centres, support a Youth Council and keep our older residents fit and active. Much of our work is supported by volunteers. Whether you are clearing country paths and coppicing trees with Countrycare or leading a walk for older people through Epping Forest or the Lee Valley Regional Park, the work of the council is magnified and enhanced by the generosity and spirit of volunteers.

Everyone has a part to play and there is never a better time than Christmas to show your support for the district. I want everyone who lives and works in Epping Forest to join with me in making 2013 the year our district takes off.

Use your local high street

One Shops Local and Visit Epping Forest are two websites designed to support local business. Created by Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, the council and other members of our Local Strategic Partnership, these sites are the place to find all the information, deals and recommendations you need to support your local high street.

If you have a few hours to spare and want to make another kind of difference, why not contact Voluntary Action Epping Forest to find out what you could do.

So next time you are thinking about a day out, looking for a good tradesperson or writing your shopping list remember the answers are all online and available on your doorstep.

On behalf of all the councillors and staff at Epping Forest District Council may I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Chris Whitbread
Leader – Epping Forest District Council

Roding Valley Meadows hedge laying project

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Loughton, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes, Volunteering opportunities, Your area, Your community, Your environment

On 10 October, work started on a joint hedge laying project between the Essex Wildlife Trust, Epping Forest Countrycare and the Epping Conservation Hedge layers, to restore an old neglected hedge line on Roding Valley Meadows Local Nature Reserve.

Before the work

Before the work

Hedge laying is the practice of  ‘pleaching’ the base of a tree, this allows its main stem to be laid over to one side while still remaining attached to its roots, it is then held in place with wooden stakes and bound together. By laying a hedge in this fashion, it allows fresh growth from its base creating a thick, dense hedge. This is ideal habitat for small mammals and invertebrates and also provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

The team consisted of experienced and amateur hedge layers, who, over two days laid a total of 74 yards. The project will continue next winter to complete the rest of the hedge, which can be seen running adjacent to the River Roding and Debden Sports Club.

A pleached tree

The final result


Green Flag award for Roding Valley Meadows

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

Countrycare and EWT announce the award
Countrycare and EWT announce the award

A flag-raising ceremony took place in November attended by members of Epping Forest District Council, Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Grange Farm Centre Trust (GFCT) and Roding Valley volunteer group.

The group was welcomed by Abigail Oldham, Countryside Manager, Countrycare. Then Patrick Bailly, EWT Warden of the Reserve, explained the importance of the Reserve for nature, wildlife, recreation and education.

The Reserve, in Loughton, is the largest area of traditional river-valley landscape left in Essex. Bounded by thick hedgerows, the herb-rich meadows, marsh and scrub woodland follow the meanders of the River Roding for a mile-and-a-half. More than 200 species of wildflowers thrive in the meadows.

The plant assemblage is so rare that the Reserve was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1986.

Countrycare, EWT and GFCT raise the flag together
Countrycare, EWT and GFCT raise the flag together

Lush hedgerows and veteran trees attract many species of bird, such as woodpeckers and Sparrowhawk. The ponds, river and fen attract numerous dragonflies and birds, such as Kingfisher, Snipe and Reed Bunting.

The Reserve is owned by the District Council and the Grange Farm Centre Trust and managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.
The Green Flag recognises UK green spaces that are well-managed, sustainable, of conservation and heritage value and of high quality. The Reserve was judged on a searing hot day in July when Patrick Bailly lead a guided tour of the site, impressing the judge with his management methods.
And the flag is up!
And the flag is up!

After the volunteers were thanked for their contribution to making the Reserve the beautiful place it is today, John Hall, EWT’s Chief Executive, Alex Pelican, Grange Farm Centre Trust and Abigail Oldham, together raised the flag.

Refreshments were served in a marquee on one of the Reserve’s meadows where an exhibition about Countrycare and the Roding Valley Meadows was displayed.

Read more about Roding Valley Meadows.

Interested in volunteering? Volunteer with Countrycare.

Read more about the Essex Wildlife Trust.

