“ Address: Hainault Forest Country Park, London, Greater London, United Kingdom „
HAINAULT FOREST COUNTRY PARK I have visited Hainault Forest Country Park many times over the past twenty-five years or so. In this time it has only changed a little, with extra and better facilities being incorporated and so has remained a pleasant location for myself and my family. I believe it's a real treat in a London borough to find an area of public land containing forest, farmland, a lake and a large open space making it a lovely place to visit any time of the year and a bonus is that entry is free. Hainault Forest Country Park provides a wonderful leisure facility for local residents and also to visitors to the area. It has something for everyone from the very young to the elderly. As facilities at the park are improved the area becomes even more accessible to many. My first visits here were when my four children were young and were mostly made on a Sunday or during school holidays. We found the hills ideal for kite flying and simply letting off steam. I also came here several times on organised trips when I worked at a local playgroup. The forest area is much used by children's and teen clubs, such as girl and boy scouts and Boys' and Girls' brigade. When these clubs have sports days and similar events this large area provides a great spot. With all this space to hand there is no restriction on numbers of parents and relatives who can come to watch their children compete in sack races, hurdles etc. I love to visit the park and walk in the woods in the autumn as then it truly is spectacular when it's ablaze with autumnal colours. But for me the fondest memories I have of this public land is when my children were young and the snow fell. We have had a few cold winters resulting in enough snowfall for sledges. Whenever there is snow glistening on the hills of the park they quickly become quite crowded. The local shops soon sell out of sledges. At these times it's common to see all ages having fun and acting like kids. I have witnessed, as well as taken part myself, both children and adults hurtling downhill, not only on sledges, but on trays and even house for sale signs. Over the last few months the country park has had less to offer, for a limited time, and has looked quite different because it has been used as temporary accommodation (named Snoozebox) for security staff during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This park is in a location which has excellent transport links to Stratford and thus the Olympic Park. This has resulted in some areas of the country park being closed off and a few activities halted until October 2012. And it has meant that there have been many members of the armed forces to be seen around the area. Money paid to the council for the use of the ground will be used to invest in the park. I am reviewing the park as it was before Snoozebox and how it should be after October 2012. HISTORY IN BRIEF Hainault Forest is one of a few sections that still remain of the Forest of Essex. In the year 1851 an Act of Parliament meant the area was deforested; deer were removed and trees cut down in readiness for building. I understand that owing to public pressure the land was saved and then the park was divided between both the London boroughs of Redbridge and of, Havering and also Epping Forest District (Essex) as is still the case. These three areas and certain facilities fall within the different districts. The Woodland Trust helps to manage the country park. Next to the farmland is the golf course with restaurants and facilities. Over the years the park has been gradually improved and today I would say it has much to offer as an area of natural beauty which also has some useful facilities which help to make it accessible to many, whether they are lovers of nature (surveys have listed the forest as being equally first as a nationally important invertebrate site) or parents bringing their children out to have fun in the open air. FACILITIES This public area has much to offer in the way of facilities for everyone, I believe. There are some lovely walks set out for the independent rambler as well as organised ones; some easy and some providing more of a challenge. I like the fact that walks are signposted directing the walker. Dogs can be walked here or enjoy a run, fishing can be enjoyed on the lake and much more. I will explain a little about the various facilities that can be enjoyed here. LAKE/FISHING I have seen several dogs enjoy a swim in the lake but I'm not sure if it is an official doggy swimming pool. Probably not! My enjoyment of the lake is confined to feeding the ducks and geese, however the lake is open for day time fishing during the season and it is free to fish on the north bank. Night fishing is not allowed here but there are facilities close by. DOGS As I have already mentioned, dogs can be walked in the park but are not allowed in the farm section. It is a lovely area for dogs and their owners. FOR CHILDREN There's so much here for children from the very young who watch the world from their buggies to those ready and able to let off steam in the open spaces. The forest offers three play areas for the younger generation and these weren't available when mine were young. These facilities have been funded by The National lottery. Good luck to all those who can now enjoy them. ADVENTURE TRAIL This trail has: A climbing wall Balancing posts Bouncy bridge Ropes and foot swings ADVENTURE PLAY TOWERS These are meant for children between the ages of 8-13 and consist of linked towers with bridges for climbing fun. There is also a round swing for several children to use together. ADVENTURE WOODLAND TRAIL This has been designed for teenagers upwards and it consists of ropes and bridges set amongst the trees. ANIMALS Foxburrows Farm and the rare breeds farm and zoo opens daily. This isn't a particularly large concern but it is interesting in what is to be seen. Rare animals such as Hybrid Chinese Geese, Oxford Forest (or Plum Pudding) pigs are to be seen. Also to be met are donkeys, rabbits, guinea fowl, sheep, geese, Shetland ponies and more. There are opportunities at specific times to feed the animals. On Wednesdays during the schools summer holidays donkey rides are available at a cost of £2.50 per person. ADDITIONAL FACILITIES * Bridleways * Guided walks * Nature trail * Picnic area * Practical Conservation Sessions * Wild in the Woods * Visitor Centre * Cycling allowed DISABLED ACCESS Much of the park is accessible for wheelchair users and has become more so with ramps being incorporated where feasible. Of course all of the actual forest areas aren't easy for those in wheelchairs but maps of accessible walks are available from the office. I believe enough of the park is disabled friendly enough to make it a pleasant place to visit. Toilets in the park are adapted for wheelchair users. Car parking is free for Blue Badge holders in both car parks. CAFÉ For visitors feeling hungry, thirsty or both, there is a Café on site for refreshments. The café stays open quite late (usually until six in the evening) so this is a useful facility for the park, in my opinion. TOILETS There are two toilet block facilities within the park with the main block being situated close to the café. The smaller block is open during school holidays. Disabled facilities are here too. LOCATION Hainault Forest Country Park is conveniently located in greater London and is easily accessible to those travelling from within the London Borough of Redbridge and of Havering and from Essex and East London. It is close to Hainault underground station, which is on the central line. A short bus ride from the station of only a few minutes duration will bring you to the park. The park can be reached by the 247 bus and is also close to other bus routes. If travelling to the park by car then there are two pay and display car parks within. CAR PARKING The two car parks charge £1 for the first hour or £3 all day with Blue Badge Holders being able to park free of charge. There are also three spaces for coaches inside the park. OPENING HOURS The Country Park itself is open from 7am to dusk 7 days per week. 9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m. in the summer months and from 9.30 a.m. - 3 p.m. during the rest of the year. The Café is open from 9.30am-6pm weather permitting. JUST A SNIPPET (From http://www.hainaultforest.co.uk/) Hainault Forest Country Park celebrated 100 years of being made into an 'open space' in 2006. It has also won the Green Flag Award three times - 2006/07, 2009/10 and 2010/11.