'Plum Blossom in Longhope' from the book: 'The Forest of Dean : photographs by Chris Morris'


Dick Brice


One of the best-loved forest poets and song-writers, whose song ‘The Land Between Two Rivers’ was the theme music for Dennis Potter’s ‘The Changing Forest’, when it was broadcast on BBC Radio Four and has since become a ‘Forest Anthem’ having been adopted by a number of local schools and sung by choirs from as far away as Holland and Zimbabwe.  (See also main poetry page for ‘A Culture Built on Coal’)



This Forest Land


This land is ours; we hold it all in common.

From Fairplay Tump down to the Severn sea;

From ruined Tintern up to Flaxley’s Abbey

Our forest home belongs to you and me.


This forest’s ours; we’ve held it through the ages;

Now guard it safe for generations still to come.

Keep it secure for those who follow in our footsteps,

Who shall inherit this our forest home.


This land is ours and it will be protected,

Though some may say it is but rock and soil.

It’s worth is more than all the wealth of strangers

Our fathers paid for this rich earth with poor men’s toil.


This forest land, we keep it for our children;

Safe in our blue-scarred, work-stained forest hands;

From Wilderness down to the Chepstow river,

From Ruardean across to Newnham sands.


This land is ours; we hold it all in common.

From Fairplay Tump down to the Severn sea;

From ruined Tintern up to Flaxley’s Abbey

Our forest home belongs to you and me.


This forest land belongs to you and me.



‘Big Phil Bennett’


I remember down in Northern

On a face called ‘Twentythree’,

How the roof on this long coal-face,

Near squeezed the life from me.


It was on a Monday morning,

When the roof had a weekend crush,

Conditions like we’d seen before

But it didn’t worry us.


The roof on this here coalface,

Would run like seashore sand,

And I am grateful to our Lord,

Phil Bennett was at hand.


The conveyor caught the roof supports,

On which I did rely,

It trapped my legs and ankles,

With a timber 'cross my thigh.


The fall was getting heavier,

How much more could I stand,

When a giant of a man appeared,

My life was in his hands.


His arms under my armpits,

Hands clenched across my back,

This man he dug his heels in,

And I heard more timbers crack.


He heaved and heaved and heaved again,

Men shouted ‘Get out, Phil!’,

He heaved and shouted ‘Help us, Lord!’,

Or I’d have been there still.


Phil pulled me from this crashing roof,

The memory haunts me still,

I owe my life to this big man,

A giant called ‘Big Phil’



Dave Harvey


A Forester born and bred, miner, free miner, living history –  immortalised twice in forest sculptures – as the free miner in Cinderford town centre and in the sculpture of a miner being rescued from a rockfall in Northern United Colliery in 1963 – that stands at Rusticks in the Dean Heritage Centre. That’s him being rescued, and his poem ‘Big Phil Bennet’ commemorates the event and honours his rescuer. Writing it, he says, also stopped the nightmares he still had about the event years later. What he doesn’t say in the poem, but adds when talking about the incident: ‘about five minutes later the whole place caved in and the face was lost'.


(See also ‘Another Shift Done’ on the main poetry page)


Forest Bards


Maggie Clutterbuck


Maggie lives in Bream, and is a Forester through and through. Many of her poems are peppered with references to the Forest of Dean. However, much of her work features her days hitchhiking and travelling abroad. She has written novels, and has recently launched her new poetry book, Digging Deep.

 Tribute to a Vorest Miner My fayther wuz a miner - sinewy and tough - 'is muscles bulged as 'im hauled the coal, 'ands calloused, torn and rough. These rugged mon - salt of the earth - worked 'ard and played much 'arder; a pint of ale, a rolled up fag, bread 'n drippin' vram the larder. My fayther wuz a miner -'is life spent in the Vorest - amongst the oak and pit dust, 'im wus allus proud an' honest. Num a shower to kip 'im clean, nor 'ot water vram a tap, just an old tin bath in vront the vire; a wife to scrub 'is back My fayther wuz a Vorester - 'is mind wuz made of leaves - 'is body turned ta brittle twigs, broken by the breeze. 'is eyes were as sharp as a buzzard, soaring in the sky, 'is memories as long as the paths 'im did ploy on as a bwoy. But my fayther wuz a miner - 'im were made of steel and grit - part of'n now is wi' us still, the rest is down the pit.


