Mining in the Forest.

Happy New Year one and all! 2017 is now well underway and it is so exciting wondering what joys and delights it will have in store! After a wonderfully relaxing break back home on the farm over the festive period I am now back in the thick of things and working hard in the office once again. This time of year is of great moment for me personally as my adorable tortoise Soames will be waking up from his winter hibernation any day now and I can’t wait to see him again! He is very young and so only hibernates for around ten weeks, I am not looking forward to him growing older when I can expect to part with him for several months… When he emerges from his deep sleep I will feel that though some way off Spring is most definitely on its way. 

My working year got off to a great start with an excellent day of training on some new software (I am now able to make wonderfully complicated diagrams and organograms) followed by a two day trip to the Forest of Dean which sits within the Forestry Commission’s West District. I was accompanying senior staff members from around the country on the visit with the purpose of sharing information and participating in in-depth discussion around forestry practices as we made site visits to different locations in the Forest of Dean and examined different habitats and terrains. It was incredibly interesting not just in terms of forestry, but also for the unique history of the forest. I had been used to the Verderers’ Court in the New Forest and had vaguely expected the Verderers’ Court of the Dean to work along the same lines, but they are very different indeed. Not least because the Dean has a large population of wild boar, whereas the New Forest has its ponies roaming around. I even stayed in the hotel where the Verderers’ Court in the Dean is found which was rather a thrill! The office of Verderer has existed in the Dean since the 13th century, and from the 17th century the court has been held in a building known as The Speech House which still stands and is now a hotel. Though the building was extended in the 19th century the Verderers’ Court was largely left unaltered. It was built with funds from the Treasury and has always been owned by the Crown. Interestingly what seems to have dictated the most significant differences is the mining culture inherent to the Forest of Dean. Before my visit I had been aware that the surrounding area had once been the site of several mines, but I had no idea of the rich culture within the forest itself relating to the mining culture and community. If you meet certain strict criteria, including having been born within the forest boundary – or specifically ‘the Hundred of St Briavels’, you can gain the status of Free Miner and have the right to mine your own patch called a gale. The regulations surrounding this, as well as the health and safety issues, fall under the remit of the Deputy Gaveller who works for the Forestry Commission, an office that has been in place since 1926. It was so interesting to get such snippets of the history and community within the forest and reminded me strongly how important the communities that build up within and surrounding a forest are even in the present age. Perhaps it stems from my own upbringing in the agricultural countryside community, but I feel strongly about the importance of such communities and am eager to see them continue long into the future. 

My visit to the Forest of Dean also meant that I was in a district once more. Such visits are increasingly drawing my thoughts to my next career steps following the end of the graduate scheme as I ponder not only what type of role I would like, but also which office or location I would like to base myself from. Alas I didn’t get the chance to see a wild boar during my visit which might just have swung my focus determinedly to point due West!


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