We recently discovered the Highams Park Animal Sculpture Trail, created in 2019 when Waltham Forest was awarded the status of being the first London Borough of Culture.
Rather like children, we like a walk where we can tick things off, and the trail was easily reached from Highams Park Station, only two stops from our local station, Walthamstow Central.
A trail map downloaded from the website, listed 12 animal sculptures suggesting it would take around 2 hours. The animals were carved from trees by chainsaw carver Marshall Lambert, with the trees being provided by the City of London Corporation and taken to the site by Epping Forest Conservators.
Each location was numbered on the map with five above the station, five below and two out on a limb. We decided not to follow the numerical sequence, but devised our own route. We started at number 4 with a row of five hedgehogs on a solid piece of wood, with another peering out from a hollowed log underneath. Having then moved on to otters, fallow deer, one of my favourites, and terrapins, we’d covered nearly 4km in an hour. Having found ourselves back at the station, we decided to head home and return the following day.
Day two began with the animals to the south of the station and having started with several cheeky squirrels playing on a tree trunk, we struggled to find an owl on River Walk, a small path running down the side of The Ching. Rather than rely on the simple map we’d downloaded, we checked Google maps which not only told us the exact location of the owl, but helpfully said it was ‘temporarily removed’. However, it was hard to miss a huge owl painted on the side of a house at the end of River Walk. We then ticked off frogs, my least favourite, badgers, rabbits, and foxes. The two foxes curled up were wonderful, especially as they were surrounded by autumnal leaves. As these animals were closer together, we once again covered the 4km in an hour.
This then left the two rather set apart from the others and once again, we decided to leave them for another day.
Before setting off on day three, we checked our route on Google maps and found one of the two, ducks, had like the owl, being temporarily removed. Our final sculpture, with a swan on one side and rabbit on the other, was a maypole base which was used for a dancing display at the Highams Park Spring Festival in May 2019. As it was located near Highams Park Lake in Epping Forest, we ticked it off before walking through the forest to nearby Woodford Green where we celebrated the completion of our trail with a well-earned pub lunch at the Rose and Crown.
Once we’d started, we realised that the location of the sculptures was generally a grassy verge at the end of a road and knowing this, made them slightly easier to find. I suspect that to do the walk in two hours, you need to be perhaps younger and fitter than us, but nevertheless we enjoyed doing it at a leisurely pace.