My Forest


From stark, bare branches

To leaf-bedecked trees.

From raindrops falling

To cool. Fresh breeze.

From sunlight and shadows

To lush, green grass.

From bright, cheerful birdsong

To sheep going past.


This is my forest

My wonderful home;

And it will be here

Long after I’m gone.


Jackie Morgan has lived in the Forest for 5 years. She started writing poetry many years ago for her local church, but has written for a more public audience since moving to the Forest, and has had several poems published in The Review.



Varest Ship


Wooly yudded varest ship

Thee's got more rights that I,

Thee co'st wander where thee's please

Where I must pass on by.


Thee can't be 'alf as stupid

As you da vust appear,

'Cause no one ever bothers thee

Or so it do appear.


If thee do lie down in the road

An' 'ave theeself a kip,

No one ever moves thee on

'Cause thee bist varest ship.


Thee do'snt work ta get thee bread

Thee do'snt rise at seven,

If I was free as thee be free

I'd think I was in 'eaven.


Wooly yudded varest ship

I wish I was one too,

Then I could wander through the woods,

Side by side with you.


Keith Morgan: one of the foremost dialect poets in the forest, was inspired to write by his love of the place and its people - and everything that makes it special, like the miners to whom he pays tribute on the main poetry page, and here - the real kings of the forest roads……


Kay Wozencroft – Forest Bard 2006

 The Tally They Missed. The sun had scarce woken in the Sky Bare a word had been spoken By the men standing Nigh Taking their tally chips Their hats and their Picks Stepping to cage as their Lamps they Fix Not a word fell from a Lip As they descended into Cruel black Pit Not a smile not a Laugh Silence a while As they tread narrow Path Dust in the air stinging their Eyes They pause in despair Listen for Cries Silence is whole And shocking and Bleak No sound of faint Knocking No voice heard to Speak Twelve men that morning Their loved ones had Kissed But fear came without warning And a tally they Missed Yes a tally they missed One man was still Down When the sour gas hissed Spreading death all Around Eleven had been pulled Alive from the Gloom But a tally they missed And one man faced his Doom And down they had gone Not one would turn Back All looking for one In the soul chilling Black And twelve men kept a deadly Tryst Whilst womenfolk wept For the tally they Missed An hour, nay two maybe They had been Down Then a whistle was heard From deep in the Ground And the cage brought them Up again to the Light Eleven had gone down for One Life to Fight But twelve men came up And a dear brow was Kissed And thanks given up For the tally they Missed.

Gloucestershire Laureates



When a butterfly lands

When a butterfly lands

On a sandwich-supporting finger,

No brakes scream,

No rubber burns,

No uniforms flick switches,

And no seat-belts are unclipped,

But time stops,

Just long enough

For the tapestry of upright wings to be admired,

For the finger to know privilege,

For nearby watchers to feel envy;

For the skin's warm tarmac to capture the impression

And keep it.




Brenda Read-Brown


Brenda has been writing poetry since 1997 and is the current Gloucestershire Poet Laureate. Her poem 'Justified' can be found on the main Poetry Page, but here she captures the unforgettable moment . . . . . .


'When a butterfly lands'



The Ladies of the Charity Shop by Peter Wyton as featured on BBC Radio 4's 'Poetry Please'


Peter Wyton


Former Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, who can regularly be heard on BBC Radio Gloucester, Peter goes all the way back to Children’s Hour on the BBC Home Service, when his first teenage poems earned him the princely sum of 7/6d (35p in today’s money) per poem.   Thirty-five years in the RAF then intervened before he again took the poetic plunge. Since 1996 he has performed at festivals and arts centres all over the country and entered for and won countless competitions.



The Ladies of the Charity Shop


The ladies of the charity shop

Were given a brand new till.

They never got the hang of it

And now they never will.

They only approached it in groups of three,

With expressions of loathing and pain,

One to push buttons,

One to have kittens

And one to try again.


The ladies of the charity shop

Were a most harmonious clique.

They all popped in on a rota system

At least three mornings a week,

To drink gallons and gallons and gallons of tea

And have a good chinwag about

Cardigans, ornaments, wrestling tournaments,

Gall-bladders, goitres and gout.


