A group of 22 walkers, ranging from tiny toddlers to retired stalwarts, some visiting from Switzerland and Thailand, joined a Forest of Dean guide for a walk from the Whitemead site in Parkend. Walkers strolled gently on the old railway line from Parkend to Cannop Ponds, coming off the track, past the stoneworks, and joining the historic Bicslade tramroad. They turned off to see the dramatic statue of two young brothers who died in a tragic accident at the Union Colliery in 1902.
Imagine everyone’s surprise when a Forest of Dean Rock was found on the statue! This brought a smile to the tearful faces of all who contemplated the disaster. The beautifully painted rocks are distributed around the Forest, then transported to other locations. This particular one depicted baby wild boars — known as little humbugs. Who knows where this one will next be found?
SE Fitness, a walking and running group based around Sutton Park near Sutton Coldfield, chose the Forest of Dean for their mid-summer walking trip.
Close to 40 enthusiastic walkers met three Forest of Dean tour guides in Parkend. They quickly divided into three groups and were led in three different directions to their ultimate destination — the Speech House.
One group had a quick tour of Parkend, learning all about the importance of iron and coal mining. They took a gentle walk on the old railway line toward Cannop Ponds, where they watched swans and ducks enjoying the sun. The second group set off through Nagshead RSPB nature reserve and eventually crossed paths with the first group at Cannop. The third group sped through the woods, passing one of the Forest of Dean’s remaining ancient oaks, past New Fancy — site of a large colliery — before making their way to Speech House.
At Speech House the three groups came together for lunch in the Verderers Court Room. The Room is still the meeting place of the Verderers, an ancient body of judicial officers who once dealt with Forest offences such as poaching the monarch’s venison. The Verderers’ authority is more limited now.
SE fitness members went home satisfied after a successful day, grateful that the weather co-operated, holding off the menacing clouds.
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.
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.
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!
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.