Hainault Forest Website

Written and Designed by Brian Ecott


November - December 2004


"The Holly and the Ivy  when they are both full grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood, the Holly bears the crown."


Ken, the Badger-face Tup.

Jenny Coverdale, Secretary of Redbridge Branch of London Wildlife Trust helps with layering an old Hawthorn hedge at Hainault Lodge Reserve.

Des checks the alignment for the next post hole as Vic drills.

Nostoc commune growing on a path.

Redbridge's Walk to Health group.

Holly and Ivy have long been associated with mid-winter festivals from pagan times through to Christmas celebrations. They now appear in wreaths and table decorations. This year throughout the wooded areas of the forest there is an abundance of holly berries which is good news for the Redwings, Fieldfares and other birds that will feed upon them in the coming months. Holly bushes are either male or female, the

berries being borne on the female plants. Ivy is late in flowering providing a good source of nectar for insects when all other flowers have finished. The berries are ripening and will be food for the first spring migrants such as the Blackcap.


Ken - the Badger-face tup or ram arrived in mid-December and is visiting the farm for a couple of months. Hopefully his visit will result in some lambs in early May. It is only the ram that is horned in Badger-face sheep. Also recently arrived on the farm are two very playful and inquisitive Hob (male) albino Ferrets.


The winter months are an ideal time for conservation work, when plant and animal life are winding down. On the 15th November, members of the Redbridge Conservation Team together with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and other volunteers, spent the day hedge laying. An old neglected hawthorn hedge lining Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve and Forest Road was layered in an attempt to restore and regenerate it. On the farm sections of fence were replaced with new fencing to make them stock proof. There are many opportunities to get involved in practical conservation. Work days are planned to restore the Heathland along the Romford Road, and regular work parties take place along the River Roding and in other places in the Borough. Details are to be found on the What's on pages or by requesting details from the Conservation team on 020 8501 1426.                              


Around the forest the European gorse Ulex europaeus was in flower. This spiny shrub is particularly common on Cabin Hill, and flowers throughout the winter months. The Common field speedwell Veronica persica and White dead-nettle Lamium album appear to be in flower every month of the year. Flocks of Jackdaws were seen in the grassland areas during the period, and on the Lake several Shoveler ducks were present feeding.


A thirty metre path near the Foxburrows Cottage was colonised by the alga Nostoc commune. The path, built of road hoggin is colonised by grasses, mosses and wild flowers. It is damp and is an ideal habitat for the alga. The algal masses are brown to olive-brown in colour. Nostoc belongs an algal group or phyla known as Blue-Green algae (Cyanophyta or Cyanobacterium). Like bacteria, they are primitive in structure, in that their cells are not differentiated into nucleus, chloroplasts or mitochondria which contrasts with the greater majority of living cells. They are among the earliest plants to have colonised the earth some 3,000,000,000 years ago.


Redbridge's "Walk to Health" Wednesday walk in December took place in Hainault Forest. Although it was raining at the start, the weather improved and eighteen walkers were led by Linda Herbert through Lambourne Woods via Cavill's Walk to Crabtree Hill and then along Doll Neat's Lane and via The Camelot, and  Headland Path to the Lake finishing with a seasonal coffee and mince pie at the Centre. The longer Wednesday walks will re-commence in April.


The clear evenings during the period have produced some spectacular sunsets. Particularly notable was on the evening of The Woodland Trust's Spookfest (October 30th) when the view towards the London skyline from Dog Kennel Hill was remarkable.


Now it's 2005 and time to start compiling the new diary. A Happy New Year.



SUNSET 30th October 2004

View of the London skyline with the Post Office Tower  centre looking south-west from Dog Kennel Hill

SUNSET 17th November 2004

The forge at Foxburrows Farm is silhouetted against the sky.


During the period there has been very mixed autumnal weather with seasonal temperatures. There have been a few sunny days, some overcast and others with rain, drizzle and even thunder storms with flash flooding. The last 10 days of October have been very wet. The high winds that have occurred have brought out many kite enthusiasts, with some using their kites for wind surfing on the grassland area. The forest gives folk the opportunity to practice their varied sports, and in October a new Orienteering course was opened.

