The Highams Park is an area of 28 acres just east of Highams Park Lake, with entrances from Tamworth Avenue, Henry’s Avenue and Keynsham Avenue. There are also entrances through stiles from the adjoining Epping Forest.
Highams Park residents and visitors to the area come all year round to enjoy its tranquillity and wander its paths, walk dogs, play with their children or sit amongst the greenery and admire the views across the park to the forest and nearby lake. From the highest point of the park, London’s skyline can be seen on the horizon. The Highams Park is owned and maintained by Waltham Forest Council.
A popular playground for children under 7 lies on the western edge of the park, and some equipment for older children, including a zip wire, lies just outside the playground’s boundary. Wooden sculptural carvings have been installed nearby.
Humphry’s Café at the Tamworth Avenue end of the park provides food and refreshments, and the café’s toilets are available for all park users.
The park provides a flexible space for local cultural events and performances. An active Friends group arranges regular events throughout the year, such as the very popular Spring Festival and September Picnic in the Park, during which various performances, food outlets and games are arranged for residents. Visitors to these events numbered in the thousands.
Despite the number of people using the park, the space is sufficiently large to allow wildlife to flourish largely undisturbed. Although contiguous to the section of Epping Forest around the lake, the open grassland of the park, dotted with small stands of mature trees, provides an alternative habitat to the denser woodland. Several of the trees have preservation orders on them.
Many birds take advantage of the space, including crows, jackdaws, green woodpeckers, and smaller songbirds. Squirrels race between the forest and the parkland trees. Wildflower meadows have recently been added to attract butterflies, bees and other vital pollinators.
History of The Highams Park
The park was originally part of much more extensive grounds belonging to ‘Highams’, a manor house built in 1768, now Woodford County High School for Girls. At the end of the 18th century, the then-owner of Highams commissioned Humphry Repton, a renowned landscaper, to improve the design of the grounds and added a “fishpool”, now the lake.
In 1897 this manorial land began to be developed for housing. In the 1930s, the Warner family, who owned Highams, drew up plans to build right up to the lake. Ultimately, this development (known as the Highams Estate) was less extensive. In 1934, Sir Edward Warner agreed to sell the undeveloped land to the then Walthamstow Council, with the intention that it was to be used as a public open space.
During World War 2, a hut was built in a southeastern corner of the park as a gun emplacement and then used as a first aid post. The park was given over to vegetable growing.
Prefabs were built in the park immediately following the war, and the hut was used as a community hall for the residents. The prefabs were demolished in the 1960s, and the park returned to grassland. However the hut survived, serving variously as a local police hub and as storage for Council equipment. It was transformed into Humphry’s Café by Highams Park Planning Group (HPPG) in 2017.
HPPG worked with the Council to install boards explaining the park’s history (see below), and has just added new wayfinding signage for the surrounding forest and lake.