The Forest of Dean.

Bygone Days

Bygone Days

Darkhill Iron Works

A "taster" visit.

The remains of the Darkhill Iron Works are located at the edge of the little hamlet of Gorsty Knoll, which has a very convenient free Car Park at OS Grid Ref: SO587085. From the car park there is a short track leading more or less northwards that takes you to a Cyclepath that once was the rail track of the old Severn & Wye Railway's branch line to Coleford. If you turn to the right, once you are on the Cyclepath, you will start to see the remnants of the old Iron Works appearing on your left. Various paths criss-cross the site and you can spend an interesting couple of hours or so exploring the ruins. You will find what was once a large pond, created as a side-effect of buildig the Severn & Wye's branch raiway line, but which is now beginning to become silted up and overgrown - Aaron's Pond. Associated with the Aaron's Pond there is a stepped spillway that takes away excess water.

The Forestry Commission have built a nicely sited viewing point from which, as you can see, there is a good over-view of Darkhill. The associated notice at the viewing point states that the industrial remains of the Darkhill Ironworks are of international importance in the history of iron and steel - If you would like access to the site itself this can be arranged if you contact:
The Forestry Commission, Bank House, Coleford, GL16 8BA.
UK Telephone Number: 01594 833 057

Nearby there is another board advertising the Gorsty Knoll Heathland Project which is further supporting the wild habitat to encourage, amongst other things, more butterflies and adders.

This is the spillway for the overflow from Aaron's Pond. In it's day, Darkhill Iron Works was the subject of strong complaints by the villagers against the unauthorised piping of water from the aquifer that supplied the only permanent well that gave local Foresters their drinking water.

Aaron's Pond as it is today. Once it was quite deep and the spillway was very much needed to control the overflow. Today it is part way through the natural process of transforming into an overgrown and eventually swampy piece of land.

This hollow, with the tip of an arched opening showing, is the entrance to an old and unsuccessful mine. At the top of the hill stands Marefold, built in 1780, which because it has an orchard was protected from the incursions of freeminers. This might have been one of the reasons why the freemine at the bottom of the hill never really was financially viable. As you can see from the looped rope swing - Yesterday's work-place is literally today's children's playground !

Evidence of it's Iron Working past is this large piece of iron clinker. Because David Mushet, whose Iron Works this was in the early half of the 19th Century, was involved in much experimental work developing tougher and more malleable forms of high-grade iron he was very secretive about the processes he was inventing. He had equipment and materials hauled into the Iron Works after dark, had experiments done under strict secrecy and even, once the experiments were finished, buried the tell-tale evidence of their success or failure. At times he literally covered his tracks by burying crucial elements of the furnaces he had developed or altering them so that rivals could not steal his ideas. This makes the whole site an interesting multi-dimensional historical puzzle to work out how, what, where and when he did things.

Marefold, it has a Mare's head sculpture on one of the gate pillars, is very old - built in 1780 and stands on top of the hill. In days gone by the owners domestic ducks were able to waddle to and from the pond by using the square hole let into the wall near to the gate.

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