WALK | Walking Wentwood's Ancient Forest | Monmouthshire
A Forest That Offers Something Of What Was Lost to the Foresters of Wentwood
A wonderful woodland area full of walks, trails and opportunities to get back to the trees
Explore the once vast and ancient woodland and treescapes of Wentwood
Close to Newport and the Usk Valley
"...the woodland walks and the climbs up onto the hillside..."
Wentwood is a remnant of an ancient forest. A woodland that stretched for thousands of acres.
Wentwood was once the free reign of the free tenants. They held ancient rights and privileges, as well as having their own housing and cottages.
From the Norman period, courts were held in Wentwood under two great twin oak trees known as the Forester’s Oaks, unfortunately now lost.
The chief ranger lived in a small castle on the summit of Pencaemawr called Cas Troggy. Wentwood used to be guarded by five small forts or castles – Dinham, Llanvair, Talgart, Penhow and Pencoed.
The tenants of Wentwood paid an annual rent of one shilling to the Lord of Chepstow Castle; as well as rotation for an annual dinner for the ranger and his men like the example given below from the 17th century:
"You are to provide ready by 10 of the clock of the same date a dynner, 1 piece of boiled beef, a leg of pork, a double rib of roasted beef, a goose roasted, a loaf of bread of half a bushel, two gallons of strong ale and two of the small ale, these being part of your duty to the lord for your freedom as new commoner with the forest"
The key moment for Wentwood was in the 17th century where like in other parts of ancient woodland, the contemptuous subject of enclosure became an issue. Henry Somerset, known as the Marquis of Worcester as well as Governor of Chepstow Castle and Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire decided to enclose some three thousand acres of woodland with no consideration of the ancient foresters of the Wentwood. The timber was to be felled.
It got particularly heated when the men who had come to transport timber to be used as Somerset’s Tintern mine were surrounded by protesting and rioting foresters. Known as the Wentwood Riots, it ended up in arrest for several prominent local individuals such as Nathan Rogers, lawyer and Edward Kemys. They ended up at Monmouth tried and fined, before being pursued further by Somerset at the House of Commons where they were then imprisoned.
This forest though now diminished once stretched from the Usk to the Wye – from river to river. But after this point Wentwood Foresters effectively lost their ancient rites. The forest became more industrialised particularly for the naval industry and charcoal.
Parts of Wentwood were put up for sale in the 19th century where they described a picturesque and romantic woodland landscape perfect for a new mansion in splendid grandeur with views of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. As well as solid money made from the coppicing of wood from the estate.
But now Wentwood still remains enough in situ for those who live locally or happen to be in this part of the world to take a step into the woodland, climb up on to Gray Hill or sample the many trails that venture out to the trees. Views abound to the Severn estuary and the Bristol Channel far beyond. There are also lumps, bumps and stones that stoke the interest.
Directions and Map |
Find Wentwood north of the A48 Chepstow-Newport road where they are car parks in the area