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Walthamstow Forest in Epping Forest

Autumn is a special time to visit this dense woodland with its majestic hornbeams. The leaves that fall from the trees create a magical golden carpet on the ground. And as well as the browns and yellows of this time of year there are deep green evergreens with red berries of the holly and hawthorn.

Each season has its own offerings of colours – even on the a cold winter’s day, there is a stark beauty and the woods are very inviting – but only for a brisk walk or for children to run around. The cold would be unbearable after a while.

Yet this is the birthplace of Rodney 'Gipsy' Smith whose family lived in a tent nearby. He became a famous evangelist and was so successful in his life that he was awarded an MBE.

This was an incredible achievement and a stone marks his birthplace on Mill Plain, so called because a windmill was built here in 1676.

From this vantage point there is a view across London and it is apparent that we are up on a ridge that runs alongside the Lea Valley.

But the main attraction for local children is perhaps neither the history nor the views – it is the opportunity to play and to have adventures here. There are rope swings hanging from trees, dens built of branches and decorations that they have tied to trees.

Apart from these signs of activity and the well trodden paths, there is little impact of human activity. But not so long ago there were incursions into the forest with brick works and chimneys belching out smoke.

There is little evidence of that now – just the remains of broken bricks on the bridle path.

The forest has healed itself.

Walk from Highams Park or from Hollow Pond or from Wood Street Station


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