Cabinet reports to Council on 6 November

Written on . Posted in Arts, Business, Chairman, Council tax, Councillors, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Crime and safety, Democracy, Environmental health, Health, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Meetings, Museum, North Weald Airfield, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Planning, Prosecutions, Recycling and waste, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business

The runway at North Weald Airfield, Council Tax freeze, local plan, recycling, welfare reform were all discussed at the full meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 6 November 2012.

Councillor Anne Grigg, Asset Management Portfolio Holder informed members that Halcrow were in the process of being appointed to undertake some non-invasive testing of the structure of the main North Weald runway. This testing is intended to ensure that the runway is suitable for its current uses and will also inform the strategic review of the Airfield.

Councillor Grigg also reported that Cabinet at its meeting in September agreed to commission a strategic review of North Weald Airfield, to be undertaken as part of the development of the new Local Plan. The review should be completed and reported back to councillors in time for the recommended outcomes to become part of the Local Plan “Preferred Options” consultation scheduled to commence in the summer of 2013.

Environment Portfolio Holder, Councillor Will Breare-Hall was pleased to report improvement in recycling figures with the quarter 2 out-turn at 62%. In a similar vein, the results for dealing with litter and detritus are also ahead of target.

Councillor Breare-Hall also drew attention to the use of new CCTV cameras in The Broadway, Loughton which have provided a number of leads for fly-tipping investigations. He noted discussions between council officers and Epping Ongar Railway where very few new complaints have been received concerning the heritage railway.

Councillor Breare-Hall’s report concluded with news that following extensive remedial work, the former Bobbingworth Tip has achieved Queen Elizabeth II Field designation. It is now a tranquil and attractive open space. Councillor Breare-Hall said it was a great testament to the hard work of all those involved. A robust commemorative plaque will be placed on site.

Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder reported on the Welfare Reform Mitigation Plan consideration of a proposed new Tenancy Policy and Housing Allocations Scheme for the district.

Councillor Chris Whitbread recommended www.visiteppingforest.org  as one of the new initiatives designed to support and stimulate the local economy through tourism and other avenues. Referring to feedback on the Local Plan, Councillor Whitbread confirmed he had been in discussion with Eleanor Laing MP for Epping Forest concerning many of the issues raised in the Community Choices consultation.

Councillor Mrs Syd Stavrou informed councillors that the Government’s announcement of the latest Financial Settlement would not be made until late December.

Councillor Stavrou had previously announced the Cabinet’s intention to freeze Council Tax for another year. The Government has subsequently announced a grant equivalent to a 1% increase in Council Tax for authorities freezing their charge. Councillor Stavrou was pleased to confirm that Cabinet agreed the parameters set for the 2013/14 budget include no increase in the Council Tax.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder responded to questions put by members of the public as well as councillors in respect of the Local Plan. He repeated previous assurances that no decisions had been taken on the policies to be included in the new Local Plan. Many public responses had been received in response to the recent Community Choices consultation. Population predictions formed a key element in the forecasts of future development need and Councillor Bassett confirmed he would be meeting regional planning experts in the near future to discuss the latest estimates.

Reports by Leisure and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder Councillor Liz Webster noted progress on the construction of the new ‘3rd Generation Astroturf’ pitch at Town Mead in Waltham Abbey an a number of successful funding bids including.

• £23,500 for adult training in subjects such as IT
• £39,000 for ‘Transitions’ a professional development programme for carers work with people with dementia
• £27,500 of initial Heritage Lottery Funding towards a bid for £1,165,000 for the expansion of Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey

Loughton Leisure Centre users can look forward to better facilities following a decision to spend £240,000 on improvements. Epping Forest District Council will obtain a reduction in its annual management fee to Sports Leisure Management (SLM) of £88,000 per year in exchange for one-off capital funding to improve changing facilities at Loughton Leisure Centre. The deal equates to a three per cent return on investment on the £240,000 capital sum with the added bonus of spending the money to improve the Council’s own property for the benefit of Leisure Centre users.

Councillor Gary Waller Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder answered questions ranging from parking reviews to the merits of the forthcoming elections for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner. He also thanked Councillor Leon Girling for suggesting a presentation to Loughton Broadway businesses on the capabilities of the new CCTV systems.

Braeside girls get volunteer project off to a great start!

