Hatfield Forest is the best surviving example in Britain of an almost complete Royal Hunting Forest, declared as such by Henry I in 1100. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1923. It is a managed landscape, created by centuries of human intervention and continues to be managed with traditional woodland techniques of coppicing, pollarding and grazing. The wood pasture is a rare habitat in the UK.
Today we welcomed 8 scooter riders and 9 walkers, including new members Dave and Helen with Lara, and Richard Walsh with his son James. Cooper and Islay , very well behaved dogs, joined us too. Our ramble was prefaced by a short talk from Ian, one of the National Trust Rangers who has worked at Hatfield Forest for 27 years. His very informative talk filled us in on the history and forestry management practices used at Hatfield Forest.
Our route took us in a figure of eight from the Café and Visitor Centre by the lake on a mix of boardwalks, surfaced pathways, broad grassy rides and narrower woodland paths. We started by crossing the dam at the end of the lake and follow a long section of boardwalk before coming to a wide, open grass area alongside Elgin Coppice. Crossing this, we left the Forest and continued for about a mile along the firm-surfaced Flitch Way, a linear country park which follows the line of the former Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree railway line, before returning to the coppices and rides of the Forest. We passed Hangman’s Coppice and the Portingbury Hills Iron Age settlement. After stopping for lunch at the hub, we resumed our ramble around the southern part of the Forest, passing through Collin’s Coppice, Emblem’s Coppice and Lodge Coppice before returning to the Café and Visitor Centre.
We are very grateful to Niamh Carton, the NT’s Welcome Manager, Ian and their colleagues for the assistance they gave in organising this ramble and in the day itself.
Mark and Bee
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