EARTH STAR Geastrum triplex at Hainault Lodge Reserve

PINK TOADSTALL  Mycena pura common in the forest.

Left: Pholiota populnea growing from the cut end of a Black poplar log. Right: Underside of specimen 

Photo: Peter Comber

The early autumn rain has been good for fungi, and the number of species found has more than compensated for the last four years when few of the larger fungi put in an appearance. On a fungus foray led by Peter Comber over sixty species were found. A full list will appear on the Fungi list page. Fungi are ever present in the environment as microscopic threads or hyphae, which do their job of breaking down dead matter. In good years such as this, the fungi produce fruiting bodies which we recognise as mushrooms and toadstools. Many are edible, but there are some poisonous ones present in the forest, and care must be taken in identification. A pink toadstall Mycena pura was very common throughout the forest this autumn. I  found several fungi breaking through the cut ends of a black poplar log near the lake. They were brown gilled fungi with short curved stems. The edge of the cap was peeling and the top had been eaten by slugs. They were later identified by Peter Comber a local fungus expert as Pholiota populnea, confirmed by mycologist Geoffrey Kibby and recorded as  new to Essex. Alf Smith, a member of Havering and Redbridge Wildlife and Countryside Group found a group of Earthstars Geastrum simplex growing under a Horse Chestnut tree in Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve.

Members of the local Jewish Boys' and Girls' Brigade together with East London Handicapped, Adventure and Play Group (ELHAP) and Sahara Communities Abroad Volunteers help with Conservation work on the Heathland.

The Epping Forest Country Care team and volunteers spent five days working on the heathland on both sides of the Romford Road clearing the sites of bramble, scrub trees and cutting the coarse grasses back. It has made a vast difference, but much work is still needed to restore the heathland from years of neglect. Heathland is very scarce in Essex, and this site, developed on glacial sand, marks the southern tip of the last glaciation. Both Heather Calluna vulgaris and Dwarf gorse Ulex minor are gradually regenerating and it was good to see that Petty whin Genista anglica is beginning to make a comeback, with new colony amongst a small area of fine grasses. Seeds will need to be collected and other areas developed for it on the site. As part of "Make a Difference Week" local youngsters came to the Heathland on 28th October and helped remove some of the invading scrub.

Three asexual galls of Andricus grossulariae on the acorn cups of English oak.

Hedgehog gall Andricus lucidus on oak twig in Roding Valley Reserve

The gall wasps producing galls on oak trees, in general, have two generations a year, with each generation producing dissimilar galls. In the May-June diary of this year I described the first appearance in Essex of the Gooseberry gall occurring on Turkey oak Quercus cerris and caused by the sexual generation of Andricus grossulariae. The asexual generation of female-only wasps emerging from the Gooseberry gall, laid eggs on the acorn cup of the English oak Q.robur and produced sticky galls with flattened projections, covering the whole of the acorn. These have made their first appearance in the forest this autumn. It is from these galls that the sexual generation of male and female will emerge, to produce next years Gooseberry galls.

The Hedgehog gall Andricus lucidus has been known only in Regents Park and Hampstead Heath in London. Recently it started to migrate and it turned up in Leyton and I ~und it along the River Roding near Tesco at Woodford Avenue. How long before it makes it to Hainault Forest?

Red Underwing moth Catocala nupta at rest on a window frame.

SLIME MOULD Muculago crustacea on grass.

The odd sunny days bring out the insects and in mid October Speckled wood, Small heath, Small tortoiseshell and Small copper butterflies were all recorded, as were Migrant hawker dragonflies. A Red admiral was seen on the 26th October.  On a window frame in the farm buildings I noticed a Red Underwing moth Catocala nupta. It is a large day-flying moth with the length of the wings 40mm. At rest it has a grey mottled appearance, but in flight the bright red underwings can be appreciated.

While looking for fungi a slime mould was found in the grassland. It was was identified as Muculago crustacea. The slime moulds belong to a group known as Myxomycetes. They are an odd group which have presented difficulties in classification as to where they fit into the scheme of things. With modern techniques they have been finally recognised as members of the Protozoa Kingdom.