The ladies of the charity shop

Maintained, with no hint of apology,

That they never expected to find themselves

At the forefront of till technology.

The old model suited them down to the ground.

When they wanted to put in some cash

And the drawer got jammed

They said "Bother" and "Damn"

And gave it a good old bash.


The ladies of the charity shop

Have been in darkest mourning

Since a quarter to ten last Wednesday

When, without the slightest warning,

They opened the new till to put in a pound,

The contraption showed its teeth,

Gave a frightful roar like a carnivore

And swallowed Jemima Moncrieff.


The ladies of the charity shop

Phoned divisional headquarters,

No repair man came, but a TV crew

And a posse of press reporters.

One asked the ladies a question

With a tabloid glint in his eye.

"Was the victim nude?"

They said,"Don't be rude,

This isn't the W.I."


The ladies of the charity shop

Have sold off all their stock

To a nice young man with a Transit van

And a stall on Camden Lock.

At their manager's suggestion

They all went on the spree,

Got merry on sherry

On the Brittany ferry

And buried the till at sea.



Jayl de Lara


Poet & Lyricist Jayl de Lara teaches poetry and singing from his Harmony School based at The Angel in Ruardean. He has recently released his 6th album called ROMA on his own Harmony Label. His style is a new genre known as Purism. Jayl has been an underground cult legend for many years and has sold many CD's around the world. He also has a poem inscribed on a monument on Romney Marsh where he is known as Man 'O' the Marsh. Jayl’s work is endorsed by HRH The Prince of Wales.


© Rick Van Lente.  Used by Permission.


'The Silent Pool of Rage'


We - of spoilt generation know nothing of bombs.

Where the earth it thundered and carved a pool . . .

A mirror for shadows of forgotten sons;

Their faces guarded here, in wooded shade unknown.

Where someone came from somewhere on a train,

Became no one going nowhere in the rain.

Oh bitter rain, like spider's tears in June . . .

That weep for summer days unsown,

And monstrous rage, beneath these trees full-grown.


We - of spoilt generation know nothing of pain.

From shattered crater tranquil pond - now still,

Exploded grim and bloody, crushing lives,

And tearing cried aloud, to a singular eye in mud . . .

Blurred and staring, blasted from its face,

Like a horror movie witness to history's disgrace.

Oh stark disgrace, like a devil sick of sin . . .

For within this glade a soldier's story,

A silent repose for sacrifice and glory.


We - of spoilt generation know nothing of war.

Where doom himself swam, laughing in this pool . . .

Clasping like a clam the bones of youth,

That died, for what? Like freezing flies in fall.

Quietude now, with faintest ripple beauty still remains,

Though the water hides the ghostly groans of heroes still unnamed.

Oh savage heroes, your honour clothes the naked shame . . .

Of innocence blown to smithereens,

And a million deaths of hopes and dreams.


You know . . . . . History's never quite as it seems,

With a million deaths of hopes and dreams.

So as stories are told from age to age,

They'll be swallowed by the silent pool of rage.



 © Jayl De Lara






My Work My Penance.


My life in the muddle of dust and steel, the clatter and

banging, almost unreal as sparks fly up high into the air, you

know that you must beware, for what goes up must come

down, and would leave you wearing a painful crown.

So how did I come to this life of toil and grime that will surely take

me before my time? Just twenty one when I arrived at the

gate, and was met by a man who said “you all right there mate?”

as he showed me what my task would be. Now my face must

have been a picture of disbelief and sheer terror, as I looked

around for a friendly stare, but nobody seemed to care amidst

the smoke and dust. Well that was many years ago, and I’m

still there, its not to say that I don’t care, for I’ve had enough

of the noise and heat, which leaves me feeling that my life is

incomplete. Then one fine day a small hole in the wall admits

a beam of light, forcing its way though the dust to burn so

bright. It falls upon my calloused hands, a testimony of hard

days so many, I pick up a pen and begin to write, Hoping that one

day this will guide my sorry plight and set

Me free from my life in the muddle of dust and steel.


