The City of London Corporation recently commissioned an audit of our Natural Capital Assets, like Epping Forest.

For generations we have described the Forest as ‘priceless’, but that doesn’t quantify the value of the services we provide to the public, benchmark our progress, or prioritise resources to give us the greatest return on investment.

With an annual influx of over 10 million visitors, the Forest delivers recreational and health benefits valued at over £50 million per year, carbon capture worth £4.5 million and significant air and water quality benefits.

In fact, Epping Forest provides the highest benefit-to-cost ratio across any open space managed by the City Corporation, delivering £20.20 in benefits for every £1 spent.

Many forget that the Forest is of national and international conservation importance, containing two registered historic parks, eight listed buildings and four scheduled ancient monuments. It also provides access to facilities for physical activity and recreation such as walking and running, cycling, horse riding, angling, football, cricket and golf. There are three visitor centres, a museum and more than 100 ponds and lakes.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Ben Murphy is celebrating the forest's natural capital valuationBen Murphy is celebrating the forest's natural capital valuation

The natural capital valuation is just one of the ways we will assess the impact of our management plans, but the ability to articulate the economic value of the ‘green lungs of London’ using scientific methodology for the first time allows us to really think about what any loss or damage would mean and how we must work with partners to mitigate it.

Talking of partners, I recently hosted the minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, Mark Spencer, and Chingford and Woodford Green MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who witnessed first-hand the innovative technology used in managing longhorn cattle, vital for conservation.

We were also delighted to host Epping Forest MP, Dame Eleanor Laing, at Guildhall to help launch our new strategies: Nature Conservation & Resilience, Community Engagement, Access & Recreation, and Culture, Heritage & Learning.

We are working with Theydon Bois Parish Council who are carrying out improvements to the pathways on The Green. This will improve accessibility for both residents and the growing volume of visitors using the walking trail from the tube station.

I was also pleased to present the FA’s ‘Grassroots Club of the Year’ award this week to R77 Soccer School who play at Wanstead Flats. This group has encouraged and mentored boys and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds into the sport. They started with nine coaches and six children and now have more than 150 children playing regularly.

Finally, as buds and bulbs emerge from their winter sleep, our partners at the Field Studies Council in High Beach have launched a Signs of Spring survey with the Royal Society of Biology.

We were delighted to welcome the BBC’s One Show to Epping Forest to kickstart this initiative and I hope you will participate by helping to record your findings at:

  • Ben Murphy is chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee.