How proud we are of our forest and how pleased we are when a new book is released to aid our enjoyment. Many people of all ages and from many walks of life are familiar with Nicholas Hagger who was a pupil at Oaklands and Chigwell Schools and read English at Oxford. He lectured at universities in Iraq, was tutor to Prince Hitachi, Emperor Hirohito’s son in Japan and was almost executed whilst teaching in Gaddafi’s Libya. He was a leading light in Oaklands, Coopersale Hall and Normanhurst Schools and his wife taught there and his son was involved as a School Principal. He has written 30 books on diverse subjects, such as statecraft, philosophy and comparative religion.
In this book, he records many forest delights and also poses some interesting possibilities. Having been raised in the area, one of his favourite childhood recollections is visiting his dentist, who was Howard Carter’s brother, and as he drilled, he told Nicholas exciting stories. “My brother entered the tomb of the great Pharaoh, Tutankhamen – open wide please, just a little more drilling – and saw wonderful things!” Hagger describes some local events, including his meeting with Winston Churchill in 1945 and recalls events which hit the national headlines, such as how the double police murderer, Harry Roberts, whilst living wild in the forest, burst into the Owl Inn public house to rob everyone at knifepoint. Celebrities are also mentioned, such as Rod Stewart who attended sports day at his school and Jane Goody’s sons who attended the school before her untimely death. What wonderful memories!
The book escorts us from armoured elephants brought here by Claudius to pillow mounds at High Beach (possible ritual structures of funeral pyres of Romans killed in battle). Could Boudicca’s last stand be at Amesbury Banks and could she have picked hemlock at Cobbin’s Brook and died near Copped Hall? This wonderful possibility is presented!
Other fascinating historical events are described. Essex claims descent from Woden and the Danish conquest gave it Danelaw. It did not escape the Great Plague and was involved in the Peasants’ Revolt. Henry VIII created a deer park in Chingford and Dick Turpin lived a cave in the forest. There were medicinal springs in Chigwell Row and Tennyson visited his depressed brother, who was a voluntary patient at the asylum, Fairmead House. A failed business caused a huge financial loss to Tennyson’s family and resulted in him being too broke to marry. The poet John Clare is also remembered with the locations of his poems. The five stages of the building of Waltham Abbey are detailed and a suitable Abbey walk for visitors is provided. Chingford, Loughton, Buckhurst Hill, Epping, Chigwell and other villages of bygone eras are included. Copped Hall receives several pages, along with Hill House and Loughton Hall as is the sad story of the lady of Wanstead House.
I was delighted to read a book which provided me with new insights about the 6,000 acres of ancient woodland of Epping Forest. Nicholas Hagger provides a personal memoire, a fascinating history of the people, places and institutions of the Epping Forest area and a timeline that begins prior to the ice age. Add to this, selected poems, written by the author, and some interesting ancient maps, and you have an excellent book which will delight everyone of all ages.
A View of Epping Forest is written by Nicholas Hagger and published by O-Books ISBN: 978 1 84694 5878 £13.99 443 pages Review: Wendy Stokes www.wendystokes.co.uk
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