The Epping Forest is an ancient woodland (circa 8000BC) of nearly 6,000 acres and contains areas of grassland, heath, rivers, bogs and ponds. Embankments of two Iron Age camps can be found hidden in the woodland.
In Tudor times Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I hunted in the forest. In 1543 Henry commissioned a building, known as Great Standing, from which to view the chase at Chingford. The building was renovated in 1589 for Queen Elizabeth 1 and can still be seen today in Chingford. The building is known as Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge.
Following disputes between landowners (who enclosed land) and commoners (who had grazing and cutting rights) the Epping Forest Act was passed in 1878. The Forest was saved by the Corporation of London from illegal enclosure. Epping Forest ceased to be a Royal Forest and the Crown's right to deer and venison was terminated. Pollarding was no longer allowed although grazing rights continued.This Act laid down a stipulation that the Conservators (ie the Corporation of London) shall at all times keep Epping Forest unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the people. When Queen Victoria visited Chingford on 6 May 1882 she declared "It gives me the greatest satisfaction to dedicate this beautiful Forest to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time" and it thus became "The People's Forest". The Corporation of London still own and manage Epping Forest in strict conformity with the Epping Forest Act without any money for its upkeep coming from local rates or taxes.
The total length of the forest is approximately 12 miles. It is the largest public open space in the vicinity of London and Essex - in fact it is the largest open space near any capital city in the world that has never been ploughed or cultivated.