Pollards of Epping forest

On Wednesday I had to drive to Epping to pick up Kavitha and take her to her mandatory life support course and baby sit the little one while she was at the course. I have mentioned about my drive through Epping forest to reach her place in past messages. Even though it is not far from here and I’ve lived in Chigwell for over 25 years, I have never driven this way during the Autumn months. There were road works along the way, which meant the drive took longer than usual and while I was sitting waiting for the temporary traffic lights to change colour, I could take my time and watch the forest in it’s full glory.

The grounds carpeted with the fallen golden leaves. The dark tree trunks set against this backdrop with most of the leaves still holding. Normally by this time the leaves should have started to fall heavily, but this year because of the warm weather and late onset of frost, it is taking a longer time. The leaves ranging in colour from dark green, light green, yellow, red and brown to dark brown. It was such a magnificent sight that I was tempted to take pictures, but was worried about using my phone whilst still driving, although it was standstill traffic at that point, nevertheless still not allowed.

Later I had to take Kavitha on a slightly different route to the hospital where the course was held, and this time the views were even better with the majestic oak, horse chestnut, beech, maple and occasional weeping willow trees on either side of the road, in some places almost meeting at the top like an arch and bathed in sunshine at this point. I asked Kavitha to take a video or at least a photo, and she did what we expect from our children nowadays which is basically nothing. Her response was that she sees this most days, so what’s the big deal.

Later on I noticed an article in our monthly free glossy ‘Chigwell life’ magazine about the “pollards of Epping forest”. They’ve written that ‘as the leaves turn and fall, the structure of the trees are revealed and this is a good time to appreciate the beauty of the trees’ and the reason for this is because of the historic practice of ‘pollarding’ which has been taking place in Epping forest for over 1000 years. They’ve explained it by saying that a pollard is a tree which is cut above head height and allowed to regrow, producing new branches which are then cut at regular cycles of between 10-15 years. These bring out biological changes in the tree and while the trunk itself ages the canopy is rejuvenated and the life of the tree is extended often by centuries. If not cut, Hornbeams and Beeches (we have a beech in front of our house) only survive for 300 to 400 years, but with pollarding this is doubled. In Epping forest some of the beeches have been there since the Anglo- Saxon times i.e. Fifth century.

If I hadn’t seen this article I wouldn’t have known why I found this view so intriguing compared to just watching trees you see along the motorways or anywhere else for that matter. Imagine the stories these tree could tell if only they had eyes and ears.

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