The Forest of Dean is famous for its old industrial past. It has been a profitable area for coal and sandstone extracting. For many years it has been the focal point for industry with many quarries and free mines changing hands and locations. Nature can never mask and disguise completely the lives and memories which have happened. On closer inspection old mines, slag heaps and hollows appear unnaturally in the landscape. Mosses and dead leaves bury the forest floor which blend with fragments of coal, giving away evidence of the industry which has gone on.
Free mining is an increasing gamble which in most cases is not actually paying off. New miners now can spend as much as three years digging tunnels without actually hitting coal and making a profit. Monumental Mine is an old pit, which was bought by two men with the knowledge that there was coal to be found. They produce coal on a daily basis and it is one of the only free mines in the Forest producing coal regularly. Monumental Mine could be in the last generation of men at Bixslade Valley. Once the two men retire, without maintenance the mine will be reclaimed by the landscape and fall into itself.
To a younger generation the purpose of the forest has changed. The landscape can capture a child’s imagination. Homemade swings and woodland dens are scattered around the forest representing childhood play and innocence.
Growing up in the Forest of Dean can mean an unusual way of life, even now. Twenty one year old Tilley has been brought up to keep sheep in an area in the Forest of dean called the Pludds. As a part of her forest rights, sheep are allowed to roam in the woodland in common grass areas. Tilley is responsible for all her sheep’s needs, a task made more difficult by modern ways of life. In lambing season in early spring the soft forest floor becomes the area in which lambs are born. Tilley has a difficult job in keeping track of the herd which she names and recognises individually.