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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Who inspected the several plantations

On the 30th of July, 1851, the official Report on the Forest was issued. It gives us the dates of three grants of land made this spring for school purposes, situated at Viney and Blakeney Hill, and at Ruerdean Woodside. It also bears fresh testimony to the satisfactory working of the Act of 1 & 2 Vict., c. 43, for regulating the opening and working of mines and quarries, the litigation to which they had formerly given rise under the ill-defined and objectionable customs which had so long prevailed having almost entirely ceased. The actual amount annually paid to the Crown during the last six years was stated to be 4,281 pounds 17s. 4d., besides the profit made by the sale of pit-timber. Royalties and tonnage-dues were its chief sources, although arrears of minimum or dead rent had accumulated to the extent of 12,805 pounds 8s. 2.5d.--payment having been refused in some cases on the plea that at certain times no minerals had been raised. Gales of coal had been granted to Cousin's Engine, Beaufort, and Fox Hole; and during the previous year 335,687 tons of coal and 80,531 tons of iron mine had been raised. This autumn arrangements were made for felling 553 loads of timber in the Forest, and 177 loads in the High Meadow Woods, for the use of the navy, under the Queen's sign-manual of the 7th of May.

In the following year (1852) there were two grants of land for educational and ecclesiastical purposes; one piece was for the site of a school at the Hawthorns, and the other for a parsonage attached to the new church at Lydbrook, which was consecrated on the previous 4th of December by Dr. Ollivant, Lord Bishop of Llandaff, acting for Dr. Monk, who was unable to attend.

During the months of April and June of this year the Right Hon. T. F. Kennedy, who, in October, 1851, had been appointed Chief Commissioner, visited the Forest of Dean, and was much struck with its fine character and great capabilities. Impressed with the conviction that it might be brought to yield a larger return to the Crown, he sought the advice of Mr. Brown, well known in Scotland as a surveyor of woods, who inspected the several plantations, and suggested that every encouragement should be given to the extension of railways through the Forest, and also recommended the erection of circular sawing power, for the purpose of reducing the timber to a portable size and shape for naval purposes, by which its value would be much increased, and the expense of carriage reduced. He likewise advised that the plan hitherto pursued of stripping the bark from the young oaks, standing, should be discontinued, and that the bark should be removed after the trees were felled, as being more convenient, and favourable to the durability of the wood, and likewise as affording the earliest opportunity to the adjoining trees to shoot out into the vacant spaces. He also thought that the bark was better cured on stages raising it above the ground, than merely by setting it upon an end; and he suggested more frequent and moderate thinnings of the plantations, which for the sake of uniformity should be marked by the same person, thinning more on the productive soils than elsewhere. Mr. Brown considered, moreover, that fewer woodmen and keepers might suffice.

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