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Our activities, Our countryside, Young people

Last Tuesday, pupils from Braeside School, including Epping Forest Youth Councillor, Aysia Leigh donned their wellies and waterproofs to kick start a series of volunteering days for young people in the Epping Forest district. The Council’s Community Development Team is currently organising volunteering events for all secondary schools in the district. Braeside’s volunteers chose to do conservation work with the Council`s CountryCare team at the Linders Field Nature Reserve in Buckhurst Hill.

Braeside pupils at Linders Field Nature Reserve during their volunteer day

Following a tour of the Linders Field area, the young people were instructed on health and safety, and then wrote their own risk assessments. With these formalities out of the way, it was time to get their hands dirty … or head to foot dirty in some cases! The young people split into two teams, working under the direction of Nicola and Kevin from CountryCare. One team worked with Nicola to complete a board walk. The young people painted the area, attached chicken wire, nailed on the safety batons, then dispensed and levelled some areas of gravel. Kevin had the second team clearing brambles, digging a drainage ditch, and laying pipe! After munching packed lunches, the group all helped to mulch the base of some young trees.

Everyone got into the spirit of the project and was surprised by how much had been achieved at the end of the day – and how good it felt! Many of the Braeside girls said that they would consider volunteering again in the future.

Fun in the fields conservation day

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Health, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Your area, Your community

Come along and join Epping Forest Countrycare and the Essex Wildlife Trust for a day of nature conservation activities.

Fun in the Fields 8 September 2012 posterFun in the Fields takes place at the Roding Valley Meadows on Saturday 8 September from 1pm to 4pm.

Children aged between 5 and 12 will be able to learn more about wildlife and have some fun, too.

There will be a range of activities available, including bug hunting and nature scavenging. Visitors will also be able to have a go at building a bird box or making a bumblebee.

Entrance is free but there will be a nominal charge for some of the activities. Refreshments will also be available to buy.

The closest access will be from the reserve car park, next to the David Lloyd Leisure Centre (directions to David Lloyd Chigwell) from where it is signposted.

Download the poster Fun in the Fields 8 September 2012 poster.

Awards for Countrycare

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chairman, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes

Two Living Landscape awards were presented to Countrycare officers Nicola Rogers, Kevin Mason and Councillor Gary Waller Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 31 July. The awards from the Essex Wildlife Trust were presented by Councillor Brian Rolfe, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council.

Afterwards, Councillor Waller said: “I’m delighted that Countrycare has received two Living Landscape awards from the Essex Wildlife Trust. These awards are part of a national initiative to create landscapes which provide enhanced conditions for wildlife to thrive. Ten awards were made for 2011-12 in Essex, and Epping Forest Countrycare received two of them. Epping Forest District Council is in fact the only council in Essex to receive an award and the only organisation of any kind to receive two.”

He continued: “Nicola Rogers’s project was for green hay strewning to enhance the floral diversity of a grassland site at Linders Field Local Nature Reserve, Buckhurst Hill, and Kevin Mason’s project involved the planting and traditional management of hedgerows at Weald Common Local Nature Reserve. Congratulations are due to both of them.”


Countrycare wins 2 living landscapes awards

Written on . Posted in Countrycare, Our countryside, Out and about

Living Landscape awards
Epping Forest District Council’s Countryside Management Service Countrycare was presented with 2 Living Landscape Awards at the Essex Wildlife Trust’s AGM on Saturday 23 June, held at Abberton Reservoir Nature Reserve.

The award was presented by Professor Chris Baines, president of the Essex Wildlife Trust, to Countrycare staff Nicola Rogers and Kevin Mason in front of 700 members of the Trust.   

The Wildlife Trust for the first time this year is offering a Living Landscapes project award to recognise publicly any organisation, individual, business or group in Essex completing a project within the county. A Living Landscape is a national initiative led by the Wildlife Trusts, which enhances wildlife and creates a landscape which enables species and people to move through a wildlife-rich landscape.

10 awards were made for the year 2011/12 in Essex and Countrycare received 2 of them. Epping Forest District Council was the only council in Essex to receive an award and the only organisation to receive 2 awards.

The award is given taking into account how the project is good for wildlife, good for people and the community and good for the local economy.

