Covering over 200 square miles, the Forest of Dean is one of the largest areas of mixed woodlands in the UK with broadleaves and conifers of several species, flora and fauna, streams and ponds sharing the landscape with the industrial remains of the Forest’s heavy industry – iron mines, furnaces, scowles and disused mines.
During the Ice Age over 500,000 years ago, most of the UK from Scotland down to just north of London was covered by massive glaciers and this included the Forest of Dean. Following the thaw, massive volumes of water rushed southwards depressing the land and creating the U shaped indentations which were to become the Wye Valley. The climate warmed and new species of plants and trees arrived from Europe, took root and formed early woodlands. As plant life grew, early Stone Age man was attracted further north crossing beyond the approximate line from Bristol to London where the former ice sheet had ended, and began to take residence in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley area.
Human occupation of the Forest area can be traced back to as far as 18,000 – 10,000 BC following the discovery of an arrowhead or spear by the Forest of Dean Archaeology Group.
Early human occupants of the Forest of Dean were clearly Middle Stone Age hunter-gatherers living in remote caves, including Arthur’s Cave on Doward Hill, excavations of which have revealed bones from deer, pigs, beavers, brown bears, hyena and woolly rhinoceros. Forest occupation continued with the through the New Stone Age with Man now beginning to set up small farms and homesteads in forest clearings, rearing sheep for meet and wool, growing crops and keeping goats, cattle and pigs for milk and meat. Gradually, the land was increasingly used for farming and supplied more food than the Forest itself, which lead to more forestry being cleared and the felled trees used for fuel and building shelters. Stone Age Man was now moving from caves into early homes and communities were becoming established. This continued through the Bronze Age later succeeded by the hill fort camps and early defences of the Iron Age and developing tribes.
Iron production has been an important industry in the Forest from the Iron Age and the Romans were heavily involved in iron smelting with early evidence of their activities in many areas of the Forest and its outskirts, and at Lydney.
It is here where the story of Cinderbury begins……