Epping Forest: an Explanation


SOME years ago you were good enough to publish a paper of mine, on the conservation of the Forest from the naturalists' point of view (vol. xxvii. p. 447). That paper was written soon after the Forest was taken over by the Corporation of London, when some unpleasant signs of artificial treatment had become manifest, and more especially with reference to certain railway schemes which, in the interest of naturalists, we of the Essex Field Club felt it our duty to oppose. It is a matter of ancient history that our opposition was successful. My object in entering the lists again is to assure your readers, as representing the scientific public, that the controversy which is now going on concerning the management of the Forest has nothing whatever to do with the agitation about the railway scheme of 1883. This statement may appear superfluous, but I am compelled to trespass upon your space because certain unscrupulous critics are in the habit of misleading the public by quoting from that paper published twelve years ago, without giving date or context, and without a single word of explanation as to its object. Moreover, the critics in question have endeavoured, by a method which in other controversial spheres would be called by a very strong name, to make it appear that some of the views put forward in 1883 are opposed to the attitude which, it is well known, I now hold in the present controversies. So far as naturalists are concerned, they may rest assured that, nothing that is now being done is in the way of injury to the Forest; far from this, there are signs of marked improvement. The policy of the Conservators is to restore the Forest to a natural condition by thinning out overcrowded pollards which are now beginning to injure one another, and to kill off the varied undergrowth which is such a relief to the gloomy barrenness of an unnaturally dense growth of trees. I may point out that the overcrowding is due to two opposite causes, viz. to entire neglect in some parts, and to too much attention in others. The latter cases refer to those parts in which in past times the rights of lopping were severely exercised. Here of course, now that the Conservators have extinguished these rights, the pollards are throwing up straight and lanky branches of a most unsightly character. In those very limited parts which were not formerly pollarded, and which consist of groves of spear trees, no attempt at systematic thinning had been made before the present Conservancy, and here also there is an overcrowding necessitating woodcraft. Within the last few years all that has been done has been done with care, skill, and fore thought. I rejoice to be able to bear testimony on this point, and to reassure those who may have been misled from a want of personal knowledge of the nature and history of the district, into giving credence to the intemperate correspondence in the news papers.


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MELDOLA, R. Epping Forest: an Explanation. Nature 52, 81 (1895). https://doi.org/10.1038/052081a0

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