Situated between the rivers Severn and Wye, the Forest of Dean is a major tourist attraction in Gloucestershire. One of the remaining Royal Forests in England, it was originally designated by the Saxons for hunting. Today, one can take a relaxing walk through one of many trails. The Sculpture Trail near the Speech House features many unusual exhibits. The Forest is also ideal for cycling, climbing (at Symonds Yat) caving, and other outdoor activities. Attractions include the Dean Forest Railway
The 35000 acres feature a wide range of both deciduous trees and conifers, managed by the Forestry Commission. In addition to the many wild animals, local farmers' sheep roam freely throughout the area, a possible hazard when driving since they sometimes stray across main roads. Pigs may also be seen in the autumn.
Sheep owners' (locally known as badgers) rights to graze freely are thought to have existed for centuries. Their rights were finally ratified in 1981 by the Forestry Commission. Animal rights campaigners have recently petitioned for removal of the rights for the sake of the many sheep injured each year, but the badgers maintain that "... [they] will never get rid of the sheep".
Real Foresters (born themselves, and of parents born within the forest boundary) as they are locally known have ancient mining rights and may mine coal anywhere within the Forest.
There is some light industry in the towns of Cinderford, Mitcheldean and Coleford, Xerox and SmithKline-Beecham being notable in their presence, though local unemployment is high.
Motorway access is available from the M4/M48/A48 into Chepstow and the M5/M50 to Ross on Wye. Rail is limited to a local services at Lydney, or the lines at the nearest city, Gloucester.
Iain W. Bird,
Last updated 28 February 1997