Saturday 16 October 2021

epping forest

While in London this week I met a friend for a walk in Epping Forest. We walked from Chingford Plains to High Beach and it was thrilling to experience an unfamiliar aspect of the forest and notice many instances of sympathetic management and habitat creation. Since I left the area in 2018 greater numbers of English Long Horn cattle have been released and we saw small herds grazing and relaxing in the grass. This sight is part of a thousand year history of people having commoner rights to graze cattle in Epping Forest, a working landscape.

The forest where I grew up has a different feel: huge pollarded beech trees, deep leaf litter and wide tracks. This part felt more intimate and varied with winding, slow streams, boggy areas and clearings. It's been years since I walked in Epping Forest and my eyes felt fresh with the wonder of it, realising anew that this is a very particular place and surprisingly, that I'd forgotten something of its power and beauty. I would love to visit again with more time for exploration.


It was my mum's birthday on the 13th of October, she would have been 86. Mum is buried with her mum and two of her sisters in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, East Finchley. My friend lives near the cemetery and left a trowel, fork and gardening gloves outside her home so I could tidy the grave. 

Two years have passed since my last visit and I was bracing myself for a task, but it wasn't too overgrown. Years before my sister and I added compost to the grave and the soil was rich and loose, teaming with worms, in contrast to the London clay of the site. I saw a jay, robin and heard parakeets in the trees - a sure sign of being in London.

After weeding I stood and sang a song to mum, an artwork I'm developing.

Burial sites are so important to my work and it was grounding to tend my mum's grave on her birthday.