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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

The whole Forest has been almost leafless


Except

as respects the granting of additional coal and iron gales, the succeeding year of 1847 may be passed over. It appears by the annual Report which came out on the 29th of June, that the new iron-mines galed were those of Wigpool, Dean's Meand, Fairplay, Lydbrook, Symmond's Rock, Earl Fitzharding's Frog Pit, Penswell's, Eastbatch, and Tufton, paying a rental to the Crown of 104 pounds, and Morgan's Folly Colliery, rented at 4 pounds.

Proceeding to the year 1848, the Report of the Commissioners of Woods, which appeared in September, informs us that upwards of 18,000 acres in the district of the Forest were covered with wood and timber. Unfortunately blight again prevailed, of which in the month of June Mr. Machen's MS. records:--"The oak-trees have been attacked for several years past by a small caterpillar which eats all the leaves, and this year the destruction has been greater than ever; the whole Forest has been almost leafless; the high ground and the low, the large timber and the young plantations, have all suffered alike. The first time I noticed this blight was in 1830, when the High Meadow woods and many parts of the Forest suffered, but it was principally confined to the large timber. It has continued more or less every year since, but this has been the worst year of any; yet it is remarkable that the High Meadow Woods are free from it and in fine foliage, but no part of the Forest has escaped. The grub, a little black caterpillar,

comes to life just as the oak is coming into leaf, and feeds upon the leaves. It attacks no other tree; the beech, chesnut, &c., stand in full verdure surrounded by the brown and leafless oaks. They envelop the tree in a web they spin about the end of May; they enclose themselves in a leaf curled up, and remain in a chrysalis state until the middle of June or July, when they change into a pale greenish small moth that flies about the trees in myriads, and lay their eggs in the bark of the trees for future mischief, and then die. There seems to be no means of checking their ravages. The rooks come in great numbers, and they and other birds destroy great quantities. The trees put forth a second foliage at the midsummer shoot, but not full, and the shoot of the year and the growth of the trees must be injured."

Under the date of the 30th of April, 1849, Messrs. John Clutton and Richard Hall report to the Government, on the Forest of Dean, that "there are about five hundred acres of the open Forest now covered with old timber, which is for the most part very fine and of very large size, and is nearly all of good quality. Our opinion is that a large portion of this timber is fit for naval purposes, and we suppose it to be worth 49,000 pounds. Its precise age we are not enabled to discover, but our impression is that this timber is about 160 years of age. It has clearly been planted since 1667, as it is recorded that only 200 trees remained on the Forest in that time. There is some old timber fit for the navy in the enclosed plantations, of the probable value of 34,500 pounds. There are also about 500 acres of land planted in the Forest with single trees, which are in process of becoming fit for naval purposes; and there is a further portion occupied with trees of spontaneous growth. These, with the plantations thrown open, we estimate at 3,000 acres; the value of these we estimate at 106,000 pounds. The Crown has now occupied with young and old timber about 14,000 acres of the Forest."


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