Mark Steel on Radio 4 on Valentine’s Day


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!

Severn Bore at Minsterworth on 24 January 2019

The 3 star Severn Bore as seen near Minsterworth church today. Water flowed upstream behind the tidal waves that comprise the Bore at a rate of knots filling the channel within the next hour. Warming tea and coffee were on sale at the St Peter’s church along with delicious home made biscuits.

Minsterworth churchyard is the final resting place of poet F W Harvey and the recently installed stained glass Harvey window in the church is well worth seeing. The window was commissioned by the F W Harvey Society using funds donated by the public.

Walkers and dogs on New Year’s Eve 2018

Two Lakes and the Cyril Hart Arboretum.

More than 20 guests, several with their dogs, enjoyed a New Year’s Eve walk from the Speech House Hotel. The walk saw them visit Woorgreens and Speech House Lakes and the Cyril Hart Arboretum . The photo shows them on Spruce Ride near to Speech House Lake.

The arboretum recognises the contribution of Dr Cyril Hart to the Forest of Dean in the form of many published authoraive books and papers and his long service as one of H M Verderers. Dr Hart was present when H M The Queen planted a tree opposite the Speech House in April 1957. Interestingly, when the Duke and Duchess of Wessex planted new trees at the Speech House in 2014, they used the same spades that the Queen and Prince Phillip used exactly 57 years earlier. The spades are on display in the Speech House.

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Speech House walkers visit Exmoor Ponies at Woorgreens Nature Reserve

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.

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