Anthony Furmage




 Forever in my heart The time has come to let you go to sleep I should let you go to rest in peace You will be forever in my mind This the thing to do to be so kind You deserve the very best For now it's time for you to rest Your weary legs can take no more The end of the chapter to close the door The memories of you forever to hold All the stories forever to be told for you must rest in peace my love In the skies far and above You will always be forever in my heart In my mind never to be apart


Sharon Haines


See biography on main poetry page, alongside Sharon’s poem ‘Honey’, dedicated to her favourite pony, who is here remembered after her death. Sharon’s book is called ' For the love of....' and includes two of her daughter Becky’s poems written when she was ten years old (See below)


Becky Haines Vincent


Now eleven years old, Becky wrote this poem when she was 10. Sharon, while never forcing her, has always told her that it is good to write down her feelings and is delighted that she enjoys doing it. Sharon and Becky both feel very fortunate to have the beautiful countryside around them to give constant inspiration.




The Jaguar is on the prowl

So powerful with her paws

Stalking something foul

Licking her lips around her jaws


Almighty and brave protecting her kind

Strong and protective mum

Every animal knows what's on her mind

Then the hunters come


They need fur

We all know who's fur we are going to see

Suddenly the Jaguar stopped did not purr

That was not meant to be


That's the day she went away

And the rest for that matter

No one saw them from that day

Under the shade of trees that lay



Carol Sheppard


Carol is a poet, playwright and writer based in the Forest of Dean.  The beauty of the forest inspires much of her poetry and writing.  She also writes a weekly column in The Citizen newspaper. You can see more of Carol’s poems in her and Matt Caldwell’s new book ‘Trails Through the Forest’ - available from The Forest Bookshop in Coleford or from www.forestofdeangifts.co.uk – where her poems are accompanied by Matt’s photographs’.



I'm a Forest Sheep


We know you folks hate us, but we don't care a bit.

What's it to us if you rage and roar?

We shut our eyes and have a good snore.

You can chase us, if you like, with a big stick

but we can run away, if needed, ever so quick.

We'll get you back, don't you worry,

when you're in a rush, we can slow your hurry.

We'll take hours crossing the road,

back and forth, doing the Green Cross Code.

We can be prone to changing our minds

halfway across the road and the we find

that's not where we wanted to go, not really,

but it was fun to see your face, so cross and surly.


Old Ma, she takes the longest

but really, she's faking, she's really the strongest.

We'll poo on your pavements and wee by your gate,

fall asleep in front of your car and make you late,

we'll sleep on the roads with our bums stuck our

and pretend not to hear when you beep and shout.

Anyway we can go where we please,

We'll jump your garden gate, your hedge or your wall,

eat all your flowers, leave footprints in your lawn.

The foot and mouth nearly wiped us out,

so I may be new here, but I can shout

I'm a forest sheep, through and through,

so, 'ol butt, don't treat us like you do.





As I was driving up Plump Hill

I saw the leaves of gold

Awakened by the autumn hues

Such colours brave and bold

Virginia creeper’s regal red

Resplendent tumbling gown

Whilst copper shone through forest green

And bracken turned to brown


I love this glorious time of year

When leaves from trees are shed

And oak and ash dim lights above

To put their green to bed

For autumn brings a time of peace

Returning life to earth

When death and growth sleep silently

Till spring reclaims its birth


18th September 2008


Jennifer Smith



Jennifer Smith has lived in Little London for about 18 years and started writing poetry about 7 years ago, she finds herself inspired by just about everything - often in the middle of the night. There are times when she just HAS to write and other times when she has to work quite hard, having been asked to write something for a special event or person, for example, three day's notice for the Queen's Jubilee for the Parish Magazine!’


Gordon White: Having written and performed his poetry in Herefordshire for eight years, becoming  known locally as ‘The Bard of Bromyard’, Gordon moved to Coleford two years ago. He compered the middle part of the recital, also performing  some of his  own poems , this one included..