Autumn leaves are beginning to fall, and colours are changing. Beech leaves are turning yellow, gold and orange. The first trees to display autumn colours were some Horse chestnuts which also produced a heavy crop of conkers.

Spookfest was a huge success this year with around 700 adults and children present. The event took place after dark near the lake and there were many activities including spooky stories and walks into the woods. Giant pumpkins, scary monsters, splat the rat, apple bobbing took place in the tented village. There were displays of world owls, Woodland Trust information and a local Badger group information.

Horse chestnut  on the farm showing autumn colours.


July - August 2004


Adam and Fiona with The Mayor of Redbridge, Councillor Arthur Leggatt at the Redbridge Show's Wildlife and Conservation stand at Valentines Park in July..
Male Speckled Bush-cricket Leptophyes punctatissima on foliage alongside the lake.  Photo: August 2004.
Male Roesel's Bush-cricket, found during haymaking. This is the long-winged form. Metrioptera roeselii f.diluta Photo: July 2004

Little Owl Athene noctua

Young Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus

Members of Redbridge's Conservation Team were present during the weekend 3-4th July at the Redbridge Show. On the Saturday the Mayor, Councillor Arthur Leggatt visited the stand, and met two members of the team - Adam and Fiona.

The Team are actively involved in the Boroughs Schools where they help with gardening clubs, help and provide advice on management of school grounds and wildlife gardens, and organise assemblies and workshops with a conservation theme. The team manage Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve and Roding Valley Park and other areas in Redbridge Parks and open spaces such as Hurstleigh Gardens Open Space, and the newly planted hedgerows and wildflower meadows in Goodmayes Park and Westwood Rec. Advice is given to the public and other council departments regarding management of sites and gardens for wildlife, and comment is made on planning applications where there may be a threat to local wildlife and sites important for Nature Conservation.

They work in partnership with other organisations such as the Environment Agency and the Thames Gateway Partnership on large scale biodiversity/ environmental enhancement projects, and implement relevant actions of the London Biodiversity Action Plan. Locally there is co-ordination of the production of the Redbridge Biodiversity Action Plan and chairing the Redbridge Biodiversity Partnership. The benefits of this work is the large database of wildlife records for Redbridge which are maintained, and form a satellite of the London Biological Records Centre.

Regular Newsletters about the work of the Conservation Team, and the Roding Valley Park, together with other publicity material are produced, and the team give talks to local groups and organise walks and events for the public including the Bat Walks which are currently taking place at the end of August and in September. We should be pleased that we have such a hard working and dedicated Conservation Team in Redbridge.

Grasshoppers and crickets were seen and heard during July and August. A male Speckled bush-cricket was found on a bush by the lake. It is a small cricket with vestigial wings and a brown strip down its back. Its song is high pitched and out of range, but can be detected with a bat detector. Another cricket found during haymaking was the Roesel's Bush-cricket. Formerly a coastal species it was first recorded in Greater London in 1983-4. They normally have forewings shorter than the abdomen, but in hot summers - and we did have a hot spell - a free-flying, long winged form may occur in large numbers and results in migration and colonisation of other areas. It was the long-winged form that was found in the meadow while the hay was being turned.

In preparation for the Aquatic minibeasts page, Sheepwater and Roes Well were fished with a net and any minibeasts photographed in a Perspex tank. They were full of life with Mayfly larvae, Freshwater shrimps, Hoglouse, Pond skaters, Common backswimmers, Smooth/Palmate newt juveniles (efts), Broad-bodied dragonfly larvae, Pond snails, Wandering snails, Leeches and leech eggs, and Carp fry.  A pair of moorhens hatched 5 young on Sheepwater.

On a sadder note the Swan's family of seven cygnets reported in the May/June diary page is now reduced to two. Two became sick and were sent to Swan Rescue where they died. Another became entangled in discarded fishing line and featured in a report in the Ilford Recorder. Two others disappeared.

