I stand by what I wrote in May 2021 – every time we walk in the forest is different. Firstly, it does indeed depend on the weather. This time for example, the forecast was so dire that I was surprised to see
anyone turn up at all, but Polyramblers are made of stern stuff! And
the weather forecast does not always turn out as predicted! It was
bright and sunny as we set off from the station, in fact all morning.
Then it depends on the time of year. This time there were no leaves on  the trees but the trees still rustle and creak to remind us to look up and admire how tall they are. It was sloshily muddy underfoot, layered with beech leaves. No bird song sadly, just the distant hum of the M25 and occasional Essex burn-up merchant taking advantage of the straight section of the Epping New Road.

We paused in Loughton Camp (the name given to a circular dip at the crest of the hill cushioned with beech leaves and flecked with fungi at this time of year), to enjoy a moment’s calm, listening to nature,  breathing in fresh air and smiling at the occasional passing
dog-walkers. Onward, among the trees, avoiding paths churned up by mountain bikers and round trees felled by recent strong winds. Over the Epping New Road, with caution and speed, and then through the trees to the clearing and facilities at High Beach, including empty picnic tables where we could eat our packed lunches and get a hot  drink. Presumably other potential picnickers had been deterred by the  pessimistic weather forecast!

We were about to set off again when Andrew suddenly emerged through the crowds queuing for refreshments at the King’s Oak kiosk, having earlier taken the wrong branch of the Central Line and subsequently made his own way through the forest by following his nose! With him  came the rain! A coincidence! The rain got heavier as the afternoon progressed. The forecasters can usually claim their words were true at  least in part and that we had misunderstood them! As a result of the rain the group decided against pausing in the part of the forest beyond the bikers’ refreshment clearing even though the trees would shelter us to some extent. So we strode on to the woodland pond where we were rewarded with sight of one of the mandarin ducks and several surly mallards (surly when they realised we weren’t dishing out any  goodies!). The footpath back towards Loughton High Street was particularly sloshy so we were relieved to arrive back at the Wagon Boulangerie where those of us who weren’t too wet and uncomfortable and preferred to hurry home were given the usual warm welcome despite us being muddy and dripping wet! The friendly staff found a space for us inside so that we could dry off and warm up with tea and cakes! As ever, the ideal way to complete a walk! Thank you to the Polystalwarts  who joined me for the day!

Pam.  Photos by Stuart and Pam