A sneaky outing to Epping Forest.

Saturday 04 April 2020 – Epping Forest.

It felt like an absolute age since I took in the air of Epping Forest. I had to look back through previous posts to find that it was mid-January, which in this time slowed down period we are going through, was an age ago. Almost a different period of existence, the pre-covid age.

The official guidance says that one can go for a walk for exercise. I know there have been some police districts stopping people from driving to beaches, parks and areas of natural beauty, as well as the usual self-appointed social media guardians moaning about people going outside. However there is no rule or law that says you cannot, so I drove the ten minutes to Epping Forest for a photography session/walk/wellbeing break. I cannot walk the beach, so this is what I need to do for my wellbeing; both physical and mental. I enjoyed it and it worked. I was not happy with the photos I took, but ultimately that was not the point. Being outside and enjoying being outside; being in the sun, the ever-freshening air and the relative peace were the aims of this morning, as well as letting my creative side out to play.

Nature is pretty amazing, how is this tree still going ?

The roads were really quiet at 8:45 on Saturday morning, and it felt like all the traffic lights were green all the way to the small car park near Strawberry Ponds. There were a couple of cars there when I arrived, but it was fairly quiet, only a few runners and dog walkers out this early. I like the section of forest around Lost Pond and Loughton Camp and that was where I headed. Starting with a stroll along the bank of the twisty and turny Loughton Brook.

As soon as I get the chance I leave the main path and walk up the mountain bike tracks and other small paths that meander aimlessly, often ending at no particular destination, from there I just bush crash through open areas between the scrub and trees. Trying to avoid the worst of the holly that is slowing taking over the places where the volunteers have yet to visit.

I took the tripod and the big camera as I wanted to spend some proper time taking photos, rather than just walk and snap; take the opportunity to slow down and let the forest take over my thoughts. I don’t listen to music on these walks, one of the rare places I am not plugged in. So much easier to let the mind wander up, down and sideways when it is disconnected.

I got to Lost Pond after an hour of slow walking and photography. Not wanting to go to the tea huts, even if they were open, I had elected to bring a flask of coffee and a snack. It was so nice in the sun I stopped, pond side and just sat and listened to the birds, and the occasional twat on an over-loud motorbike roaring along the windy and narrow roads. For most of the 15 minutes I sat I was completely alone. It was lovely, and I would have stayed longer but people arrived, and I didn’t want people.

It was the same at Loughton Camp, I arrived and had ten to fifteen minutes of peace and then people arrived. I moved on, walking slowly back through the trees to the car. I love Loughton Camp, the beech trees here are amazing and spacious and the filtered light is just something else.

I took some intentional camera movement photos as I walked. I am trying for the perfect photographic simulation of an impressionist painting, in-camera as they say, without any post-production trickery. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Today was partially successful. 

Like I said I was not particularly happy with my photographic efforts, but as I also said, taking great images was not the point. Walking, as solitary as possible was the point. This was achieved and my morning was all the better for it.

The car park was overfull when I got back, and I could hear lots more people on the main path as I walked the narrow dirt tracks. It was clearly time to leave.

I read the following Monday that people had complained about how many others had driven to the forest to walk so the Epping Forest management people have now closed the car parks. I felt no guilt, but next time I will walk to my local bit of forest, which is not so nice. Best not to be seen as part of the problem.

I hope this was a welcome break from my weekly lock down posts!

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