Conservationists are preparing to celebrate the 800th anniversary of a charter that paved the way for the protection of Epping Forest.

The City of London Corporation, which manages the ancient woodland, will mark eight centuries since the signing of the 1217 Forest Charter on November 6.

The charter, a sister statute to the Magna Carter, re-established and protected the rights of ordinary people to make a living from common land.

The document laid the foundation for the 1878 Epping Forest Act, which saved the forest from development and paved the way for the establishment of the National Trust.

At the passing of the Act in 1878, Epping Forest ceased to be a Royal Forest and was placed in the care of the City of London Corporation, which acts as its conservators to this day.

Philip Woodhouse, chairman of the corporation’s Epping Forest committee, said: “The Charter continues to have far reaching consequences nationally, even to this day.

“By restoring the legitimacy of the forests, the Forest Charter, which was a part of UK legislation until 1971, has left us with an extraordinary legacy of ancient trees and landscapes, including Epping Forest.”

Stretching from Leyton to Epping, the forest is London and Essex’s largest open space and attracts around five million visits a year.

It is home to 55,000 ancient trees with some beeches thought to have been growing in the area since Anglo-Saxon times making them some of the oldest living plants in Europe.