The widow of a man who spent over half his life fighting to protect a forest has paid tribute to her beloved husband.

Harry Bitten, 92, was known throughout his community for the many campaigns he led to save Epping Forest and the surrounding areas from development.

His wife Peggy Bitten, 81, said he leaves behind a large group of people inspired by his love of nature and the great outdoors.

Mr Bitten passed away in hospital on Wednesday September 6 after breaking his hip two weeks before and going downhill from there.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Mr Bitten established the Epping Forest Centenary Walk in 1978, which attracts over 100 hikers annually, and drew up maps of the forest which have been used by thousands of people.

Mrs Bitten said: “He was very concerned about Epping Forest and wanted to preserve it as an open space for people.

“His family were part of that old East End tradition where they would go out to Epping Forest on the holidays to have big picnics.

“During the war his parents had been bombed out and had to get temporary accommodation and he used to cycle out to the forest.

“I have received letters from people saying Harry inspired them to take up walking and now they go on hiking holidays.”

Born in Bow, Mr Bitten met his wife while they both were working in the Colonial Office, London and the couple married in 1955, settling on the edge of the forest in Frederica Road, Chingford.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

They would become active members of the campaign group Friends of Epping Forest before resigning in 2012 after almost 40 years.

Mr Bitten was heavily involved in the 20-year campaign to fight the M11 link road in Leytonstone.

He also gathered 9,000 signatures opposing a golf course in Chingford Plain and saw his efforts pay off when the plans were scrapped.

Although the couple, who had four children, were at the heart of such campaigns it was their love of walking that they bonded over most.

“I wasn’t used to walking a lot, having grown up in the countryside, but he introduced me to it,” Mrs Bitten said. 

“We would go on walking holidays to the continent.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

“I remember one time when I turned up to climb Snowdon in slip-on ballet-type pumps.

“They were not suitable shoes to climb a wet slippery mountain but I got to the top and then he carried me all the way down.”

Harry Bitten is survived by his wife Peggy, four children Peter, Jill, John and Christopher and six grandchildren.