CASES where large piles of rubbish are dumped in woodland are increasing, according to the head forest keeper for the area.

Keith French, who heads a team handling fly tipping cases in Epping Forest, said he regularly deals with builders' rubble, shop fittings and furniture.

“Major lorry loads of stuff, like shop and house wrecks are becoming a major problem,” he said.

“Often, in the north-west of the forest, we get things like the contents of marijuana factories – compost, stems of plants, that sort of thing.

“We don’t want anything imported into the forest, like soil or plants.

“We get other contaminants like asbestos and oil, which can get into the ground. They pose the biggest risk and they’re also a risk to staff.”

He said most of the 652 reported cases of illegal dumping in the 26-mile long forest were concentrated around High Beach, with its dark country lanes.

“That area of the forest lends itself to fly tipping because of all the little unlit lanes.”

Although forest fly tipping has dropped since last year, Mr French said it still took up time and money that could be spent improving the park.

“We maintain a huge staff that just deal with fly tipping and rubbish,” he said. “I think we’re running into £50,000 to £60,000 already this year and that’s without staff costs of about £250,000.”

The forest keepers are compiling a map of specific dumping hotspots so they can target their patrols to catch offenders.

There is a reward of up to £500 for information leading to a successful fly tipping prosecution.

Anyone with information on incidents should call the hotline on 020 8532 1010.