A STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL PLACE

“A STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL PLACE”

These were the words that Dennis Potter, British dramatist born in the FOREST of DEAN, chose to describe his home area. He went on to say it contained “rather ugly villages in a beautiful landscape, a heart-shaped place between two rivers, somehow slightly cut off from the rest of England … with a people as warm as anywhere else, but they seemed warmer to me”.

The day of the trip to visit the Forest of Dean for the Landscape Planning module was warm and sunny, perfect to get an affirmative first impression, and after an introductory lecture (fig 1) in District Council offices in Coleford, the rest of the day was spent visiting some notable sites.

First up was Symonds Yat and we had spectacular views over the deep gorge through which the River Wye meanders. This is a ‘classic’ view (Fig 2), often reproduced in calendars and tourist publicity. The landscape beauty owes much to the geological history (see accompanying Symond’s Yat Geology for detailed explanation). The view over Coppett Hill is also a favourite among artists and the one illustrated is by Edward Burra (Fig 4). The landscape is distorted, distraught even, somewhat foreboding and leaving the viewers to interpret the scene in their own way.

Further downstream and over 200 years ago, the Romantic poet Wordsworth was moved by the sublime grandeur of the Wye gorges and in one poem expressed a sensuous delight in the brutal ruggedness yet soft mystery of the rocky crags and gloomy woods. Here’s the opening lines:

 

LINES. WRITTEN A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY,
ON REVISITING THE BANKS OF THE WYE DURING A TOUR,

Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky...

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symonds_yat

The Wye Valley is now designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and it is not difficult to see why (Wye!).

Our trip then continued to Lydney and its harbour overlooking the 1.5 km wide tidal River Severn estuary (Fig 5). Here we were informed of the significant history of the town: one that exported coal and wood through the harbour. We also investigated an adjacent site that may offer a suitable location for new housing according to the project brief. Although there is the threat that sea-level rise may cause future flooding.

The sun was setting as we climbed the old colliery spoil heap at New Fancy in the heart of the forest (Fig 6) and we had a final glimpse over the plateau expanse of the forest dominated here by softwood plantations.

The day was not long enough for a comprehensive overview of all of the Forest of Dean. Indeed the sky was darkening at 4.30 but we had seen enough to whet our appetites for this strange and beautiful place.

 

About gloscape

Landscape Architecture @ University of Gloucestershire

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