We first discovered Epping Long Green a week ago – Epping Long Green (1) – but then realised we’d only seen a part of it, so today we came back to explore its full length. We started from Epping Green and walked west, retracing our steps from last week as far as this fingerpost. Then we turned around and walked back and continued east to the furthest extent before returning to where we started from. But not before a quick figure-of-eight turnaround in the woods.
So from the westernmost end we walked the line of Epping Long Green.
It’s a green lane bridleway enclosed between abundant hedgerows, but every so often it bursts its banks and swells into an open patch of wildflower meadow. If it were a river I’d jump in and swim in it.
Wild carrot + Soldier beetles
Gall + Lichen
Epping Long Green was once a drover’s road. When I enquired about its history via Twitter @CoLEppingForest I got an anonymous reply –
It’s part of the system of drove roads that allowed meat, on the hoof, to be brought down to London, Smithfields et al… Various references also to it as part of the ‘King’s Highway’ – eg Booker: Essex and the Industrial Revolution ‘reputedly pre-Roman like Epping Long Green which was described as alias the King’s Highway’. Don’t ask which King!
Queen Buff-tailed bumblebee
Epping Forest nowadays comprises nearly 6,000 acres, lying to the north-east of and penetrating well into, metropolitan London. The bulk of it forms a crescent-shaped belt, about twelve miles in length, between Epping in the north and Forest Gate in the south. It is continuous, except for numerous highways. About 270 acres lie immediately north of Epping, and there are other detached blocks and strips, as at Galley Hill (50 acres), Epping Long Green (34 acres) and Thornwood Common (6 acres). These detached portions represent mainly the drift ways, left between inclosures, by which the Commoners drove their cattle into the main common areas.
Alfred Qvist: Epping Forest, 1958
And so we arrived back where we started from but now the crossing of a second figure-of-eight.
A little further up the road we came to Gibbons Bush and the eastern branch of Epping Long Green.
And we dived straight back in again.
And it seems greener than green, verdant and luxuriant.
A spindle tree, its fruits still green.
And quick, look sharp, the hovering silhouette of a kestrel.
I zoom and click the shutter just before it drops and lifts a field mouse too quick for my camera.
This is Gibbons Bush Green, another wildflower meadow.
Greater knapweed + Cabbage white
An oak tree casts a greenwave,
a green thought and a green shade,
a green fuse and a green age,
a green lane, greengrass, greenaway.
My heart gets lost in greenland.
All our roads were once like this, green roads, green lanes, green ways. Now this is a museum, a last vestige of the old ways. This narrow reserve is an immersive sanctuary, but it gives a false sense of security, it’s easy to forget where we are. Look down from above and the surrounding fields are a factory, we’re in the midst of a vast industrial/agricultural complex. This green thread is like a line of poetry in a catalogue of mistakes. A green refuge in a world gone wrong. A long green longing to belong.
A hedgerow ash, unzipped by lightning.
And another wildflower meadow. This one is called Severs Green.
And so we reach the easternmost extent of Epping Long Green. This is where the ancient route to Norfolk now ends, and where we turn around. Gate No.1, Rye Hill, first entrance to Epping Forest.
Ragwort + Cinnabar caterpillar
If we stand still for a while,
and hold the earth with our feet,
our thoughts will become branches.
We backtrack and see it all in reverse.
At Severs Green we step off the main path and walk all around the edge of the large meadow. It’s a fair field full of flowers.
And all the way back to Epping Green where we’d started from, a good place to walk a green figure-of-eight, back to here from before where we began.