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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

In transmitting signals between Ruerdean and High Meadow


The

capture of Monmouth proved to be only temporary, as the place was again lost, thus exposing that side of the Forest to the incursions of the Cavalier troops. To check these invasions, the garrison of High-Meadow was carefully kept up. Ruerdean, six miles to the west, and well situated for guarding the Forest on the north, was made another military post, being intended to stop plunderers from the King's garrison at Goodrich, and where there is a spot yet called "Shoot-Hill," adjoining which many cannon-balls have been found. Probably the site of the old castle at Bicknor was also converted into an out-station, guarding the two parallel valleys which there pass up towards the middle of the Forest from the Wye. This station would likewise assist, from its relative position, in transmitting signals between Ruerdean and High-Meadow, or even from Gloucester, if the Beacon, which formerly stood on the crest of Edge Hill, were included in the range. Such posts would be serviceable to the Parliamentary Colonel Birch, when engaged in the siege of Goodrich Castle, not more than four miles north of Ruerdean; for his supplies would be drawn chiefly from the Forest, as indeed appears from a letter dated 4th July, 1646, in which he says, "We have supplies of shells for our granadoes from the Forest of Dean."

Several traditions of violence and blood, referring no doubt to this period, are preserved by the inhabitants of these parts of the Forest, one of

whom reports an act of cruelty perpetrated on a householder living in the little hamlet of Drybrook, who was struck down, and his eyes knocked out, for refusing to give up a flitch of bacon to a foraging party. Another legend, relative to the same neighbourhood, preserves the memory of a skirmish called "Edge Hill's Fight," from the spot on which it occurred. It is true that some of the neighbouring foresters suppose it to be "the Great Fight mentioned in the almanack," an idea which might perhaps have given rise to the story, were it not that a small stream which descends from the place in question bears the name of "Gore Brook," from the human blood which on that occasion stained its waters.

The ensuing years of the Protectorate, judging from the frequent notices in the Parliamentary Journals to that effect, appear to have been destructive to the timber of the Forest rather than to life or property. Frequent orders were issued by the Committee of the House of Commons charged with the care of the Forest of Dean, forbidding the felling of any more trees whatever, and ordering that any which had been cut down should be sold for the benefit of the Government. The gentlemen of the county were invited to assist herein, both by viewing any timber which had been felled, and also by causing any of it which they judged fit to be reserved for shipping to be brought into the stores of the Navy. Sir J. Winter asserts that during the time of the Commonwealth above 40,000 trees were cut down by order of the House of Commons.

In 1650 the above-named Committee ordered all the iron-works to be suppressed and demolished. Six years later a Bill was brought in and passed, signed by the Protector Richard, for mitigating the rigour of the Forest Laws, and for preserving the timber, which all contemporary testimony on the subject states to have gone miserably to wreck during the civil wars. On the 11th of May, 1659, Colonel White reported to the House of Commons, that "upon the 3rd day of this instant month divers rude people in tumultuous way, in the Forest of Dean, did break down the fences, and cut and carry away the gates of certain coppices enclosed for preservation of timber, turned in their cattle, and set divers places of the said Forest on fire, to the great destruction of the young growing wood." This riot was probably excited by the efforts which the Government had recently made for the re-afforesting of 18,000 acres; to effect which 400 cabins of poor people, living upon the waste, and destroying the wood and timber, were thrown down.


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