The Wife


My wife is brilliant and since the day that we were wed

She's been able to remember things I never ever said

Where we were when I never said it, if we were home or away

The clothes I wore, the state of the weather and even the time of day


She remembers all the little things I somehow managed to get wrong

How many years have we been married, not sure but it's far too bloomin' long

She reminds me of all the mistakes I made,as if I want to know

And not things that happened last week, but years and years ago

Little insignificant things like an anniversary I forgot

I didn't do it every year, just 5 times, that's not a lot


I've found the secret to happy marriage, single beds is what you need

One of them in Coleford, the other in Berwick on Tweed

What do you want for Christmas I said, feeling a little apprehensive

How about a divorce she said, I wasn't thinking of anything that expensive


She's always moaning and groaning and I'm always dodging the flack

She said what would you do if I left you, I said move house in case you came back

I must say she's let herself go, she's not in very good nick

You should see the size of her, her blood gets travel sick


I'm not saying I don't like her and you couldn't call it hatred

But if she lived in India I'm sure she'd be bloomin' sacred

She says I never listen, I say I never heard her

If only she knew how often I've contemplated murder


She's been many things to me, lover, companion and nurse

The only reason I don't get rid of her is I might get one that's worse!


The Forest of Dean Writers


The Forest of Dean Writers group was formed by Claire Hamilton, a writer and teacher of Creative Writing.

To date the group has produced three books: Sex and the Forest; If You Go Down To the Woods (a Dean Witch Project); and Forest - Fact and Fantasy (launched in April)




The Riddle of the Forest  by Val Ormrod


Here trees rush at you from the shadows,

their gnarled trunks shudder upwards

to a far-off sky.

Overhead, branches wrestle for light.

A shipwreck of forest lies below.

Faces watch from the foliage,

and sinewy fingers

grasp at tree roots.


Where is this place?


Here shadows huddle in spaces,

plotting in hollows and scowles*.

Fear hides in corners;

the air shivers

and a bat flaps from an underground cave.

A wild animal shrieks into the startled silence.

Wings beat upwards,

bruising the air.


Solemn boulders, stoic as judges

keep watch over every walkway.

Beneath the trees,

fungi bulge from a knot of roots

and ferns erupt in giant feathered fronds.

Wooden bridges totter across gulleys,

their knock-kneed legs

trembling in the chill air.


Where is this place?


Moss creeps over the stones,

slimy as Gollum.

In the swamp,

a pair of luminous eyes meets yours,

before submerging.

The faces in the branches are watching you

and the wood holds its breath,

waiting for your next move.


Amongst the limestone traces,

a pulse beats, deep in the earth.

Here in this land of hobbits,

of wizards and elves,

of mazes and Merlin and magic,

where goblins and dragons pursue heroes and rings,

the riddle echoes through the forest.

It demands an answer.


Where is this place?



* Scowles - geological features that originated through the erosion of natural underground cave systems formed in the carboniferous limestone many millions of years ago.



Val Ormrod has lived in the Forest since 1988 and writes short stories, memoirs, poetry, a blog about her pets, and is currently working on a novel.



Michelle Hutchesson has lived in Ruspidge for 18 years and mainly writes short stories based on family relationships but also enjoys writing poems that are light-hearted and fun to create.



The Moose Pig  by Michelle Hutchesson


The Parkend farmer thought it fun

to go out hunting with his gun.

He climbed the trees, he looked around,

'Moose Pig, Moose Pig, you'll be found.'


He ventured on, without delay.

The sun was bright, the month was May.

And came upon a bobbing bird,

with beak as bright as lemon curd.


'Have you seen, have you seen,

the biggest pig that's ever been?

With hairy face and blood-red eyes,

and tusks of elephantine size?'


Twitters shook the bobbing bird.

'Tusks so huge? Don't be absurd.

There's none so big that lives round here.

I think you should lay off the beer.'


The Parkend farmer, undeterred,

didn't listen to the bird.

He searched for tracks upon the ground.

'Moose Pig, Moose Pig, you'll be found.'


He ventured on, without delay.

The breeze was light, he felt quite gay.

And came upon a silky mole,

with velvet fur as black as coal.


'Have you smelt, have you smelt,

a stench that'd make your eyeballs melt?

Like putrid bogs and rotting food?

A breath so foul it spoils the mood?'


The silky mole, well he just laughed.

'Boggy breath? Don't be so daft.

I've never suffered such a smell,

and if I did I wouldn't tell.'


The Parkend farmer was on a roll,

and didn't heed the silky mole.

He tiptoed on without a sound.

'Moose Pig, Moose Pig, you'll be found.'


He ventured on, without delay.

The day grew long, the sky turned grey.

