Date: 19-21 May 2017

Location: Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Convener: Cherry Lewis

Conditions: One short steep section, but otherwise nothing too strenuous. Strong footwear recommended.

This trip is now fully booked. Instructions on paying the balance will be circulated in due course.

Iron has been mined in the Forest of Dean since prehistoric times, and coal since at least Roman times, but how and when did an understanding of its geology evolve? This two-day field trip will explore the unique history of ‘free’ mining in the Forest of Dean, and how a gradual understanding of its geology facilitated exploration for these resources. A list of some of the places we will visit can be found below.

The weekend will be based in the historic 17th century Speech House Hotel. Located in the centre of the Forest, the Speech House once housed the Forest’s court in which the Verderers dealt with offences and managed the Forest’s game, wood and mineral resources. The dining room is now located in the court room where most of the original features have been retained.


This trip is now fully booked. Instructions on paying the balance will be circulated in due course.

These are still to be finalised, but will be in the region of £200 per person sharing a room at the Speech House Hotel (single room supplement, £20 per night). This price includes two nights’ bed and breakfast, dinner on Friday night (at the Speech House), two packed lunches, travel to sites (probably by small coach), entrance to all mines and museums, and a comprehensive field guide. The only additional costs will be dinner on the Saturday night and anything you spend at the bar.

If you wish to reserve a place on this trip and are happy to share a room (we will pair you with somebody if you do not know who to share with), please pay a deposit of £12.50.

If you wish to reserve a place on this trip and require a single room, please pay a deposit of £32.50.

If you do not wish to pay online, please send a cheque to: HOGG Treasurer, 61 Straight Road, Old Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 2RT.
The field trip

We will be accompanied by two experts on the history and the geology of the area, one of whom is a present-day Verderer. While we will be introduced to the Forest of Dean’s geology, the main objective is to comprehend what it was like trying to find iron and coal when the geology of the area was poorly understood. Some of the places we will visit include:

  • New Fancy Geomap – for an overview of the area’s geology. This stone map, in which the strata are depicted by samples of the rock they represent, celebrates the geological and industrial history of the Forest of Dean.
  • The Scowles (pictured) – the labyrinthine and atmospheric remains of ancient iron mines. A well-preserved 18th century lime kiln can also be seen.
  • Bixslade Valley – where we will walk in the footsteps of many of geology’s great names: William Smith, John Farey, David Mushet, William Conybeare, William Buckland and Thomas Sopwith, to mention but a few. Bixslade has been mined and quarried for over 500 years and many abandoned workings are still evident.
  • Hopewell Colliery – a guided tour by a free miner around a rare example of a working free mine in which coal is still mined.
  • Clearwell Caves – a guided tour of these ancient and vast caverns where iron ore has been mined for millennia, and from where its famous multi-coloured ochre is still extracted and sent around the world.
  • The Suckstone – reputedly the largest block of detached rock in the British Isles. Lying beneath a spectacular overhang from which it has fallen, this huge boulder of Old Red quartz conglomerate stands above the River Wye near the village where David Mushet is buried.
  • Dark Hill Ironworks – scheduled as an Ancient Monument of national importance, David and Robert Mushet first developed steel used in railway lines on this site.
  • Dean Heritage Centre – to see Thomas Sopwith’s unique geological model of the Forest of Dean, depicting the underground workings and minerals. We can also see a working beam engine. For those with an interest in literature, DHC also hosts Dennis Potter’s archive and an exhibition about his life and works.