Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire's woodland sanctuary

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The Forest of Dean is 27000 acres of tree covered hills, criss crossed by streams and valleys. The some 20 million trees are mainly native hardwood - predominately oak and beech, plus a scattering of ash and birch and a few really large holly trees thrown in.

Commoners rights have evolved to the Foresters, the name given to those who live in and round the forest. These include the right to dig coal, graze sheep, quarry for stone and letting their pigs forage for acorns.

The whole forest in fact sits on a coalfield that is not commercially exploited, and the area is known for its walks and its wildlife. Over half the forest s unfenced so that the Foresters sheep can graze

Speech House in the centre of the forest was built as a court room by the 17th century iron founders. Although the court room is today a hotel dining room, it is still used 10 times a year as the verderer's court. The ponds around Speech House were dug out in 1820 to provide a water store for the iron smelters. And a few miles away you can climb Fancy Tip to get a wonderful view over the forest.

To the north of the woodlands is Newent, an old market town, with interesting buildings and a long history

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Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire