A dozen or so members assembled at the Thames Chase information centre for what proved to be an informative and inspiring day. In an introductory session indoors we were fortunate to have Jim Lyon, Forestry Management Director for the East of England, to give us an overview of the vision behind the creation of the park, and how it had been sustained, despite the catastrophic changes to local authority finances, through the creation of the Thames Chase Trust and with support from the Forestry Commission. This was followed by a more detailed look at the running of the park and the use made of it from Jenny Austin, the Trust Manager.
Before lunch in the café we were then taken on a short walk. What made the greatest impression here was the sheer number of visitors using the area, clearly enjoying their days out, and how the dense forestry style planting had created a new landscape on what had been an entirely open site before its restoration.
In the afternoon we were taken a little further afield to see a couple of nearby restoration projects with Yianni Andrews and Jenny Austin, one on the edge of the built up area, and with substantial investment to increase its capacity for recreational use, and another site which was more simply and economically designed and planted. We were able to see the progress in the design of the woodland blocks, and also the impact of the degree of restoration of the land on tree growth.
It was an excellent day useful not so much for specific lessons to be taken away on the style of planting etc., but memorable for the determination of those involved to put a vision into practice, and not to allow that vision to be abandoned. It was particularly interesting to hear the thoughts of Jim Lyon, and we are indebted to his friendship with Richard Edwards that he found time for us.
Principal Officer - Trees & Landscape Strategy - Epping Forest District Council