Probably less than an hour round the M25 on the south west tip of Essex is Epping Forest, nearly 6,000 acres of magnificent ancient woodland. An area that is totally free to roam. There are many walkways, bridleways, horse rides that are accessible to all throughout the year in all weathers. If footpaths are not your thing you can go where you want, there are no restrictions (don’t attempt to camp though, that’s not allowed and The City of London rangers, who run the place, will be on to you). Beware there are a couple of heart attack hills. Tea huts and hostelries are dotted throughout as are idyllic ponds, the flora and fauna are quite outstanding (in May the rhoddies in one part are sensational, the largest I’ve ever seen). Queen Elizabeth I’s Hunting Lodge is open to visit, built for her to spectate the hunting on the plain, however there is no proof she actually turned up. Dick Turpin plied his trade back in the day throughout the forest. And a body from an East End gangland killing pops up every now and again. A cyclists dream, the Tour de France went through the middle of it, very quickly! Parking is plentiful and free. It really is a hidden treasure.