VISIT | Seeing the Forest of Dean like a True Forester | Gloucestershire
The Industrial Forest
Quick the secret’s getting out – the Forest of Dean is being discovered!
The Forest of Dean is a walker’s dream, a mountain biker’s dream and a nature enthusiast’s dream
Beneath every tree is the industrial history of Britain – mining, railway, coal, slag heaps, quarries – who’d have thought looking at it?
"...this industrial Forest with its wildness, the walks and its landscapes..."
Let me take you on a tour of the Forest. Not a forest. The Forest. You live in The Forest. You visit The Forest. You walk in The Forest. Understand me when I say for the Foresters who inhabit this part of the world in west Gloucestershire – there is no other. The Forest of Dean is all.
It is why in 2011 when there was a palpable attempt by the government to sell off Crown Forest and large tracts of woodlands including the Forest of Dean, there was an immediate, loud and aggressive response. They called it the HOOF campaign.
Hands Off Our Forest.
And they did – get their hands off their forest.
This is the Forest of Dean. Fiercely independent. Fiercely proud. Fiercely protective of their part of the world.
Visit if you like. Come sample their paradise. But close the door on your way out! Theirs is a private corner of the world – quiet, tree-lined and unique. Welcome to the Forest of Dean.
Cinderford and Coleford are the two largest of the towns – each at different ends of the Forest. Coleford to the West. Cinderford – the East. Each with its own identity. Each tucked into the edges of the treeline.
To the north lies its border with Herefordshire – gateway to Ross-on-Wye with its tourist book views but before you leave, take in the village of Ruardean with its links to Horlicks (the original patent holder James Horlicks Jr was born here). And before you miss the stunning views at Yat Rock - where peregrines soar, and a stunning river view of the Wye will make you never want to leave.
To the east lies sleepy villages like Abenhall and Flaxley – where Flaxley Abbey once a Cistercian monastery now a private residence sits near the church with its impressive war memorial stained-glass window; with two of the Crawley-Boeveys who originally owned Flaxley Abbey.
To the south, as the forest drops down before you reach what is affectionately referred to as the Severnside (the River Severn), there are pockets of forest surrounding villages like Soudley, and Parkend where the sights and sounds of steam trains and cricket matches, cycle bells and clinking glasses rings true all through spring-summer long.
And to the west, some quintessential places like the infamous scowles (natural mineral deposits where open air mining has taken place) more famously found at Puzzlewood or the popular Forest villages of Newland and Clearwell. Newland with its Cathedral of the Forest and Clearwell with its Caves. And of course, the wonderful atmospheric remains of Dark Hill Iron Works – where once a mighty industrial complex under David Mushet made iron, now forest is reclaimed it, the Forest is now taking it back. And lest we forget Mushet’s son Robert Forester Mushet who perfected the Bessemer process for creating alloy metals.
Where industrial history butts up against natural landscape. Where architecture meets social gatherings. Where trees meet – well many things.
And just in case I forget – there’s the wildlife. The R.S.P.B. reserve at Nagshead, not just filled with birdlife but also the echoes of the Napoelonic War with its massive oaks planted to be used for shipbuilding. For where else would good strong English oak be grown but here. There’s unique and protected heathland at Tidenham Chase and Woorgreens Lake.
And then, there’s the boar?! Friend or foe of the Forest – well that’s a good question?
But this Forest is about the trees. And here your eyeline is often just treelines. Horizons are not wide but framed.
There is more. Much, much more. But then if the secret came out about The Forest, everyone would know.
So ssshhhh, keep this place under your hat. The Foresters like it that way. And they are the heart of this place. They’ve been here for centuries. Fighting oppression. Fighting the enclosures under Charles II. Fighting injustice under their mining owners. Fighting for their country in the 12th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment as the Forest of Dean Pioneers. Fighting to keep this truly unique place the same – with the trees at its very heart. For without the trees, this place just wouldn’t be the same.
The Forest of Dean.
Directions and Map |
Find the Forest of Dean in west Gloucestershire with the towns of Cinderford and Coleford within and the towns of Lydney, Ross-on-Wye, Monmouth and Chepstow on its edges