A pair of young Little Owls are now on display in the farm and are a popular attraction to the many visitors during the school holidays. The goats, sheep, cattle, donkeys, rabbits and fowl continue to provide family interest, as do the Tamworth pigs which are large healthy two-year old animals.

The number of plant galls recorded for Hainault Forest continues  to rise and now stands at 115. I led a "Look and Learn" public gall walk in August and in two hours participants had collected and identified from an identification sheet over thirty specimens. They were also shown a nationally rare gall on Silver maple and the Ramshorn gall on oak - a recent coloniser in Essex.

During live trapping with Longworth traps for small mammals to photograph for a forthcoming Mammal page I was surprised to trap a juvenile Brown rat. Rats have thick scaly tails and young ones have large feet, which helps distinguish young rats from mice. Wood mice were trapped in the cow field and a house mouse caught on the farm.

Participants collect and examine over 30 plant galls at a recent "Look and Learn" specialist walk led by Brian Ecott.


May - June 2004

Mute Swan family on the lake on 20th June.

Gooseberry gall - Andricus grossulariae on the catkins of Turkey oak. The agent is a gall wasp.
Subterranean stem galls on Creeping Cinquefoil. The agent is a gall wasp Xestphanes potentillae.
The Drinker moth caterpillar Euthrix potatoria on a fallow farm field. The caterpillar overwinters in grass tussocks and resumes feeding in mid April. It pupates in June and emerges as a moth in July.
Common Wasp nest built by the queen and suspended from the roof of one of the animal sheds.

The Mute swans failed to breed last year, so it was good to see that they had chosen to nest this year on the island in the lake. This afforded them protection from disturbance and the pair produced seven cygnets. The adults are very protective of their young and will hiss at and threaten any dog or human that gets too close to their family. Apart from the usual mallards, tufted ducks and pochard, there was a pair of Ruddy duck present in the middle of May.


The wild flower meadows this year have been very disappointing. Ox-eye daisies are flowering and there are some Corncockle plants in flower. Flowering elsewhere in the forest are  Trailing St. John's wort, Agrimony, Common mallow, Musk mallow, Creeping cinquefoil, Lesser stitchwort, Greater bird's foot trefoil, Honeysuckle, White bryony, and Hedge bindweed. The Cherry tree by the lake is in fruit. The high winds of the third week in June have broken off many of the developing fruits of Hornbeam and Beech.


On the 9th May I hosted a meeting of The British Plant Gall Society in the forest and by the end of the day my gall list for the forest had increased from around 70 to a magnificent 104 thanks to the expertise and enthusiasm of members. Several types of gall occurred on the catkins of Common and Turkey oaks and one in particular was the Gooseberry gall caused by the sexual generation of the gall wasp Andricus grossulariae on the catkins of Turkey oak Quercus cerris. This was later confirmed by Jerry Bowdrey, Gall recorder of The Essex Field Club as a new record for Essex. Subsequently I did find a second specimen at Langdon Hills, Essex. Much to our amazement Jerry also demonstrated the subterranean stem galls on the very first plant of Creeping cinquefoil that he investigated. Brian Wurzell  from Tottenham demonstrated a gall on the stem and leaves of a species of Dandelion Taraxacum pseudohamatum caused by a fungus which distorts the plant. Brian also added some plant records to the plant list. I am grateful to members of the BPGS for their help and encouragement.


The weather for the period was mixed with seasonal and unseasonable conditions. When the sun shone the insects appeared. On the thistles were Six-spot burnet moths, Large skipper butterflies, Soldier beetle and the green flower beetle Oedemera nobilis. This is a tiny green beetle that feeds on pollen and the male is noted for the thick swollen hind femora. The Two-spot ladybird is particularly common on the thistles and nettles this year, and there are a few 7-spot ladybirds also noted. While removing some Ragwort from one of the field on the farm I found a large woolly caterpillar of The Drinker moth. This is a large broad-bodied moth which is on the wing in July and August. Black-tailed skimmer dragonflies were observed around the lake.


Apart from the Large skipper butterflies mentioned earlier, others flying recently included the Comma, Meadow brown, Gatekeeper, Peacock, Small tortoiseshell and Speckled wood.


