One day Melinda and I hopped over the river Wye into Gloucestershire, England to explore the Forest of Dean, an area of ancient forest of mixed woodland. We headed for Soudley near Cinderford where the Dean Heritage Centre is situated. This strives to preserve the unique history, heritage and traditions of the Forest of Dean.
We found this to be an excellent museum with several galleries containing interesting artifacts, exhibits, and memorabilia with many interactive displays for children. We learned of the history of the Forest from the Ice Age onwards. Coal and iron have been mined in the area since time immemorial. Also there was lots of information about local wildlife and habitat of animals living in the forest.
With the dawning of the Industrial Revolution many industries sprang up in the forest, which in addition to coal and iron mines included mining for ochre and other mineral deposits. There were also several iron foundries.
The industrial age brought the use of steam powered engines.
Many of the miners were “Freeminers” – The right to mine for coal is believed to have been first granted by King Edward II, to any man born within the Forest of Dean’s traditional boundaries, (known as the Hundred of St Briavels) who had worked underground for more than a year and a day. In its grounds the Heritage Centre has constructed a replica of a typical freeminer’s mine that has been dug into the hillside.
Other local industries included forestry and timber work, stone work, fishing, farming, clock making and charcoal burning. The Heritage Centre also has an example of a charcoal burner’s camp.
There is also a Victorian / Edwardian forester’s cottage, complete with a vegetable garden and domestic animals, including chickens and ferrets.
There was also an example of an Anderson Shelter which were issued to British families during World War II to offer protection during German bombing raids.
The centre also has a working water wheel and an attractive mill pond.
Within the grounds of the museum there are numerous woodland trails to explore and also a playground for children.
On display there were also some wonderful chainsaw carvings. This bear was my favourite.
Some gruffalos ……
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
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