As Wanstead Park inches toward its long-awaited Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid, another local park is already in the early stages of a £6m restoration project. Hainault Forest Country Park, managed by the London Borough of Redbridge, is to undergo a programme of work focusing on four key areas – investment in biodiversity, landscape and buildings, works to re-focus the popular children’s zoo and to improve the range of activities on offer for visitors.
Today (9 December 2017) a group joined Francis Castro, Senior Ranger for Redbridge and Project Manager, for a guided winter stroll around Hainault Forest. In beautiful winter sunshine, over the course of two hours, they learned about the flora and fauna, as well as the restoration plans.
In January of this year, the HLF announced support of £4.5m, including development funding of £218,800, for Hainault Forest Country Park’s “Hainault Ancient Forest – a Landscape for the Future” project. The Council will also contribute £1.25m to the project with a further £250,000 from Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure. This brings total investment to £6m. When the project is complete, it is envisaged that Hainault Forest Country Park will be enabled to become financially self-sufficient, and the current Council subsidy will end.
Covering a total of 800 acres, Hainault Forest includes 250 acres of greenbelt, ancient woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is the last fragment of a medieval Royal hunting forest established by Henry I that included Hatfield and Epping.
The forest is also pivotal for local and regional wildlife. To date, 158 species of bird have been recorded in the forest including turtle doves, bullfinches, and three species of woodpecker. There are also more than 940 species of invertebrates such as butterflies and dragonflies, 79 of which are nationally scarce.
"Hainault Forest is important both as a haven for wildlife and a much-needed recreational space for Redbridge's growing population. It is also a historic landscape with ancient trees, including many pollards, which bear witness to its long management as wood-pasture".
Richard continued -
"Francis Castro, the London Borough of Redbridge and the HLF are to be congratulated for this initiative. We hope that the “Hainault Ancient Forest" project will guarantee the future of this special place for many years to come".
He concluded -
"Although there are differences, I am sure that Redbridge's work at Hainault Forest will offer some useful lessons for our own project. We hope that 2018 will be the year when the Wanstead Park partners' efforts finally come to fruition."