Forest of Dean Scowles on Radio 4

A BBC Radio4 programme on the Forest of Dean Scowles was aired last Thursday at 3 pm. To listen, just follow this link  (may be time sensitive)

Scowles in the Forest of Dean

Helen Mark is in the Forest of Dean in search of mysterious geological formations known as ‘scowles’.

These semi-natural features in the landscape are thought to be unique to the Forest of Dean but are plentiful in this area. They are crater-like features in the woodland that have been eroded over time by water-action and exploited by miners through the centuries for their bounty: iron-ore, coal, and ochre have all been found in abundance in the Forest of Dean.

Helen descends into the mysterious, mossy world of the scowles and comes face to face with one of it’s inhabitants: a large cave spider and looks for the greater and lesser horseshoe bats. These two species thrive in the craters and caverns of the the Forest.

Tales of mining and the blast furnaces that smelted the iron-ore lead Helen across the Forest before she finds herself on a film set.

The visually stunning nature of the scowles have led to television and movie crews visiting the area to film in this mysterious, other-worldly landscape. They have become the backdrop to some memorable moments in the TV series Merlin and Dr Who and most famously in the recent Star Wars film, The Force Awakens that was filmed in a part of the Forest called Puzzlewood.

Presenter: Helen Mark
Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

LIDAR in the Forest of Dean

The Society's members and a large number of visitors enjoyed a talk by Justin Hughes, of Worcester Archaeology, on the use of LIDAR to detect previously unknown possible archaeological features in our landscape. The work, originally carried out by Gloucestershire County Council's John Hoyle and his team, is being revisited as part of the Heritage Landscape Partnership Programme, and a number of the Society's members are involved in field and recording activities.
Justin's presentation is attached here (please respect any copyright), together with a link to a site where you can explore old ordnance survey maps, some of which Justin showed us in his presentation.
Ordnance Survey Maps Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952 – National Library of Scotland

pdf icon Unearthing-our-history-Forest-of-Dean-History-Society-2015-01-16-web.pdf

Roadside Plate Markers – Listing Success!

The Forest of Dean Local History Society is pleased to announce that it has managed  to obtain Grade  II listing for 4 cast iron road markers in the local area. Five other similar  road markers already enjoy the protection afforded by Grade II listing, and the new listings mean that all these nationally unique markers now enjoy protection under the Heritage England listing scheme.


The  local road system we currently use essentially did not exist in the 19th century. Rough muddy tracks were the usual means of getting about, and the local population were getting increasingly agitated about them. The Local  Government Act of 1888 placed responsibility for the maintenance of main roads in the hands of new County Councils, and more minor roads were, in 1894, passed to newly-created Rural District Councils. However, matters in the Forest of Dean were complicated by the fact that the land was largely owned by the Crown, and
administered by the Office of Woods, and thus fell outside the responsibility of the county council.


After much lobbying and several  false starts, the Dean Forest Highways Bill was passed into law as the East and  West Dean Highways Act in 1883, setting out that the Office of Woods would be responsible for creating or putting into a good state of repair roads in the Forest, which would then be maintained by the county. Work began on a programme of road creation and repair in 1884.


In the early 1890s a newly-appointed Commissioner of Woods and Forests, Edward Stafford Howard, and a new Deputy Surveyor of Dean Forest, Philip Baylis, managed to get Treasury funding for a renewed drive for more roads. In 1897, a fresh agreement for new roads in Cinderford, Blakeney, Lydbrook, Ruardean, Littledean and Joys Green was made, to be funded by the Office of Woods and subsequently maintained by the East Dean Rural District
Council. Similar agreements were made concerning roads between Lydney and Lydbrook, and at Ellwood. Work was carried out between 1897 and 1909.


On 10 April 1900, Philip Baylis, the Deputy Surveyor of Dean Forest, wrote to the Commissioner of Woods and
Forests, in a letter preserved in the Gloucestershire Archives, proposing the erection of the cast-iron road markers of which the example at Ellwood (see photograph) is one of a surviving group of nine. “I think it desirable that
there ought to be some permanent record placed on the side of the roads which area being made in the Forest at the expense of the Crown stating that the roads were so made… I would have a cast iron tablet placed at each side of the road with the following inscription on it.” He appended a sketch, showing the wording to be used, which set out the ‘act of grace’, as it was described in the Dean Forest Mercury, of the provision of the roads by the Crown.


Ten of the cast-iron tablets are known to have been erected on roads from the 1897 campaign; those roads which
had been finished before 1900 received their tablets retrospectively, and the others after they were completed. Nine of the ten tablets erected survive and all now enjoy the protection of Grade II listing.


The full story of the local road construction programmes undertaken by the Office of Woods in the 19th
and early 20th century is to be found in the latest edition of the FODLHS journal, “The New Regard”. Copies are available in local outlets or via the FODLHS web site (


The photograph shows Forest of Dean Local History Society Chair, Simon Moore,
alongside the newly Grade II listed cast iron marker plate at Ellwood.

Bicknor History Group post-Christmas event

Get over the January blues with English Bicknor History Group's  post-Christmas
get together.



 Medieval Festivities

Period music and
conversation, then quiz with mulled wine and

and Gillian Guest

 Thursday 21 January 2016, 7.30pm,
English Bicknor Village Hall

Entry: £2.50, FREE
for members – join on the door

Contact: Claire

Eric Warden-Heggie 


An opportunity to help out in the Archives

Below is an email we received from Gloucestershire Archives, looking for volunteers to help out for a few days in January and February.
If you're interested, please contact Anna direct –  details below:
Dear All
We are going to start work on some of our old sites again at our stores behind Gloucestershire Archives on Alvin Street and need your help.
Jon Hoyle is looking for 6 volunteers each day on Wednesday 27th January, Thursday 11th February and Thursday 25th February 2016.
You will get the opportunity to handle the finds from various digs and help to get them ready for archiving at the museums in the county.
If you’re available to help can you let me know please and I can book you in? Both days will begin at 9:30am and end by about 3:30pm. As always if you can’t make all day that doesn’t matter as long as you let me know what times you will be able to do.
If you need a car parking space please can you let me know so that we can let the Archives know numbers?
Bring your own lunch but tea, coffee, biscuits, lightning wit and ready repartee will be provided as per usual!
Kind regards,
Anna Morris
Archaeology Service
Shire Hall
Tel. 01452 426245