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Welcome to the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley

Photo-Swan on Lydney Lake

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Introduction to the Forest of Dean

The Forest lies in an isolated situation between the Rivers Severn and Wye, and today extends to around 11,000 hectares. It acquired its status as a royal hunting forest following the Norman conquest in the 11th Century.
Over the centuries, timber production focused on charcoal to fire iron furnaces – especially for production of medieval armour – as well as oak for construction purposes, including the supply of timber for building wooden fighting ships. Excessive felling, coupled with grazing by deer and stock, left the Forest largely bare by the early 17th Century.

The Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act 1971 which removed the Royal rights in the Forest

A visit by Lord Nelson during the Napoleonic Wars focused attention on the need to replant, leading to the Dean and New Forests Act 1808 (subsequently amended by the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act 1971 which removed the Royal rights in the Forest) This legislation, which superseded that of 1668, prescribes for ‘inclosure of land for the growth and produce of timber’, and appointment of Inclosure Commissioners to regulate the amount of land enclosed at any one time. In the following decades steps were taken to re-establish the Forest, predominantly with oak, and protect the plantations from grazing and excessive felling.
During the two world wars heavy felling depleted the growing stock and much replanting was undertaken with conifers. By 1971 the proportion of broadleaves in the forest had fallen to 42%, leading to a Ministerial decision to reverse the trend. Since then, the proportion of broadleaves has increased to about 50%. The Forestry Act 1981, which provided for disposal of Forestry Commission land elsewhere, specifically bars sale of land in the (Statutory) Forest of Dean.

Statutary Rights and Customs

The Forest is subject to ancient rights and customs. Management takes place in consultation with the Verderers, who are responsible for overseeing the "vert and venison" (trees and deer).
Meetings of the Verderers Court have been held in the Speech House since 1218. In practice, the Verderers are consulted about the whole range of management issues affecting the Statutory Forest.
Though not officially regarded as a common, there is a tradition of open grazing dating back at least five hundred years which means that free-roaming sheep grazing is officially suffered as a privilege outside the enclosures. The entire stock was culled during last year’s foot and mouth outbreak, and has only recently been re-established. There is a continuing tradition of estovers (firewood collection), although formal rights to this were removed by the 1668 Act; and the tradition of pannage (pig grazing) also continues. There are important coal, iron and stone mineral deposits beneath the Forest.
The Dean Forest Mines Act 1838 formalises the right of ‘freeminers’ to mine for coal and iron in the Forest as of right. The active small mines in the Forest, and mining rights, are administered by the Deputy Gaveller.
As one of the cradles of the industrial revolution, there are more than 1000 recognised, but largely unscheduled, sites of archaeological importance in the Forest.
Some 35,000 people live adjacent to the Forest - many in small communities settled by encroachment during centuries of mineral exploitation, and associated industrial activity. The Forest provides a wide range of public access and recreation facilities. (Management of the States Forest

The Forest of Dean is one of the few remaining ancient forests in England rising to 900 ft asl to the north. It is situated in the northwest of the county of Gloucestershire, south-central England, occupying an area of 27,000 acres . It is bordered on the southeast by the broad estuary of the River Severn and on the southwest by the River Wye, which (for the most part) forms the border with Wales. The district takes its name from one of the great primeval forests of England that still covers much of the 500- to 971ft (150 - to 296 m) high sandstone ridges and valleys of the south-central part of the district. The woodland area was designated a national forest park in 1938. Its oaks, ashes, birches, and ferns have overlapped a coalfield little worked since the early 1960s and an ancient ironworks much used by the Crusaders. Timber from the forest was utilised in the construction of ships between the 16th and 18th century.

Famous People and origins from the Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean is a region in the county of Gloucestershire, England. It is a roughly triangular area bounded by the River Wye to the west and north, the River Severn to the south, and the City of Gloucester to the east.
It is characterised by over 110 square kilometers of mixed forest, one of the most ancient surviving forests in England. It gives its name to the local government district Forest of Dean (district). The main town and administrative centre for the forest is Coleford; whilst Cinderford is another busy centre.
The relative isolation of the region lends it a unique character with a very broad and colourful local accent spoken by the locals. The forest is steeped in history, and the area was settled by the Romans who used the natural resources of the area, including iron ore and charcoal. Later, the forest was used exclusively as Royal hunting grounds by the Tudor Kings, but its rich deposits of iron ore led to it becoming a major source of iron at this time.

