Ever wondered how much truth there is in the story that the Spanish Armada had orders to destroy the Forest of Dean? Or, why exactly did the killing of two bears in the 1880s became such a huge news story about the Forest, later making its way into poems, novels and even a television play? These and many more questions are being explored in our brand new podcast series The Stories Behind the Stories. Each episode explores one of the many persistent and well-loved (mostly!) stories about the Forest of Dean that have made their way into print. Structured as an investigation we attempt to trace each tale back in time to its original source. Along the twists and turns of each journey we dig deep into Forest history and look into the way it, as a place and community, has been written about over the years. You'll hear guest expert interviews, readings from the books, and some short dramatised scenes brought to life by local actors.
Episode 1 deals with the story of the Spanish Armada's connection to the Forest by starting with its appearance in the 1907 novel Sea Dogs All! We find out about its author Tom Bevan and his connections to the region, and about the audience he was writing for at the time. How much of the story was pure fiction, and how much historical fact? What was the Forest like at the time of the Armada, and why might the story have become so popular and so often repeated? And, what on earth is the meaning of our title for episode 1 , 007's Angel and the Plot to Burn the Forest?
The first episode is being released on January 14th, with the following episodes on the 14th of each month. You can sign up to receive each episode via your favourite podcast service - we're on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify - or listen here on this website (just check back with us on the 14th).
Here's our promo for the new series...
An inspiring new book, Resilience, sees local writers respond to the challenges of lockdown. Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. It’s a word we can all associate with the history and people of the Forest of Dean. At the beginning of this new era of Covid lockdowns, Dean Writers Circle invited local writers to submit work for a prose and poetry anthology on the theme of Resilience. This new book, with an introduction by Forest-based bestselling author Andrew Taylor, is their response. Many of the writers and poets published here are Dean Writers Circle members and all contributors either live in or have a close connection with the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley. They know first-hand the long history of resilience of the people, the flora and fauna, and the landscape. The contributions are from writers with all levels of experience, and what brings them together is their passion for this unique corner of the world, and their belief in its continuing resilience in these extraordinary times. Proceeds from the sale of this anthology are being donated to Forest Read Easy Deal (FRED), a charity which facilitates adult literacy.
Reading the Forest’s Anna Grimmett had sight of an advance copy and reviews it here:
The Resilience Anthology is a beautiful collection of almost fifty pieces of prose and poetry sent by local writers in response to a call out from the Dean Writers Circle toward the beginning of lockdown. With the prompt of “resilience”, writers of all ages and with various levels of experience, submitted imaginative and varied interpretations on this theme, some based on real events and others completely fictional.
I had the pleasure of a sneak preview and initially read through it over the course of a few days, finding that I needed time to digest and reflect, particularly on the personal pieces. I learnt more about the Forest of Dean’s history and enjoyed the opportunity of sharing in people’s heartfelt descriptions of the resilience inspired through the unique local landscape, flora and fauna (which wound their way into so many of the submissions). I also found it an easy collection to dip back into and although I’d hoped to find a few pieces to share here, in the end I had far too many markers for those which took hold of my curiosity.
It felt like looking through a box of treasures, with the order working smoothly and the mix of poetry and prose not seeming muddled at all. The pieces are so varied that it’s very likely you will find something which resonates with your own experience or challenges in life, for whatever mood you find yourself in - if you need deeper reflection and perspective on something, or if you need a bit of courage or your spirits lifted. Certainly for me, what has built resilience through the toughest times, is being reminded that I am not alone and reading through this anthology did just that. I know it will be a valuable addition to my resilience tool box, along with so many of the wise Forest trees.
‘Resilience’is priced at £7.50 + £1.75 P&P and is available to order direct from the publisher, Holborn House
A lavishly illustrated new book has brought together forestry experts, ecologists, writers, poets and artists to explore our complex relationship with forests, woods and trees. Published by the charity art.earth the concept for the book came from a three-day long event held in 2019 - in-part marking 100years of the Forestry Commission - held at Dartington Hall in Devon. The event brought contributors together from across the globe for talks, discussions, artworks and performance all focused on the theme of our ever-evolving relationship with trees and forests. With such a huge variety of responses the book is organised loosely under the sections 'Ecology & Forest Management'; 'Philosophy & Polemic'; and 'Artistic Responses'. Included in its 442 pages is an essay from Reading the Forest's Jason Griffiths. Illustrated with photographs by Forest photographer John F. French, Jason takes as his starting point the 2011 HOOF protests and argues this was a continuation of the long tradition of robust defence of the Forest, and a love of its trees, evidence for which can be found in much of Forest of Dean literature.
The book is edited by Simon Lloyd, Richard Povall and Jeremy Ralph. You can order a copy (out on the 15th December at £27.95) at artdotearth.org/bookshop.