Hainault Forest Website

Written, Designed and with Photographs by Brian Ecott

The Forest Ponds

Hainault Lake - 100 years old

Mute swan family

Lake panoramic view 21st June 2012  Photo Michael Rumble

  Wildfowl find a small area of open water. Adam Locke Jan. 2010 

Frozen lake looking southwards  March 2009

There has been a popular myth that Hainault Lake was dug by Turkish Prisoners of War. However Elaine Wiltshire has been researching local papers of the time and discovers that schemes were available to find work for the many unemployed men in East London.

Hainault forest. - It was resolved to do everything possible to secure the employment of local labour for the work of excavating a lake in Hainault Forest. - The London County Council will put the work in hand, and the proposal is to send unemployed men from East London to excavate the soil.

Chelmsford Chronicle  25th January 1907



The original ornate waterfall


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  The London County Council Unemployed scheme includes making of a 17 acre lake at Hainault Forest, on which it is estimated that 300 men will find work for 20 weeks.

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Shoreditch Observer 7th November 1908



  At a meeting of the Shoreditch Borough Council on Tuesday Councillor T. Burnell, Chairman of the Distress Committee, stated that there are 164 Shoreditch men engaged on the various works of the Central Unemployed Body out of 1,600 registered, and from January 26th to February 13th a sum of 444 was paid in wages.  In all 216 Shoreditch men have been engaged by the Central Unemployed Body during the season out of 245 recommended.  Twelve Shoreditch men are at Hollesley Bay, 90 at Hackney Marshes, and 42 on the construction of the new lake at Hainault Forest.

Shoreditch Observer 20th February 1909


The Parks and Open Spaces Committee report that the expenditure on the provision of a lake at Hainault Forest amounted to 602 13s 3d., the original vote being 600.

Shoreditch Observer 28th January 1911


Part of a large cloth map of London County Council's planting plans for the lake dated 25th July 1910. Some of the trees still exist. Abele or Abele poplars are White poplars Populus alba, Poplar tremula refers to the Aspen P. tremula, Huntingdon willows are White willows Salix alba, Black Italian refers to

Hybrid poplars P. x canadensis. These were not planted and Black (water) poplars P. nigra ssp betulifolia substituted.

Map Rubber stamp

London County Council 25th July 1910


Left: Photo of Lake circa 1920-25 showing the planting established. The field immediately behind the lake is one of the Lords Pond fields, and beyond that behind a distant hedge is Lockwood's Land. These fields demonstrate the openness of the area which prior to 1906 was part of Foxburrows Farm.




Below left: Detail of the photograph.











The Lake,

Hainault  Forest.

 Two boys in school caps and short trousers. Possibly 1940's

The Lake, Hainault Forest, Chigwell Row.

The tower of All Saints can be seen in the background of open fields.

A man stands at the outflow of the lake and is enlarged here. The Lake and planting was completed in 1910 so that the picture could date about 1920-5

Could this be the Ice Cream seller or Hokey Pokey man?


Several Black (Water) Poplars Populus nigra ssp betulifolia were planted by the outfall and on the mounds at the northern end of the lake. Pictured left are a group of Black (Water) poplars photographed on 6th February 2005 by the outfall. Now (2010) 100 years old. A couple of the trees fell about 10 years ago.

The bole of the tree above shows "bosses" which are characteristic of this species.


Lads fishing 1972 Photo from the GLC magazine Newsleaf 20 May 1972.  Swan family 1969










Left: Coltsfoot by the lake 31st March 2006.

Above: Golden willows on the island in winter 2006/7.


Below left: Cormorants drying off January 2005.

Below right: Heron on willow 10th February 2007.

Two plant specialties by the lake: Sea club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus 12th June 2005 and Wild celery Apium graveolens 31st May 2007, both normally found in brackish coastal areas and uncommon inland..

Hainault Lake from Hog Hill 12th July 2005

The Lake February 1984.  Notice the Football pitches in the background

The Lake February 1969. Notice the goal posts.