On a bright sunny morning Andrew Bluett was joined by eight GNS members for a field meeting of general interest looking at the Cinderford Northern Quarter site and the CinderfordLinearPark (north). The group met opposite the Winner (Skoda) Garage in the Forest Vale Industrial Estate and looked at maps illustrating the relationship of Cinderford Northern Quarter development site with the Linear Park and surrounding areas, then at some historical photographs of the area illustrating the very different landscape that prevailed in the 1950s and early 1960s so that it could be appreciated just how much the environment had changed over the intervening 50 years or so.
Historically the valley was an industrial landscape based on coal extraction, both deep mine and opencast, clay extraction (for Coleford Brick & Tile Co) and railway and colliery dram tracks. Large areas in between were either bare where waste material was accumulated or clothed in thin Sheep-cropped grass. This provided an ideal habitat for Woodlark, a few pairs of Wheatear, Chats & Pipits. In the years after World War 2 R J B Christian found some 28 pairs of Woodlark in the valley and adjacent ridges, Snipe and Reed Bunting breeding in the boggy areas and Red Backed Shrike in the plantation edges (Sketches of Dean’s Birds, Christian, 1999).
The group first walked up to the Steam Mills Lake past Dam Green in the Northern Quarter area viewing two very recent, and therefore bare and undeveloped ponds along the way. Whilst there was much fishing activity, a number of water birds were evident including Greylag Goose, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Lesser Black Backed Gull. From there the party walked down the track towards the central area of the Linear Park as far as Laymore Quag and the large open meadow beyond Lennetshill Plantation. The return was via a secondary track leading to the Forest Vale Industrial Estate road and back to Winner Garage.
This walk which follows the lines of forestry and old railway tracks took in a variety of habitat types, conifer plantation, deciduous and mixed woodland, open scrubby grassland, industrial buildings, the lake and ponds, boggy areas (Laymore Quag) etc and produced a respectable list of species.
Fresh-water or Swan Mussel shells (Anodatea cygnea) were discovered by the lake, the largest being some 10cm long, Pond Skaters were evident on all the water bodies especially in the ditches and puddles, Butterflies were represented only by Small Tortoiseshell. Birds were more abundant with Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler and Chiff Chaff, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Robin, Great, Blue, Long Tailed and Coal Tits, Blackbird and Song Thrush, Buzzard, Wren, Dunnock, Swallow, Blackcap, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Jay, Wood Pigeon, Pied Wagtail, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Neither Raven nor hoped for Goshawk appeared but towards the end of the walk, a solitary Hawfinch flew over towards the Crump Meadow Inclosure.
Juliet Bailey identified a series of flowering plants – Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), Pussy Willows (Salix sp), Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna), Colt’s-foot (Tussilago farfara), Dandelion (Taraxacum aggregate), Field Wood-rush (Luzula campestris), Daisy (Bellis perennis), and Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis). Some remnant Heather was also noted at one point.
It was considered that flowers are very late this year – at least a couple of weeks behind normal, and that the flowers seen on this walk were later than in the Vale by about a week, presumably because of the altitude (approx 140 metres / 450 feet above sea level).