Timber from the forest was particularly fine and used to build Tudor ships, including the Mary Rose. Later still, the discovery of coal deposits led to a strong development of mining in the area, with commercial mining continuing into the 1980s. There were, and are still, a number of small private mines in operation.

With the decline of the mines, the area suffered a decline, but this was ameliorated to some extent when a number of high technology industries established themselves in the area, attracted by grants and a willing workforce. The area also relies heavily on tourism and agriculture. The writer Dennis Potter was born near Coleford, and frequently used the region as a setting in his work, for example in The Singing Detective and Karaoke/Cold Lazarus;
Lady Edna Healey (Nee Edmunds) writer, lecturer and broadcaster and wife of Denis Healey MP, formerly Labour Secretary of State for Defence and Chancellor of the Exchequer was born in Coleford; the local accent and dialect can be heard at some length in the BBC productions of these shows. The BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 DJ Jimmy Young is one of Cinderford's most famous sons. Early Britpop band EMF also hailed from the Cinderford area. If born within the Hundred of St Briavels, an ancient administrative area covering most of what is now considered the Forest of Dean, you are classed as a true Forester. This classification bestows a number of rights, such as the right to be a freeminer and to graze sheep in the Forest.


Foresters were said to originate from a tribe known as the Silures (Iberian Settlers) living in this area during 450-500BC who were also Druids and possibly the first miners of iron and coal in the Forest of Dean.


The coal forests date back millions of years, but the woodlands date from about 8,000 bc and originally covered 100,000 acres and the main industries throughout the ages being timber and minerals: coal, iron-ore and stone. The main trades were then charcoal burners (for the smelting and forging of iron), tree fellers, smelters and iron forgers.


The Romans populated the Dene (43AD-407AD) and built many of the original roads through the forest which meant clearing much of the woodland, and also timber was used for dwellings, building bridges, fencing and the charcoal for smelting. Many of the settlements were carved out of the woods later by the Anglo-Saxons (During 5th - 7th century

Forest Laws

During Norman times (11th century), many of the Forest laws and customs were implemented which governed the villages, farmland and woodland, protecting the fauna, which consisted of deer and wild boar and many of these customs exist today.


Rights, Privilege's and Customs

Pannage of pigs and Commoning of sheep

There are a few "Foresters Rights" and privileges that are still in existence, "sheep-badgers" are allowed to graze their sheep freely within the forest and pig keepers are allowed to graze their animals in the forest during the autumn, to allow them to feed on the acorns . There is also another right called "Estovers", which allows one to collect firewood and timber.


Free Miners

Any male person born and abiding in the Hundred of St.Briavels, aged 21 or over, and having worked for a year and a day in a coal or iron-mine within the hundred of St Briavels may apply for registration as a Free Miner. Every qualified "Free Miner" has the exclusive right to claim from the Crown a 'Gale', or place to mine, for profit iron ore and coal within the Hundred of St.Briavels or stone within the forest perambulation.


During the 11th-13th centuries, areas were split up into "Hundreds", or an area that could supply 100 fighting men when called upon by the King, the largest being the St Briavels Hundred, it's boundaries were approximate to the Forest boundaries. The miners of the Hundred of St Briavels were expert bowman for hunting deer for the King, and good engineers and when they were called upon by King Edward the First (1272-1307) to fight, they gave good service and were loyal. As a reward the King set down in writing the rights and laws of the Free Miners in a document which was called "The Book of Dennis"

Modern Day Forest

The trees which were once predominately oak, are now a balanced mix of broad-leaved and coniferous trees such as Oak, Beech, Sitka Spruce, Larch, Birch, Douglas Fir and Scots Pine. The Larch is the only coniferous tree to loose its needles.



The Forest of Dean has a wide range of wildlife which thrives well, mainly because it fits in with the remains of diverse workings such as old industrial workings (Mines, quarries, railways etc) and the way it has been managed over the years.

Water Life

Along the local lakes and ponds there are ducks, geese, dragonflies and damselflies, relaxing to watch on a calm, summer's afternoon/evening.


