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Fantastic pottery of every colour

Posted on 07th April 2017

If you go into the woods today you are in for a big surprise because, bordering the Forest of Dean and hidden behind the façade of an old-fashioned stone farmhouse, lies a storm of colourful ceramics. Mary Rose Young has settled on the outskirts of the forest, and brought all her creativity to bare.  Mary Rose Young

Bright tiles, striped beams and shelves of every colour display her vibrant and delicate pieces that, despite the retro patterns, still hold an organic element in their shape. While staying in a holiday cottage in the Forest of Dean, it is worth heading out to see this bright little gallery that makes you feel as if you are stepping into Oz.

From tiny bowls to chandeliers, Mary Rose has an ideal range for those looking for anything from a gift or keepsake to a statement piece for their home. There is an element of fairytale in many of Mary Rose’s pieces. Crowned tea cups are the norm, while roses cluster on many of her pieces, adding a hint of the romantic. She explains, “I wanted my pottery to have a cross between childlike wonderment and a fun party, and you see that when people walk into the gallery”. While there are sets of gold and white dinner plates available for traditionalists, there are also those with polka dots, stripes of every colour and the geometrically patterned for those who want to take a slice of Mary Rose’s fantastical designs home with them.

Mary Rose’s initial success was with department stores in the United States, such as Barney’s. Now, however, she makes an effort to keep it local. When asked why she lives in the Forest of Dean, she responded:

“I was brought up round here, and I have been here so long, always living around Gloucestershire, that now I almost feel like a local. In some ways, living in the forest, away from other creative people, stops me from feeling self-conscious. It is a good place to hunker down and look at what you are doing as an artist.”

Though she works on mainly smaller pieces, she does like to set herself the challenge of a larger project, creating chandeliers that are worthy of exhibition, but are instead commissioned for private estates.

Pottery Chandelier

Image Credit: James Young

The Dialect from the Forest

Posted on 27th March 2017

Our accents are a strong link to our cultural identity, our heritage and our place in the world. They are also incredible indicators. When the country was divided by class, you could not open your mouth and fail to give away your social standing. Now they are forged to our heritage, you cannot help but smile at a West Country drawl, a Scottish burr or an Irish lilt, and though you may not have the knowledge or skill to make out specific towns (we cannot all be Henry Higgins) the region of origin is ever at our finger tips.

Forest of Dean in the spring

This is ever true to those locals of the Forest of Dean. The dialect could rival the broadest Glaswegian as it takes some time to get your ear in. However as the UK becomes more homogenised, the edges softened and accents are all a little more diluted, the Forest of Dean dialect is running low on speakers.

In an attempt to retain the colloquial slang, there is a strong literary community that continue to write and perform in the dialect. Keith Morgan is a poet who is raising awareness by not only writing on subjects close to the forest’s heart, but also by writing phonetically in dialect. Though keeping this dialect alive is important for the area, it is also important for the country as a whole.

While for many years the works of Shakespeare have been performed in what is known as Received Pronunciation, in reality it would have sounded closer to the dialects of these isolated communities. Many of the spellings are similar to some dialects when written phonetically and when read in rural Forest of Dean dialect, Shakespeare’s words come to life far more than when pronounced with the over enunciation of Received Pronunciation.

While many local literary festivals celebrate the works of those inhabiting or inspired by the forest, you can usually find at least one person reading in the old way. However when in a holiday cottage in the Forest of Dean, many local pubs and quiet villages are often populated by the locals who speak a version of English close to Shakespeare’s own.

Let’s put thic awld yer to bed,
‘im a’n’t bin best nor wust.
If bist aimin’ to get martal,
Ol Butt, thou wunt be fust!

Edward Hunt (2011)

Beavers to return to the Forest of Dean

Posted on 18th March 2017

After the unintentional but successful introduction of boars back into the Forest of Dean, the Forestry Commission intends to build upon this success by reintroducing another native species. Beavers were hunted so voraciously that by the end of the 16th century, they were no longer found wild in Britain. This is mainly due to the wealth that could be found in their fur and Castoreum oil which is found in their bodies and once enjoyed popularity.

Beaver in natural habitat

The beavers are being proposed for re-introduction for multiple reasons, one of these being to reduce the flood risk. After 2012 saw Lybrook devastated by flooding, it is hoped that the beavers will be a natural and cheap alternative to managing Britain’s waterways. Mr Gow was a prominent figure in the Devon beaver trial and fully supports the newest location for beaver habitation, believing that they will successfully manage the waterways, “Beavers have been managing water for millions of years; they’re adapted to do a far better job than us.”

