FAQ-things you can do or not do in Epping Forest

by Mar 10, 2023Forest Life

Being the largest green open space in both London and Essex, Epping Forest attracts many visitors every season. From nature lovers to keen walkers, from history enthusiasts to creative minds, people come to this wonderful ancient Forest to relax, recharge, get active, be inspired, and get connected.

Epping Forest has been owned and managed by City of London Corporation (the Conservators) since the Epping Forest Act 1878. The Forest has a set of byelaws – laws that apply  in the Forest on top of normal UK laws – designed to both protect the Forest and its visitors. If you are not sure what you can or cannot do in the Forest the Epping Forest Byelaws is the place to look.

In these FAQs, we summarise some frequently asked questions about things (not) to do in Epping Forest.

Can I swim in Epping Forest?

In short, no.

Epping Forest has over 100 lakes and ponds varying in size and age. Some are gravel pits that were dug in the late 19th century, and some were created or enlarged for recreational or drainage purposes. There is even a pond caused by the explosion of a V2 rocket, known locally as ‘The Bomb Crater’.

In the past Wake Valley Pond was used for swimming, and it even had diving boards. Over the years, however, it has been the scene of several deaths by drowning. It is nearly 4m deep (over 13 feet) and was notorious with swimmers for having warm and very cold areas which apparently caused cramps.

Nowadays, swimming is not allowed in any Epping Forest ponds, mainly for health and safety reasons related to bacteria.

Can I camp in Epping Forest?

There are a range of camp and caravan sites in and around Epping Forest that you can book to camp in, including The Hive (formerly known as the Suntrap) and Debden House.

However, wild camping is not allowed in Epping Forest. This is because much of the Forest is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) where there are a lot of precious and endangered species including plants, fungi and insects living in this protected ancient Forest.

It is against the byelaws to wild camp Epping Forest.

Can I have a barbecues or open fire in Epping Forest?

No.

It is against the byelaws to have a barbecue or have any type of fire in the Forest.

Fires can get out of hand and are extremely dangerous to the precious habitats within the Forest.

It is worth noting that a fire can go down into the ground and burn along a dry root and can come up hours later; or a gust of wind could spread a fire and destroy precious ancient trees and habitats.

Can I use a metal detector in Epping Forest?

Using a metal detector is strictly prohibited without the consent of the City of London Corporation, as Conservators of the Forest.

According to Epping Forest Byelaws:

“ The doing of or attempting to do any of the following acts in the Forest is prohibited and shall be deemed to be an offence against the Epping Forest Act 1878:

(44) Using or operating a metal or mineral detector or any device for locating objects below ground level, without the previous consent in writing of the Conservators.

Can I fly a drone in Epping Forest?

No.

Epping Forest is a no-fly zone without a specific permit.

For information about specific permits see this page for detailed information.

If you are working on a specific project or have an enquiry about filming please contact the City of London Corporation, who own and manage Epping Forest for details about applying for a licence to film.

Can I forage in Epping Forest?

No. Fungi collection, and any other type of foraging, is not allowed anywhere in Epping Forest. It is against the Forest bye-laws.

Much of Epping Forest has either an European or UK conservation designation, or both. It contains a diverse mosaic of habitats, including historic wood pasture, green lanes, Europe’s largest single population of ancient beech pollarded trees, heathlands and grassy plains. An important part of that are the 1,500 fungi species, one of the most diverse populations in the UK. They are a major reason that this ancient Forest is designated as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Many of its wild fungi species are of national importance.

Despite the legal ban on foraging, Epping Forest has been suffering from illegal fungi picking.  If you see anyone picking fungi or foraging, do not approach them but please report it to the City of London’s 24/7 line on 020 8532 1010.