Saturday 20 August 2022 – Walthamstow.
The thrum hum of cars moving along the A406 was broken by a solitary helicopter passing overhead. I’d taken my headphones off as I entered the forest at Beacontree Ave, planning to use the underpass to get to the other side of the motorway. I expected to hear some birdsong, but other than an occasional and seemingly half-hearted tweet the birds were quiet; either that or they were non-existent. I was on my way to the supermarket; the long way.
I haven’t walked here for over a year, in fact I haven’t been near this distant corner of Epping Forest since we returned to London, and Walthamstow Forest is only a 15 minute walk from home. The cloudy light filtered through the yellowing leaves was excellent and it felt like a good day to be wandering aimlessly (in the general direction of South Woodford Waitrose) and taking photos.
I was a little surprised at how many leaves had yellowed and were falling from their tree, it seems too early in the year, it could be the fault of the drought we are experiencing, or the early start to summer, the trees may well be thirsty and are not being satisfied. It’s far too early to be autumnal and temperature wise it is still in the high-mid 20s.
I walked here once during lockdown to take photos of a couple of pieces by street artist, Phlegm, and they have taken a bit of a battering from the weather.
Once in Walthamstow Forest proper I put the headphones back on again as the traffic noise was so constant and so irritating and with so little forest sound I may as well listen to music. I’ve a very good playlist for this kind of day. I don’t usually listen to music in the forest, perhaps some primeval defence mechanism requires me to be listening out for danger, though the only probable danger in London’s edgeland is accidently coming across some low-level drug deal.
I bumbled around in circles in this small section of wood, I wasn’t in any great rush and the forest has changed shaped inside its borders so for a while I had no idea of what direction was what. A reasonable summary of my life at the moment; bumbling, aimless, directionless and a bit, but not badly, lost.
Other than the traffic the forest was very quiet, I barely saw another person until I starting trying to find the path that would take me towards the tunnels under Waterworks Roundabout, which will get me back on the streets and on to the supermarket.
The shedding and browning trees, grasses and ferns made the forest a lot more interesting than the summer normally is; summer is my least favourite time in the forest, it is just too green. I like the variety of colour and textures that autumn and winter brings.
I found a neat little grove of silver birches, one of my favourite trees for photography, especially in a dense green forest. I took a slow walk round and though the trees; though the forest floor was densely overgrown with brambles, making walking in shorts a very irritating, if not painful process. Worth it though as the last of these three is my favourite image of the day.
I came across about twenty of these small, brightly coloured plastic balls near the silver birch. They were scattered over a small area, and I had no idea of why they were there.
This part of the forest was subjected to a lot of mis-aimed or dumped German bombs and V1 and V2 rockets during the Second World War, leaving a number of bomb craters here and there. It is good that these reminders of man’s recklessness and greed are there for all to see, perhaps a lesson is to be learned.
I had used a tunnel crossing below the A406 to enter the forest and it felt almost symbolic to use a tunnel to cross back into the real world of houses, people and cars. Reality in other words, this moment of idyll was over.