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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Authorising the replanting of the Forest

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER VI. A.D. 1800-1831.

Lord Nelson's remarks on the Forest--Free miners endeavour to restore their Court of Mine Law--White Mead Park planted--Act of 1808, authorising the replanting of the Forest; six commissioners appointed for that purpose--Six enclosures formed in 1810--Mice--Inquiry as to the best mode of felling timber--Last of the enclosures formed 1816--First Forest church consecrated--High Meadow Woods purchased--General condition of the Forest--Unsuccessful efforts to restore the encroachments to the Crown--Plantations mended over--Ellwood and the Great Doward Estates purchased--The blight--Single trees planted out by the roads--Blight on the oaks.

There is a statement of Lord Nelson's relating to this Forest, written about the year 1802, {87} in which he says: "Nothing in it can grow self-sown, for the deer bark all the young trees. Vast droves of hogs are allowed to go into the woods in the autumn, and if any fortunate acorn escapes their search, and takes root, then flocks of sheep are allowed to go into the Forest, and they bite off the tender shoot." He speaks of "a set of people called Forest free miners, who consider themselves as having a right to dig for coal in any part they please," adding that "trees which die of themselves are considered as of no value to the Crown. A gentleman told me," (he says,) "that in shooting on foot (for on horseback it cannot

be seen, being hid by the fern, which grows a great height), the trees of fifty years' growth, fit for buildings, fencings, &c., are cut just above ground entirely through the bark, and in two years die," so becoming a perquisite to the authorities. Lord Nelson calculated that the Forest would sell for 460,000 pounds. He forcibly concludes: "The reason why timber has of late years been so much reduced has been uniformly told me--that, from the pressure of the times, gentlemen who had 1000 to 5000 pounds worth of timber on their estates, although only half grown (say fifty years of age), were obliged to sell it to raise temporary sums--say to pay off legacies. The owner cannot, however sorry he may feel to see the beauty of his place destroyed, and what would be treble the value to his children annihilated, help himself. It has struck me forcibly that if Government could form a plan to purchase of such gentlemen the growing oak, it would be a national benefit, and a great and pleasing accommodation to such growers of oak as wish to sell."

Mr. Fordyce's second report, as Surveyor-General of the Land Revenues of the Crown, appeared on the 14th of December, 1802; but neither this nor his third, dated the 4th of March, 1806, says anything about the Forest of Dean. In 1807 the free miners of the district held a meeting, at which a resolution was passed, earnestly requesting the wardens of the Forest to hold a Court of Mine Law, as soon as possible, with the view of regulating the levels, pits, and engines.

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