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The EFCV (Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers)

by Matthew Geyman

see the EFCV website for more info

Never take the forest for granted! The 6000 acres of Epping Forest was not only narowly saved from curtailage, development and inevitable destruction with the assistance of the Corporation of London, but they have also been it’s keeper ever since, providing an invaluable rolê in it’s maintenance, preservation and enhancement. The 1878 Epping Forest Act decreed that the forest should be for ever available as ‘an open space for recreation and enjoyment of the public’. It is under the supervision of the Corporation that this aim is uphelp and the forest kept coppiced, cleared, clean, accessible, beautiful and healthy.

But the forest will always need help from its’ users that can extend to much more than picking up carelessly discarded litter from the forest floor. There are many jobs for which the Corporation have skilled staff, however we can help ease their burden by assisting with smaller jobs and using manpower instead of machinery. The Corporation assign various tasks to The Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers to complete, allowing the Corporation to concentrate on using their skilled resources and equipment to best effect.

The Group generally provides its own tools and functions quite independently, following a programme of work that has been agreed with the Open Spaces Epping Forest Department of the Corporation of London – the Conservators of Epping Forest.

The EFCV were formed in 1977 to meet concerns that the forest was losing some of it’s most interesting, and important, habitats (heathland & ponds etc) and worked with the Forest’s Conservators (Corp. of London). Until recently they were affiliated to the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. EFCV are also covered by the Corporation’s Public Liability Insurance as they carry out important conservation tasks agreed with the Conservators. Much of this is scrub clearance and preventing invading species of tree such as Birch from making areas of the forest inaccessible at the same time giving more chance of the important features surviving.

The EFCV meet regularly – and can be found every Sunday at 9:30am by the Corporation of London’s offices at The Warren, Loughton. Annual membership is £5 and you can contact Pat Holder on 020 8505 4876 or There are also associated social events, talks on all aspects of the forest and wildlife and invitations to attend other special events.

“Our leaflets state that we meet on Sundays and occasional weekdays, but that is not intended to imply that we meet every Sunday, it is ususlly more like 3 out of 4. It is always best to check before setting out for the Warren, and it is important that one does so before going directly to the worksite.

Our social activities are normally fairly low key, with a pub night once a month, and food on a bonfire at the Christmas Task.This year is exceptional, being the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Group.”

Sunshine Plain

Catherine & I recently joined the EFCV and attended their ‘Anniversary Sunshine Plain Task’. Sunshine Plain is close to the ‘City Limits’ roundabout on The Wake Road running through to High Beech and is an important wet heathland of a type fast disappearing from the country. It was once home to the carnivorous ‘Sundew’ plant which is no longer found in the forest. Birch is invading the site and needs to be cleared regularly . Heather and cross-leaved heath has flourished due to previous clearances by the EFCV.

We packed our ‘sturdy boots, gloves and old clothes’ and cycled off. Arriving later than most (mid morning) we found the group variously hard at work piling the smaller birch trees on a large heap after pulling them from the wetland or cutting down the larger specimens with saws. About 20 people in all were allotted with various tasks and, as newcomers, we were keen to show our support by ‘knuckling down’. It was tiring work, but refreshments arrived after a couple of hours – cider, water and sausage rolls were gratefully gulped down by the group. A wide variety of members attended that day, all ages across both sexes and from some suprisingly far flung locations. Some of the members were, like us, hopefully giving something back to the forest they live near and others had got a taste for the work whilst on conservation holidays.

We learnt that, as usual, The Corporation of London will come along at a later date and shred the (by now) massive pile of Birch which sat by the side of the road. They would then finish the job by thinning out the larger remaining Birch trees with chainsaws, allowing the older Oaks and Beech to prosper. We assume that much of the thinning would once have taken place naturally with cattle and other wildlife roaming the forest.

After a few hours, muddy and a bit damp, we had to leave, but resolved to attend the next task as soon as we could in an attempt to give something back to the forest which provides so much pleasure to so many people.