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Meeting with Chief Forest Ranger – Aug 2020

by admin on September 6th, 2020
Clogged with cars parked on footpaths and verges and with (the one) bin overflowing it’s been a tough time for the residents of Baldwins Hill

This is the report of a meeting held in August 2020 between Marcus Warren, a resident of Baldwins Hill and a member of the Hills Amenity Society Committee, and Martin Whitfield, Chief Forest Ranger employed by the Corporation Of London which owns and manages Epping Forest.  Martin has worked here for 26 years.  

Points raised by residents are italicised and direct questions from local residents are in bold.

  1. Most residents would like to see more bins in the local area (currently there is one bin opposite the green on Baldwins Hill which is regularly overflowing) both for dog waste and for general rubbish (including the small aluminium gas cannisters). This is a constantly recurring theme amongst locals and really does need addressing to stop general rubbish and dog waste bags being left on the ground. I understand that there may be a dual responsibility here because the bins may have to be located on C of L land, but be emptied by council employees.

Martin said that he has worked in the Epping Forest area for 26 years and said that more bins would worsen the litter problem. He said that it makes a focal point out of a particular area, the bins overflow, people put litter by the bins when full and it blows everywhere in the wind. He said that the C Of L did not have the resources to regularly empty the bins too.

He said that local residents could volunteer as local rubbish collectors, the C of L would provide them with bags, a rubbish grabber stick, some labels and a stapler. Once the rubbish is in the bags they can be left somewhere and after a call to the C of L their van would pick up the bags.

2“Not anti-social behaviour related and from a resident in Queens Road: Do the Forest Keeper’s think the condition of Clay Ride is acceptable? Because I really don’t”

The C of L have someone who deals with the state of the bridleways and paths. He has been off for a few months but has just come back. Martin will ask him about plans for Clay Road (Gate 73) and Woodbury Hill bridle path. I did not get a name of the person but will follow up in a week to see what the response was.

3. “It can be lethal down the Clay Path and round Baldwins pond when it is wet underfoot”. During the winter months this pathway becomes like a quagmire and is very slippery, leading to people finding other routes through the nearby forest causing all sorts of additional erosion and damage to vegetation.

I emphasized how muddy Clay Road was during the winter and it caused people to find alternative routes through the trees which was bad for erosion etc. awaiting response (see point 2 above).

4. “Perhaps Woodbury Hill bridle path could also be mentioned. Hasn’t been touched in 20 years and is used by parents taking their children to Staples Road school. Very muddy and slippery when wet and many potholes”.

As per point 2 answer

5. “I wrote to CoL some weeks ago re the cars parking on the forest verges along Baldwins Hill, suggesting that logs might be placed along the edges to prevent this, but no action so far. I’m not convinced the red lines painted on the roads in other parts of the forest have had a direct effect on the number of visitors to Baldwins Hill. It’s the pubs that seem to be the focal points for the crowds meeting up in the forest”. Some local residents have suggested a permit scheme, yellow lines on the road, and as a minimum, the marking of bays on the pavement near the Foresters Arms pub so that only half of the pathway is covered by cars allowing pedestrians and parents with prams access. 

Martin said that the Forest bylaws allow people to park on the Forest land.up to 45 feet from the road. It is only when they damage the land (ie. Create tyre furrows or any other form of damage) that he or his rangers can put a ticket on the vehicle. He said that the C of L therefore not put up barriers or logs. When asked why they did it in High Beach during lockdown, Martin said that this was in response to specific request from the Police due to the Raves and large gatherings of people. The red lines that have been put on the roads in High Beach are for a period of 18 months and will be reviewed thereafter.

By putting parking bays marked out on the pathway near to Foresters, Martin said that he would have to look to see where the C of L boundary was bordering that of EFDC. He said that marked bays would involve consultation with C of L and if the council wanted to widen that part of the road near to Foresters and put in some parking bays then that would involve C of L giving permission (this was just an idea that I mooted with him to allow easier traffic flow and room for pedestrians to walk past parked cars which can sometimes be difficult.

6. On areas of the Forest (Ash Green and opposite the Foresters pub) could some barriers or even just logs be laid on the grass to discourage cars from parking on the forest land. This causes track furrows when it is wet and causes unnecessary erosion to the land.

Unlikely due to byelaws allowing people to park on forest land up to 45 feet from roadside.

7.“LRA Cllr Chris Pond tells me he met the Highways officers re bridlepaths 13 and 14 (Woodbury Hill) only last week Re. the Clay Road, Chris says that the CofL may have to surface that one with hoggin etc if and when they use it as a lorry route to repair/reconstruct the Baldwins Hill Pond dam”.

Martin was unaware of the plans to surface the Clay Road and use it as an access through to Epping Road. He aid that the repair to Baldwins pond dam was part of the “100 year plan” and was simply a precautionary plan that in the event of a massive flood ( a potential very rare 100 year event), could Baldwins dam withstand the pressure. In his view this was not a priority.

8. Drug dealing in Baldwins Hill near to No.2 Baldwins and other locations in the Forest. This seems to come in fits and starts, but there was a request that perhaps we could have a couple of cameras put up to monitor traffic flow and speeds, and also to discourage fly tipping and this antisocial behaviour ?

This is not something covered by C of L but should be raised with EFDC and / or the Police.

9. Noise from Fireworks and antisocial playing of loud music at Forestside – A local resident has complained three times of people letting off fireworks/bangers, but has had no response. I believe that this is on C of L land.

If the noise was created on Forest land then the C of L should be contacted. If not then the noise abatement department at EFDC.

10. Speed at which cars are travelling, especially along Baldwins Hill – Numerous residents have complained that it is only a matter of time before someone gets badly injured or worse. Some residents have suggested a variety of options including speed bumps, chicanes to slow the cars, cameras etc. I believe that this point in particular falls outside your remit but your comments would be appreciated. 

Not his remit. Speak to EFDC or Police.

11. It has been noted by a number of residents that bicycles in the Forest can appear out of nowhere at a tremendous speed. This will cause an accident soon, either to a person or to an animal. Is there any way that the C of L can put up signs or warnings that cyclists should have a bell and should not travel at excessive speed especially when their line of vision is restricted?

The C of L is looking at various different means to curtail the speed of bikes. He would not expand but said that plans are being considered.

12. Some animals have been taken ill after swimming in Goldings Pond. Are the ponds tested for poisonous algae ?

No they are not. Apparently the Forest byelaws forbids dogs from swimming in the ponds anyway !! There are 164 permanent and seasonal ponds in the Forest. The algae that is poisonous is not permanent and can come and go so it is very difficult to provide protection against it. The Environment Agency website keeps a track of any bodies of water that have poisonous Algae and members of the public can update it.

Finally, I mentioned that the Hills Amenity would like to initiate a quarterly or twice yearly meeting with all of the these bodies (Cof L, EFDC, Police, Highways etc) and local residents in order to provide the latter with an opportunity to meet their local representatives so as to allay their concerns and to encourage their participation as stakeholders in maintaining the beautiful surroundings of Epping Forest. 

My thoughts were that if we could get a local Councillor (possibly Chris Pond), and some of the other parties that have responsibility for the local area (Police, EFDC etc.) in one room together (possibly the Community centre at St. Johns church), the HAS Could promote the event, thereby raising our profile and encouraging more local resident participation. Martin said that he would definitely attend such an event. What are the views of other Committee members ?

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