Grid ref: TQ 475 928 (click for o/s map)
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Hainault Forest was part of the great Forest of Essex and the little that remains lies on a miniature version of the ridge that forms Epping Forest – a cap of gravelly and sandy soils over London clay. The ancient woodland to the east is dominated by hornbeam pollards and oak standards, with holly, bracken and bramble growing beneath them.
The Woodland Trust are repollarding some of the old trees and also raising new trees for pollarding. Pollarding rejuvenates trees but after a long gap it is very risky, and better results can be obtained by starting afresh. In time pollards form massive trees with a swollen head from which extend huge gnarled limbs.
Much of the woodland floor is bare because of the dense shade cast by the overgrown pollards, but it has many damp areas and ditches that are greener and more varied, often lined with pendulous sedge. If you look around you will find unusual plants like wood speedwell, hartstongue fern, marsh pennywort and butcher's broom.
Off Romford Road (A1112), about one mile south of Chigwell Row. Enter the A1112 from the south via the A12 (London – Chelmsford) and from the north via the A113 (Woodford – Chelmsford).
The nearest stations are Ilford (Liverpool St rail) and Hainault (Central Line tube), from where buses run to the main entrance. Buses also run from Romford, Chadwell Heath and Barkingside.
Accessible at all times. The Foxburrows Road car park is open every day from 7.00am to dusk; the small peripheral car parks on Manor Road, Chigwell Row are always open.
May for songbirds; summer for wild flowers in the meadows and along the link to Havering Country Park; or try a misty winter day to see the fantastic tree shapes in the ancient woodland. The Forest is heavily visited, especially on holidays. The quietest time is early morning, accessing via the car parks off Manor Road along its northern edge.
The Forest is heavily visited, especially on holidays. The quietest time is early morning, accessing via the car parks off Manor Road along its northern edge. Paths in the eastern part of the Forest are often very muddy.