The Swallows have again nested in various farm buildings and in an old goat shed I found a delicate, papery nest of the Common wasp suspended from the roof. The queen was still working on it in May.


A highlight on the farm was the births of a ewe and ram lamb to the two Badger-face sheep in early May. They are both good mothers and the lambs were their first. They are growing fast. The ram is already growing a pair of horns. Photographs of the young lambs can be accessed here.


The end of June sees the departure of Sandra Hoisz who has been the Community Project Officer for the Woodland Trust at Hainault for almost three years. She is taking  the post of Community Projects Officer for Groundwork, Islington. Sandra has organised many projects and events for the forest and built up many contacts during her time here. Hopefully these will continue, especially the volunteer work parties, the formation of a Friends group and other events.  The What's on page will keep you up to date.




March - April 2004

Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria on Foxburrows Farm

"March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers."

The weather for March-April was traditional, in having mainly windy, showery days, with the warmer sunnier days coming towards the end of April, but the May flowers arrived early.

Coltsfoot flowered in March by the lake, and in the woodland areas Ivy-leaved speedwell, Barren strawberry, Chickweed, Wood sorrel, Early dog violet, Ground ivy, Red deadnettle, White deadnettle were also out. There was a magnificent display of Lesser celandine on Foxburrows farm. By mid April Cow parsley or Queen Anne's Lace and Common dog violet was in flower along the rides, and it was good to see that the Wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, an ancient woodland indicator species, is increasing its range. Petty whin Genista anglica is flowering on the heathland, and is still hanging on. A good display of Bluebells was seen in Lambourne wood at the end of April and should spread with the thinning and scrub removal by carried out by The Woodland Trust. In contrast were the white flowers of Greater stitchwort and Jack-by-the-hedge or Garlic mustard along the paths. On the Dexter cattle field the Thyme-leaved speedwell with its pale blue flowers was in bloom.

Volunteers working on the Heathland area.

Currant galls on oak leaves and catkins

Male Brimstone butterfly nectaring on

Knapweed which flowers later in the year.

Photo: Iris Newbery

Bluebells in Lambourne Wood


Work is being carried out at the lake by the Hollow Angling Society during the closed season, removing some overhanging branches and willow coppicing to improve the swims. Some bales of barley straw will hopefully reduce the algal blooms. The first of the Mallard ducklings took to the water on 26th May.

Volunteers  have been at work on the heathland cutting down some vicious stands of False acacia or Locust tree Robinia pseudoacacia. Following the cutting down of two trees last year, much suckering has taken place, resulting in a large area being covered in 2 metre high growth of shoots covered in sharp 2cm. spines. In the long term proper eradication will need to be professionally carried out. During the workday in April Two-spot and Seven-spot ladybirds were seen and several striped Brown-lipped banded snails were found. There is a monthly volunteer programme why not come along and help - it's good fun, and healthy exercise. A meeting to look into setting up a Friends of Hainault Forest Group took place in March, and there is a follow up meeting on Wednesday May 5th at 6 pm. in the Hainault Room in Hainault Forest, again, why not come along.

Flocks of Redwings were still present on Foxburrows Farm on the 16th March and the summer migrants started to arrive in March with the Chiff chaff followed by the Blackcap, Willow warbler and Whitethroat. A pair of Swallows appeared on the 19th April and by the end of April several were seen flying in and out of the cattle and goat sheds where they nested last year. Flocks of Jackdaw appeared from time to time during the period.

On warm days during late March and April butterflies out included Comma, Peacock, Brimstone and Small tortoiseshell - common this year. Holly blue and male Orange tip butterflies have been seen late April, and metallic Long-horn moths Adela reaumurella are flying around the emergent oak leaves. Orange tip males are searching the Garlic mustard plants looking for females which will lay their eggs on the buds.

Several galls have already appeared, Big bud gall on Hazel; Stem and leaf pustule galls on Cow parsley; Red pustule gall on Sycamore; Pouch gall on Silver maple; Leaf roll galls on Hawthorn, Elder, Spindle, and Beech; Crinkle vein gall on Hornbeam; Leaf galls on Blackthorn and the Spiral galls on Black poplar are beginning to form. Currant galls on Oak leaves and catkins are particularly common this year.

Several tracks of Fallow deer have been seen in Lambourne Wood and a small group have been reported. On a field meeting with the Essex Field Club, carrying out a plant survey for the Botanical Society of the British Isles a plant of Bird's Foot Ornithoptus perpusillus was found on Cabin Hill and two interesting liverworts were pointed out. One Frulannia dilatata is a tiny microscopic plant growing high on a tree, and is making a comeback due to decreased pollution levels, the other Lophocolea semiteres is a newcomer growing on rotting hornbeam and also recorded in Epping Forest. It has come from the southern hemisphere, possibly with the horticultural trade.


January - February 2004

Black poplars Populus nigra by the lake on a foggy day in early January.

Hazel Corylus avellana. The female flowers are on the same twig between the pairs of catkins

Hazel bud-like group of female flowers in close up.

Pussy willow Salix caprea male catkins.

Willows are either male or female

Pussy willow female catkins

Alder Alnus glutinosa catkins and old cones.

January and February have provided a mixed bag of wintry weather. One day early in January a thick fog cloaked the forest. It was eerie hearing the robins singing, the great tits calling, and the sound of the Canada geese by the lake and not being able to see them. Throughout the period there were some flurries of snow, one of which caused a white-out on the 29th January. Some days were overcast and others bright and sunny. Although low temperatures, there wasn't a long period of freezing temperatures.

Hazel  trees  are  rare  in  the Forest, and  there are a few in Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve. They have been in flower since early January. The pollen from the long male catkins is blown by the wind to pollinate the female flowers which originate in a bud on the same tree. Hazel whips have been planted in the Country Park in an area near the Romford Road. Only one person turned up for the tree planting volunteer day on the 24th January. The nest box building day on the 14th February was attended by three volunteers and the resulting nest boxes, built for  blue tits, robins  and sparrows,  were erected along  Dolneats Lane in  the  Lambourne  part of the

forest. Sallow or Goat willow Salix caprea was seen in flower on the heathland area on the 16th February. Goat willow is dioecious, which means that there are separate male and female trees, as opposed to monoecious trees such as hazel and alder where there are separate male and female flowers on one tree. The male catkins of Sallow are also known "Palm or pussy willow" and it is normally in flower around Easter time. Alder catkins have been out during February and can readily be recognised by last years cones. Look for the red female flowers at the tips of branches.


In June 1904 on a visit to Hainault Forest by The Essex Field Club it was noted that the Beech tree was absent,  in contrast to that of Epping Forest where they were abundant. Beech trees were planted 100 years ago on Cabin Hill which is capped by Bagshot sands, and on  Dog Kennel Hill consisting of Claygate bed. The trees on Cabin Hill are generally fine trees whereas those on Dog Kennel Hill, behind the farm are very diseased. Over recent years many have fallen, and there is much dieback and fungal attack. It appears that the Beech doesn't do well on heavy waterlogged soils.


The alders on the farm are a good source of food for the flocks of Goldfinch which are present during the winter months. Flocks of Redwing have been feeding on the farm fields. The Badger face ram has gone back to his farm near Faversham, in Kent and hopefully the Badger face ewes are in lamb. We shall have to wait until mid May at least to find out. The peacock has been displaying his magnificent tail feathers to the peahens. Drainage work and fence repairs and painting are ongoing on the farm.


On the lake are the ever-present and vocal Canada geese flock with their attendant feral geese. The bad tempered Coots are setting up territories, two pairs of Great crested grebe  performed courtship displays during February. A pair of Mute swan are present this year. There are the usual Mallard, Tufted ducks and Moorhens. The Shoveller ducks  left during January. The Black-headed gulls are beginning to develop their summer plumage and several are displaying the black head.


The Hollow Angling Society restocked the lake with a few thousand fish in 2003. and  recent weeks have seen several Cormorants perched and swimming in the lake, diving and feeding on the fish. When swimming on the surface, the Cormorant's body is low in the water and only its head, long beak and black neck are noticeable. They are often seen perched at the north-eastern end of the lake.