Beavers have been let loose in other managed areas of the UK including Scotland, Wales, Devon and The Cotswolds. This has caused a great deal of interest in their local tourist industries and there are beliefs that a similar increase will be seen in the Forest of Dean if the plans go ahead. There are also reports of increased wildlife in the areas that are home to beavers, with more sightings of butterflies, dragonflies, frogs and birds.

If you have a Forest of Dean cottage holiday organised for the autumn, when the introduction is expected to go ahead if approved, you will see that initially the beavers will be kept in a fenced area of 16 acres. This is due to complaints from locals who already share their landscape, that beavers can be detrimental to farm land. There are already provisions put in place in order to avoid such occurrences

Image Credit: U S Department of Agriculture (Flickr)

The Legacy of the Dymock Poets

Posted on 16th February 2017

This year is the centennial of the death of Edward Thomas, who was killed during the battle of Arras on the 9th April 1917. Prior to his military service, Edward Thomas was part of the Dymock Poets, and though he never resided in the village itself, he held a firm friendship with famous poet Robert Frost. In fact, ‘The Road Not Taken’, Frost’s most famous poem, is based on Thomas’ indecisiveness on their walks together.

Daffodils near Dymock

The village of Dymock sits in The Forest of Dean area of Gloucestershire and rose to fame between 1911 and 1914 when it became the home of the literary group that inherited its name. The group’s members were Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, all of whom lived around or visited the village during that period and contributed to their own quarterly named New Numbers.

It was an advance copy of ‘The Road Not Taken’, a friendly satire of Thomas’ character that led to his enlisting in the military, though Frost had not meant it to have such an effect. After Edward Thomas’ death two years later, the community went their separate ways. The group, while thriving in Dymock and after their parting, found much inspiration in the landscape of the Forest of Dean, as it continued to influence their work.

While staying in a holiday cottage in the Forest of Dean, visiting Dymock and the surrounding areas that these literary giants once walked is a beautiful way to spend a day. Relax and take an afternoon to revel in a countryside that inspired some of the most famous poetry of its time.

“The Sun Used to Shine” by Edward Thomas

The sun used to shine while we two walked

Slowly together, paused and started

Again, and sometimes mused, sometimes talked

As either pleased, and cheerfully parted

 

Each night. We never disagreed

Which gate to rest on. The to be

And the late past we gave small heed.

We turned from men or poetry

 

To rumours of the war remote

Only till both stood disinclined

For aught but the yellow flavorous coat

Of an apple wasps had undermined;

 

Or a sentry of dark betonies,

The stateliest of small flowers on earth,

At the forest verge; or crocuses

Pale purple as if they had their birth

 

In sunless Hades fields. The war

Came back to mind with the moonrise

Which soldiers in the east afar

Beheld then. Nevertheless, our eyes

 

Could as well imagine the Crusades

Or Caesar’s battles. Everything

To faintness like those rumours fade—

Like the brook’s water glittering

 

Under the moonlight—like those walks

Now—like us two that took them, and

The fallen apples, all the talks

And silence—like memory’s sand

 

When the tide covers it late or soon,

And other men through other flowers

In those fields under the same moon

Go talking and have easy hours.

 

Image Credit: P J Photography (Shutterstock)

Photographing wildlife in the Forest of Dean

Posted on 27th January 2017

Wildlife photographers are drawn to the Forest of Dean due to its extraordinary variety of animal and plant life. The region is home to an abundance of wildlife, from the humble hedgehog to more unusual species such as the long-eared bat. From February 1st, photographers are invited to submit their images to the revered British Wildlife Photography Awards 

Male mandarin duck

Each year, photographers showcase spectacular images representing all aspects of British wildlife. Categories include ‘animal behaviour’, ‘hidden Britain’, ‘wild woods’ and ‘botanical Britain’. So whether you’re focusing on the secret world of bugs or capturing unique animal behaviour, there is space for every subject and every species.

As well as foxes, dormice, voles and grey squirrels, the Forest of Dean is home to over 30 different types of butterfly. Avid wildlife watchers should look out for the remarkable purple hairstreak butterfly, the wood white and grizzled skipper. But don’t ignore common species such as the marbled white, small copper and common blue. Often a fresh approach to photographing a common insect or animal makes a worthy prize winner.

If you have your heart set on capturing some of the forest’s rarer species, the small but spectacular pied flycatcher bird can be spotted nesting in the natural cavities of old oaks. Also, look out for flashes of colour from the Mandarin duck which migrates between forest lakes.

The best time to photograph wildlife is in the golden hours, in the hour after sunrise and before sunset. Not only will you have a better chance of spotting resident species, such as fallow deer, you will also capture your subjects in the most beautiful light.

The British Wildlife Photography Awards opens for entries on February 1st and closes on June 3rd, so you have plenty of time to get snapping during your stay in a holiday cottage in the Forest of Dean.

 Image Credit: Christian Musat (Shutterstock)