Nicola’s project was for green hay strewning on Linders Field Local Nature Reserve in Buckhurst Hill. The technique of green hay strewning is used to enhance the floral diversity of a grassland site that is poor in terms of wildflowers. The grassland in Linders Field was currently poor in terms of wildflowers but the nearby site at Roding Valley Meadows LNR is species rich. The grass at Linders Field was cut and the site scarified to create bare patches. The Roding Valley flower meadow was also cut and on the same day the cuttings were transported to Linders Field and spread over the site so that seeds from the Roding Valley wildflower meadow would germinate at Linders Field.
Kevin’s project involved the work that has been carried out on Weald Common Local Nature Reserve.  An enclosed meadow was created by planting hedgerows around the boundary and across the Common. Once the hedgerow plants were tall enough, traditional management of the hedges took place in laying the trees to create a thick hedge, a good habitat for wildlife. The enclosed meadow created a sheltered spot for wildflowers to thrive and the hedgerows provide plenty of habitat for nesting birds. 

The judges commented on the Weald Common project saying: “With regards to your application, we would like to congratulate you on your fantastic project, of all the applications yours was the only one that did not have any comments about potential improvements.”

Horse chestnut tree surveying started

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes, Your environment

Horse Chestnut tree leaf under attack by Leaf Minor
In order to assess what is happening to the Horse Chestnut trees in the district, the Epping Forest District Council’s tree wardens have registered with the Conker Tree Science project to undertake a survey of the trees in their area.

The Conker Tree Science project is run jointly by the Universities of Hull and Bristol together with the National Environment Research council, and is looking into the effects of an alien leaf mining moth (Cameraria ohridella), which turns the leaves brown by the middle of summer and causes significant damage to the appearance of the trees.

Alien species are thought to be those not normally found in a particular area or habitat. The moth’s caterpillars eat the leaves from the inside and infected trees are weakened, producing smaller conkers.

Many of the invading moths are killed by natural pest controllers in the form of other tiny insects. These insects lay their eggs inside the caterpillars of the leaf-mining moths and when the eggs hatch, the larvae slowly eat the caterpillars, eventually killing them.

The research is looking into the effects of the moths on Horse Chestnut trees and if there is any long-term damage to the trees.

For more information:

Conker tree science website

On Wednesday 23 May, Epping Forest Countrycare Countryside Assistant Kevin Mason and Melinda Barham the Council’s Trees and Landscape Officer showed the Tree Wardens what to look for by surveying and recording 20 trees along Buckhurst Hill High Road and the adjacent churchyard. The findings were that the moths are active particularly in the churchyard and that most of the trees have other problems as well.

The science project proper starts on 15 June, by which time the affected leaves may have started to turn brown and the recordings note the extent of the damage to the leaves.

There is a follow-up during the week commencing 3 July collecting a leaflet from each tree to see if any of the pest controllers are active in the leaves.

Join our woodland walk and mothing events

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Countrycare, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes, Your area, Your environment

A guided walk through ancient woodland and a ‘mothing’ night are just 2 events in the coming weeks run by Countrycare.

Ancient woodland walk
On Sunday 29 April 2012 Countrycare are holding an ancient woodland walk in Lambourne. Join the team on a guided walk to discover the ancient green lanes, hedgerows and woodlands of Lambourne. You will be shown how Countrycare manages the woodlands and the results of their hedgelaying toils, taking in superb views and looking at the wildflowers found the woodland.

The walk starts at 10 am and finishes at 3 pm. Wear sturdy shoes and bring a packed lunch. Meet at the Camelot car park in Hainault Forest (opposite the Miller and Carter pub). Grid reference TQ 47805 94364.

Mad about moths
Mad about moths is a nocturnal wildlife event on Friday 11 May 2012 at the Linder’s Field local nature reserve in Buckhurst Hill. The night goes from 9 pm until late and will include mothing, bat detecting and newt identification.

The Countrycare team will provide hot drinks to keep warm but you must bring warm clothes, suitable footwear and a torch. Meet at the Linder’s Field LNR, Roebuck Lane, Buckhurst Hill. Grid reference TQ 41440 94434.

If you need any more information email contactcountrycare@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or telephone 01992 788203 or our mobile number 07789 372222.