Epping Forest – 19/07/20

It’s finally happened – we’ve left Highams Park. After four solid months of only travelling by foot (or bike in Roo’s case), the four of us got into the car together and went all the way to North Chingford. I know! Steady on! We even left the borough briefly as our original destination was the car park by Connaught Water, which involved driving past the “Welcome to Essex” sign. Luckily (?) it was full, so we reversed out and found a space at the car park opposite Butler’s Retreat, safely back inside LBWF.

We were meeting some church friends for a socially-distanced picnic and there were various aims to the day, including bird of prey spotting and something to do with fruit (redacted for spoilers). But most of the entertainment for the kids came from an old favourite – the hollow tree:

Eva’s speciality was, as ever, getting herself up the tree but not down again…so she had to be rescued by Nathan a few times and coaxed down a very helpful big brother (not her own big brother, natch…Reuben was all for leaving her up there)

A few things have changed around Butlers’ Retreat in these-a-days and one of them, unfortunately, is the lack of toilets. Butlers itself is takeaway only, The View is closed and the pub/hotel next door is due to reopen on 30th July but I doubt they’ll want a load of muddy forest kids using the facilities. I tried to persuade Eva to use a bucket I found in the car but she was very dismissive of my creative genius so she just had to hold it for the foreseeable. As did her ageing mother.

That was one of the reasons that we decided to go for a walk to the nearest pub – the Warren Wood in Buckhurst Hill. It looked to be about 15 mins away, even if it did involve crossing back into Essex once more. We reasoned that we could use the loos, have a drink and then, inevitably, use the loos again. And it turned out to be quite a picturesque walk:

I mean, those are the kind of wide open vistas you’d find in a Western, right? And happily, Nathan already has the hat for that, or at least he did until it was stolen by a small child (in the interests of social distancing, I had to assist the small child in the stealing of the hat).

So the walk bit was nice but the pub, alas, was not to be. They had a sizable outdoor area – it was a kind of yard on the main road so “beer garden” might have been a stretch – but, as we got closer, the “NO CHILDREN” signs in bed red letters made it clear that we weren’t gonna welcome. Luckily, tho there was a garage next door which supplied us with cold drinks and ice lollies at a fraction of the price of a pub round so we sat under a tree in the forest and had them there. It all worked out well.

It was, as you can tell from the pictures and the ice lollies, a pretty perfect day to be in the forest. Sunny enough that I got slightly burnt but not too hot for the kids to be able to run around and play and generally do the kind of kid stuff they haven’t really been able to do for the last few months.

Obviously, lockdown is not over yet and we can’t have the sort of picnic where you sit close to your friends and share loads of food….but this felt the closest to normal life we’ve had for a while. If only there had been a toilet….

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