Visitors to the Forest walk in the Speech House and nearby woods

A photo of the Royal Spades in the Speech House
The Royal Spades in the Speech House

Royal Spades in the Verderers Court

After a walk in the Forest, visitors to the Speech House were given a pre-lunch talk on the Verderers Court. The photo shows the spades used by H M The Queen and Prince Philip to plant new oak trees during a visit to the area in 1957.
Some 57 years later, the same spades were used by the Earl and Countess of Wessex to plant more oaks nearby.
The spades were supplied by local ironmonger Mr Fred Fowler.

Yasasin on the Sculpture Trail

Later the visitors walked on the Sculpture Trail to view some of the exhibits, including Yasasin erected on the trail in 2016 by Pomona Zipser. The consensus was that the white colouration was a little stark in comparison to the Forest environment.
The new sculpture Threshold (2019) designed and constructed by Natasha Rosline was very well received once the guide explained what it represented and how it was made. The view towards the the pond is especially appropriate when the amount of water encountered in the Forest of Dean cave systems is considered.

A photo showing the pond at Threshold
The pond at Threshold

Wildlife

In addition to the usual sightings of free roaming sheep, during the day the visitors were pleased to see a Sounder of wild boar (parents and piglets) and a heron arriving at the pond.

Is it a twig? is it a snake? no, it’s a slow-worm!

Sloe worm
Walkers find sloe worm in RSPB Enclosure, Nagshead

Walkers from Whitemead in Parkend had just entered the Nagshead RSPB enclosure after visiting Monument Mine, one of the few remaining coal mines run by Freeminers in the Forest of Dean. After a few yards they were confronted with a shiny, slimy-looking creature that remained rigid on the path. Snake? No, we decided, it was a slow-worm a type of legless lizard. It posed beautifully for photos, and we made sure that the dogs were kept well away from it.

The walk through the woods was particularly glorious, as late bluebells poked up through the ferns and bracken. Birdwatchers were out with impressive photographic equipment, but were looking up at birds rather than down at lizards!

Charles II Oak lives on

Recent felling in the Forest near Parkend has left the Charles II Oak looking out over an open hillside. Forestry England have an ongoing program of planting, thinning and ultimately harvesting of our Forests – but notable trees such as this one are spared. With the ongoing threat from diseases and climate change, the new neighbours to this old oak tree will likely be more diverse then their predecessors.

Rotarians enjoy walk from Speech House

A group of Rotarians spent an activity-packed break at Speech House. Part of their package included a short pre-dinner walk from Speech House, taking in a few notable pieces from the Sculpture Trail — Echo and Cathedral — as well as a tour around the Gloucestershire Wildlife trust enclosed area where the beloved Exmoor ponies still roam.

Exmoor ponies
Rob ‘Savage’ Sargent captures the ponies on film

The ponies have been doing an excellent job grazing, keeping the wild grasses short and manageable. However, a corral has been built to enclose them when they will be rounded up and moved some time by the end of spring. They were never intended to be permanent residents at this nature reserve. They will be moved to another area, possibly Tidenham Chase, where they will munch happily there.

Fortunately the Rotarians were able to see them in this distinct habitat before they are moved off.

100 Years of the Forestry Commission

A large stone has been installed on Spruce Ride near the Speech House to mark 100 years of the Forestry Commission. The plaque reads:

Commemorating the Centenary of the Forestry Commission and all those people who took part in its achievements
1919-2019

A separate smaller stone nearby tells us that Spruce Ride was planted c. 1850, Replanted c. 1920 and replanted c. 2010 and continues:

In commemoration of retired Forestry Commission Staff who have dedicated a part of their working lives to the ongoing management of the Forest of Dean“.

A photo of Cherry Trees on Spruce Ride
Cherry Trees on Spruce Ride