And came upon a slender deer,

with lanky legs and spotty rear.


'Have you heard, have you heard,

a roar so strange it chills the blood?

So loud it wakes the earth below,

and homes are shaken to and fro?'


The slender deer, she dropped her jaw.

'Unearthly roar? Are you quite sure?

And if I'd heard such bally-hoo,

I wouldn't share the fact with you.'


The Parkend farmer thought it fun

to go out hunting with his gun.

But his spirits dimmed as darkness grew.

'Moose Pig, Moose Pig, where are you?'


He turned around, his head hung low.

Homeward bound he had to go.

For once again he didn't find

the Moose Pig. Oh well, never mind.



Wigpool by Brenda Edwards


The year’s end in winter’s grip

Barren trees and dying grass encircle the pool,

Its reeds brown and withered in the murky water

Remnants of leaves drift on its silent surface.

A sunless place where no birds sing,

A forsaken place of gloom and sorrow.

For every day with tormented unseeing eyes

She wanders through the woods.

Her long white gown makes no whisper on the ground.

Her anguished face is gaunt, tear streaked.

Yet a scent of blossom drifts about her head.

What grim secret does she hold, that she can’t let go?

The pool seems to beckon her and she is drawn

To its cold blackness. Tenderly it envelops her

But no ripples show that she was there.

Only the perfume lingers on.



Brenda Edwards has lived in the Forest for ten years. She writes poetry for pleasure.

Her poem is based on a legend of a woman in white who haunts Wigpool



Marie Griffiths worked for many years as a journalist in South Africa. Now retired, she lives in Penallt and writes for pleasure.



Vaga by Marie Griffiths


She wanders by in many moods


Seductive in the summer sun,

Slipping round the fishermen’s rubbered thighs

‘One day I will have one of these,

But maybe not today, not today.’

           Her friends,

The leaping salmon, rise

Suspense of silver splendour.

Swans, boneless drift of pillow down

Too soft to fly.

Serene and sensuous on she glides


Engorged, with winter’s rain and snow

Her mood turns wild and cruel.

Silently she slides across the fields

Seizes careless cows and sheep

Steals the earth into her coils.

Roiling Broiling on she drives

To join her fierce sister:


Onward the pair, entwined with silver eels

Surge abreast into the ocean

On to the Wide Sargasso Sea.


(Roman names Vaga: River Wye; Sabrina: The Severn)



The Long Stone by Mary E Jenkins




I stand forlorn

Alone, ignored,

When once I stood so proud

My place secure

My purpose known

My stature once admired.


Now few people notice me

Or even want to stay.

They travel past

No time to pause

No space within their day.


Only memories haunt this place,

The ancient ones have gone,

For they have left me here, bereft,

No dance, no smiles, no song.


The moon is full and midnight strikes

A pin becomes a dart

The tears I shed are real blood

Release my old stone heart.





There is a Forest legend that if you go to the Staunton Long Stone on the night of a full moon and at midnight stick a pin into the stone, it will bleed real blood.



Mary Bryant, who writes under her maiden name of Jenkins, comes from an old Forest family, her great grandfather, Charles Jenkins, having been one of the Freeminers’ Trustees. She writes about the forest and her memories of growing up here through a series of poems.



Window Seat by Mary E Jenkins


At Grandad Bloxham’s

with aunts, uncles and cousins.

‘Why do I always have to sit in the window seat?’

‘You’re the youngest and smallest.

When you’re bigger you can sit somewhere else.’

I’m still waiting to get out of the window seat!


 The Bottom’s Fallen Out Of My Chair It looks OK with a cushion in front And a towel draped over the seat You’d think it had charm, with its swirly carved arm And that under it things were quite neat. But this is not so, in fact not so at all This chair is falling to pieces, The rough road of life has taken its toll You can see it in all of its creases. Don’t fret they say, it can all be put right With some care and attention and a good dose of might, But it’s hard to imagine a new state of repair When the bottom’s fallen out of my chair! A holiday perhaps while the job gets done Get away from it all, and have some fun, But where is away, and should I really dare, While the bottom’s fallen out of my chair… Mel Adams Feb 2014 Mel Adams: Mitcheldean Folk Festival, Poetry Recital Co-Organiser

Contact: website@gl17hub.org