BBC Radio4 listeners will be familiar with the programme “Mark Steel’s in Town”. The infamous comedian visits a town or region in Britain and finds the funny side to local peculiarities. Mark recorded such a programme in Speech House in the Forest of Dean at the beginning of December in front of a packed audience.
Residents of Bream and Coleford were most indignant that he concentrated his talk on Cinderford, on Ruardean — which he found difficult to pronounce — and the Dean Heritage Centre. He was fascinated by “Vorrest” dialogue, expressions such as “Fern Ticket” (look it up!), long-standing Forest traditions, and VIP’s such as Dennis Potter. He felt safe enough in Speech House to ask “Who killed the bears?”, and was treated to tales from a resident who made that mistake in the old Roebuck pub in Ruardean Woodside.
At one time, wandering sheep would have featured in his talk. Now the wild boar — more precisely, the feral pigs — took centre stage. The audience was divided on its attitude toward the beasts.
If you found this post baffling, listen to the programme at 6.30 on BBC Radio4 on 14 February. All will be explained!
Guests at Speech House were treated to a Boxing Day walk. They viewed the oaks around Speech House, planted and dedicated to various members of the royal family, they admired a well-loved stained glass work called Cathedral, they visited Woorgreens Lake which was formed by open cast coal mining.
But the highlight of the walk was a visit to the Woorgreens Nature Reserve, developed by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. This is an enclosed area of wild grasses, heathers, gorse, hardy trees, and a variety of wildlife. Insects and birds thrive in the area.
Unfortunately the resident English longhorn cattle had just been moved on. However the walkers were able to view the charming Exmoor ponies who act as a natural lawn mower. One of the walkers who lives locally has contributed a photo.
If you want to see the ponies, don’t put it off too long. They will be moved along to another site sometime in the spring.
Christmas guests at Speech House enjoyed much more than a lavish dinner. Guests were invited to put on their boots and join a Xmas morning with with a Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tour guide. Using Spruce Ride as a base, the walk zigged and zagged back and forth, taking in Speech House Lake, Reform Bridge, the disused railway path, and peeking into the Cyril Hart Arboretum. Besides the growing spruces, walkers saw abundant Douglas Firs, beech trees, Scots pines, birches, and the mighty oak trees for which the Forest of Dean is famous.
Walkers got back to Speech House in time to don their glad rags and feast on canapes and cocktails. Not bad!
Walkers in the Forest of Dean are used to finding Forest Rocks — small rocks decorated and left in obscure places to be found and enjoyed by anybody passing.
A Forest of Dean guide was checking footpaths for a walk from Speech House that was to cover Woorgreen’s Nature Reserve and Woorgreen’s Lake. The guide found such a rock near the beloved stained glass window, Cathedral, part of the Sculpture Trail. However when examined, it turned out to be an Oregon Traveling Rock! Somehow the rock had traveled many thousands of miles. We can only imagine what it has experienced along the way.
When a tour guide received a phone call from Richmond’s Coaches in Hertfordshire asking him to do a coach tour the very next day, he happily obliged. If he had been unavailable, he would have found a colleague to help out.
The tour started from Bell’s Hotel in Coleford. One of the tourists had been evacuated to Bell’s School during WWII when she was a young child. Her reminiscences were very poignant, and welcomed by the group.
The group visited both the Dean Heritage Centre in Soudley and Taurus crafts near Lydney. Along the way the guide pointed out the industrial heritage of the Forest of Dean. He also named some of the notable VIP’s such as Jimmy Young, Dennis Potter and Harry Potter.