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Tree Huts Of Epping Forest

August 30, 2021
by the gentle author

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Who can resist the lure of the forest in summer? Since Epping Forest is a mere cycle ride from Spitalfields, each year I visit to seek refuge among the leafy shades. And, in the depths of the forest, I come upon these makeshift tree huts which fascinate me with the variety and ingenuity of their design.

Who can be responsible? Is it children making dens or land artists exploring sculptural notions? Clearly never weatherproof, they are not human habitations. I wondered if the sprites and hobgoblins had been at work constructing arbors for the spirits of the forest. But then I remembered I had seen something similar once before, Eeyore’s hut at the edge of the Hundred Acre Wood.

Some are elaborate constructions that are worthy of architecture and others merely collections of twigs which tease the eye, questioning whether they are random or deliberate. They conjure an air of ritualistic mystery and, the more I encountered, the more intrigued I became. So much effort and skill expended suggest deliberate purpose or intent, yet they remain an enigma.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. Sally Bernard permalink
    August 30, 2021

    My children and Grandchildren have built these ritualistic huts Year on Year. Keeps them busy during an afternoons walk and play. Often wondered whether tramps used the better ones to sleep out in the summer?

  2. August 30, 2021

    Hi Gentle Author,

    It’s more than likely the great work undertaken by “forest schools” in the local area.

    My youngest son attended the first one introduced in Somerset around 2000, it was the saving of him as he was unable to attend mainstream schooling. I will be forever grateful for the staff’s commitment and dedication supporting him through those difficult times ?. He is now a construction site supervisor ?

    Thank you for your ongoing commitment to spitalfields life..

  3. August 30, 2021

    It never fails to surprise me what parallels in cultural perception there are between the Gentle Author and myself. In the forest of the Jugendburg Sensenstein near Kassel there you not only can find my tree, the 600-year-old Oak, but on May 1st of this year I actually discovered a similar tree hut in the very near surrounding. Of course I also immediately thought of Eeyore’s hut at the edge of the Hundred Acre Wood…

    Love & Peace

  4. BPL permalink
    August 30, 2021

    I’ve spent many a weekend working with my daughter and her friends on these huts.
    ….I even recognise some of the branch arrangements! There’s a wonderful tradition of repairing and improving on what you find in the forest. One of the most elaborate is down in Bushwood. Someone has built bench seating inside. We were also working on a rather large one in the middle of Hampstead Heath. The kids love it, and I find I have quite a lot of energy for it too.

  5. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 30, 2021

    We have had similar tree huts appear in our local wood, as well as some more formal creations like Peter Rabbits post office, Badger’s Fort, Fox Villa, Mole End etc which young children have absolutely loved discovering and playing with.

    Unfortunately the National Trust have fenced some of these off during the pandemic and they are no longer accessible for the children.

    But at least the spooky random tree huts continue to appear, created by who knows who….?

  6. Jan permalink
    August 30, 2021

    Lovely! At my London primary school in the 1950s we made such camps in the grounds. We were fortunate to have such extensive grounds as our playground. The older children made more elaborate structures but even the youngest children made a camp by using dried leaves as room separators. We called them camps rather than huts.

  7. Barbara Jefford permalink
    August 30, 2021

    What lovely photos. In woods near where I live in Buckinghamshire hut building sessions have been organised in the past for children by the Forestry Commission workers, and also there have been school activities in the woods in which huts are built by small teams competing to see who can build the best. Families also make them to encourage interest in going for a walk in the woods and learning more about woodland life.

  8. August 30, 2021

    They are for drying the wood for burning in a fire place.
    That is my suspicion?

  9. Barbara holliman permalink
    August 30, 2021

    Brilliant. My daughter and I made these in the new forest when we were on holiday.
    I think it’s some sort of primeval instinct aroused in us to create shelter when walking through forests.

    We thoroughly enjoyed the doing and the end product which we lined with bracken for comfort.

  10. Boudicca Fawkes permalink
    August 30, 2021

    Great pics of thee forest I remember when we went there and saw big dicks ghost

  11. Richard permalink
    September 1, 2021

    When I went to boarding school one of the compensations was the woods in the grounds where the boys roamed, destroyed beds of nettles, made similar dens and climbed the trees.

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