Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wentwood

Wentwood (Coed Gwent in Welsh which means Gwent Wood) about 6-7 miles from Usk, is a favourite place and regular haunt of mine for dog walking and horse riding. With  a history dating back over 1,000 years, Wentwood is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in Wales covering about 1,000 acres of hillside to the South East of Usk between Newport and Chepstow. Wentwood is a haven for wildlife including foxes, badgers, lizards, bats and door mice and over 70 species of bird.

In the middle ages Wentwood was much larger, covering a big expanse of country between the River Wye at Chepstow over to the River Usk. The area belonged to Chepstow Castle and was used for hunting, grazing animals and a source of timber. The Royal Forest of Wentwood had its own laws and courts were held twice a year at Forester's Oaks. The courts dealt with deer poachers severely,  those found guilty were hung from one of the two oak trees at Foresters Oaks. In 1678 Wentwood was the scene of riots led by Nathan Rogers and Edward Kemys, against the actions of The Marquis of Worcester, Henry Somerset who had enclosed a large area of forest for his own use to harvest timber for his ironworks at Tintern. During the Napoleonic Wars many oak trees were felled for use in building battle ships.

More of the native trees in Wentwood were felled in World War 1 to provide timber for use in the trenches. In the 1950s and 1960's large plantations of  non-native conifer trees were planted by the Forestry Commission.

The Woodland Trust aquired a large part of Wentwood in 2006 and is currently working to restore Wentwood to deciduous woodland.

Dewi enjoying the forest trails in Wentwood





















These days Wentwood is enjoyed by many local people and visitors to the area, for a wide range of leisure activities including, walking, horse riding and cycling, There are many marked trails to explore and several picnic and barbecue sites in the forest.

One of the best children's birthday parties I ever organised for my son was at Wentwood. It was very easy to do with  a 'Wild Woods' theme. They all wore old clothes and shoes and we started with a walk along the trails looking for animal tracks, followed with a big cook up of sausages and beans on one of the barbecues. There was plenty of space for a horde of energetic 9 year olds to wear themselves out. The kids thought it was marvellous, they could run, shout and scream and get filthy just like kids should and it cost next to nothing. With places like Wentwood on our doorstep there is no need to spend a lot on special venues to entertain kids, you just need to use your imagination and utilise what's often free all around you. Ok you do have to supervise them to make sure they stay safe and it might not be so much fun in the pouring rain. Although you can even turn that into fun if they all bring wellies and coats and it's different and they will remember it! Hmmm.... now that's got me thinking - a Woodland Fairies Party theme; a Commandos/ Survival Party theme; a Wildlife Party theme; a Mountain Bike party theme with cycling on the forest trails; - the possibilities are endless. I reckon adults would enjoy these themed outings as well as children. Maybe I should start an enterprise running this sort of thing! Oops! perhaps I should've kept my thoughts to myself on this!

Any way I digress, back to Wentwood, it's a truly wonderful place,  but we shouldn't take it for granted. At the time of writing environmental concerns have been raised over a planning application to site a 45 acre solar farm close to Wentwood. The solar farm, which would have 32,000 solar panels, would necessitate the building of unsightly pylons to carry the electricity generated to the nearest power station and could also leak dangerous substances contaminating the soil and surrounding watercourses. Read more on this here. In addition to the solar power threat,  The Woodland Trust, while carrying out its project to restore Wentwood as a native deciduous forest, has discovered many conifers are infected with Larch Disease and are having to fell a large number of trees to try and stop the disease spreading. Read more on this here. Lets hope beautiful Wentwood can be preserved for future generations to use and enjoy as I have.

Molly matches the leaves!
More information

Download a leaflet on Wentwood and walks from Monmouthshire County Council

Download a walk leaflet for Wentwood from the Woodland Trust

Read more on the work of the Woodland Trust in Wentwood



View of Wentwood Reserveoir from Gray Hill - this photo by Roy Parkhouse


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