Buzzards, Ravens, Tawny Owls, Kestrels, Crossbills, Woodpeckers, Treecreepers and Pied Flycatchers are to be seen, particularly at the Nagshead Nature Reserve at Parkend, where you will see an abundance of butterflies, moths, glowworms, fungi, bats, grass snakes, adders, slowworms and lizards. There are over 30 species of butterflies and 400 different species of fungi in the forest.


Night Life

The woodlands are abundant in wildlife, Roe deer and fallow deer are seen at dusk or dawn, or in the autumn during the Rutting season. Rabbits, grey squirrels, hedgehogs and dormice make up some of the other species of wildlife to be seen or heard. Foxes, owls and nightjars can be heard after dark.

Youtube video a Year in the Forest of Dean
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A short clip from my Badger video taken in 2005

Video only displayed in Explorer 7 at the moment
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NagsHead Nature Reserve

RSPB new visitor centre-Grand opening event on Saturday 29 June 2003

The RSPB Nature Reserve at Nagshead opened its doors to both members and visitors to its new centre today Sat 28 June 2003. It was a glorious summer's day, with temperatures into the 70's and very well supported with members and visitors who all appeared to enjoy themselves. Three guided walks took place and were well supported, with refreshments at the ready.

Sun 29 June 2003 is the Grand opening event for all and includes family activities, pond dipping, regular guided walks and refreshnents.

Nagshead goes green!

In the heart of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Nagshead RSPB Nature Reserve celebrated the exciting opening of a brand new environmentally friendly Visitor Information & Education Centre and the appointment of a new Community Project Officer.

butterfly on thistle

Thanks to funding of just over 90,000 by the Countryside Agency through DEFRA's Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund and additional contributions from the Local Grant Scheme in the Forest of Dean and the RSPB's Gloucestershire Local Group, this partnership project between the Forestry Commission and RSPB has been able to go ahead.

The Centre is built from locally sourced Douglas fir, larch and western red cedar - all grown within 35 miles of the reserve. Inside, lighting is powered by solar panels on the roof of the building funded by Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust.

However, to spot its greenest credentials, look no further than the roof! Special grass matting has been planted on the roof to reduce the ecological footprint of the building. As well as providing a habitat for butterflies, it will also help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The reserve attracts 18,000 visitors a year, many of whom are schools and children in the popular field-teaching scheme. To enhance educational visits, state-of-the-art interactive interpretation is installed in the new Centre.

Jamie Agombar, who was then the Community Project Officer, said "the new Centre acts as a real focal point for the community. The fact that it is green sets a brilliant example".

nagshead nagshead nagshead

Visit the RSPB's Nagshead Nature Reserve, Parkend, Forest of Dean


Take a look back through a Forest of Dean Tourist's Guide in 1888

Download a PDF file for FOD 1888.

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Extract from "Tourist's Guide to Gloucestershire" (Worth) 1888

usa forest-of-dean


This Forest of Dean is located partly in the grounds of the West Point Military Academy in Orange County, some 45 miles from New York and like the UK Forest of Dean, it is also the site of an iron mine. Situated alongside the Hudson River lies Bear Mountain to the South of the Furnace and Iron Mines and to the north, an Indian Plantation and Reservation, founded by Charles Clinton, in 1732.
This information is taken from the Forest and Wye Valley Review(link on Home Page)19 April 2002

Information kindly forwarded by Bob D'Amico Author of in the USA

Forest of Dean is (was) just outside of Highland Falls, New York. Much of the area is a reserve for the United States Military Academy (West Point), the American version of Sandhurst. This area of New York was a "major" iron ore mining center during the colonial years and "West Point", on the Hudson River was the most militarily significant and strategic spot during the American Revolution. A huge iron chain was made locally and strung across the Hudson to prevent British naval ships from cutting off the connection between the colonies in New England and the Middle Atlantic. As the Commander of West Point, American General Benedict Arnold became infamous when he plotted treason to turn over West Point to the British. He got away but British Major John Andre, aide de camp of British General Sir Henry Clinton was captured and later hung for espionage, since he was in civilian clothes. The Henry Clinton Collection

Monroe, Orange County, New York

Forest of Dean mine Published: December 19, 1891.

Download a PDF file for Forest of Dean mine.

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