The Forest of Dean is a stunning landscape situated in the west of the county of Gloucestershire. It is unique in that it is one of the only remaining ancient woodlands in the country, covering approximately 43 square miles. Some of its historic towns include Coleford, Cinderford, and Lydney.
The area has been inhabited by humans since Mesolithic times. Bronze Age field layouts have been discovered, as have Iron Age forts. It is thought that before the Romans arrived, the area was likely to have been inhabited by the Dobunni and Silures tribes. In 50 AD the Romans settled here, attracted by its rich natural resources including ochre, iron ore and charcoal. Numerous villas were built in the area and a temple dedicated to the god Nodens was erected in Lydney.
Vikings raided the River Severn settlements after the Romans had left, but by the 11th century, the region came under the control of the kingdom of Wessex. Both the Anglo-Saxon kings and later, the Normans used the forest for their personal hunting area.
The Tudor kings also protected the forest as a private hunting ground, with much of the royal court’s food coming from the bounteous resources the forest offered. It was also a rich source of iron and the forest’s timber was considered among the finest in the world and used for shipbuilding.
Mining was the massive part of the employment in the area. The Speech House was built in 1682 to hold the Court of my Law, a type of parliament for the Verderers and Free Miners who managed the resources, game, and forests of the area. A man called a Gaveller and a deputy would have been responsible for releasing areas of land for mining, acting for the Crown. This historic building is now used as a beautiful hotel and wedding venue, with the forest as a scenic backdrop. For a Gloucestershire Wedding Hotel Venue with a difference, visit http://www.thespeechhouse.co.uk/weddings/
Some famous people to hail from the region include the members of the band EMF who were from Cinderford. Emma Hatton, star of the West End who appeared in Evita, Wicked and We Will Rock You was born in Coleford. James and William Horlick, who invented malted milk powder and the drink that became Horlicks, were born in Ruardean. Dennis Potter, the famous playwright, and the author often used the region in his writing and was born near Coleford.
There are many fascinating places to visit in the Forest of Dean, with both natural and historical importance. Natural attractions include Clearwell Caves, Puzzlewood and Symonds Yat, while heritage attractions include heritage railways, ironworks, museums, and collieries. There’s fun to be had too with a cycling center, sculpture trail, climbing activities and water sports on the River Wye.