Darkhill Iron Works
A "taster" visit.
All that is now visible of the blast furnace. It was supplied with forced air to achieve very high temperatures by a steam engine that used the water that had been piped away from the villager's well.
David Mushet 1772-1847
A set of robustly made but now overgrown steps leads down to the lower level. You do have to be very careful on the site because the only concession to safety are the warning notices and barbed-wire-topped fencing that strongly suggest that you explore, if explore you must, very carefully.
In the terraced part of the lower section were these remains of a sheep that had not taken note of the warning notices. All that was left was 'skin and bones'.
Nearby local "Dolly Watkins Quarry" supplied stone for many of the Darkhill Iron Works buildings - unfortunately the sandstone is very soft and, as a result, has weathered over the years quite badly ... as can be seen on this South-West facing corner from which direction comes most of the strong-driving rain (which the Foresters will insist is only "Forest Mist").
Before your circular walking tour ends and your explorations take you back to the car park you cannot fail but notice this memorial to David Mushet:
and son Robert Forester Mushet 1811-1891
In this valley early experiments in the making of STEEL and its alloys were carried out.
Thus the age of STEEL began.
Forest Enterprise FoD Local History Society
Although, at first glance, the site appears to be overwhelmed by bracken this is not completely true. Iit is true that in the height of Summer the resident bracken will grow and cover a lot of the lower foundations but you can still wander round and get a hands on feel of it. Outside the Summer months, of course, the bracken dies down and more of the ruins are immediately visible. This picture is of not bracken but of a Hard Shield Fern of which there are quite a few among the rocks.
Growing amongst the fairly long grasses are some surprises such as this Field Speedwell (Veronica persica) which, as it's name implies, prefers open fields with shorter grass than this.
The ruined walls are slowly becoming naturalised with lime-loving plants and climbers of all sorts. On a calm sunny day there can be a heady scent to accompany the brilliant flashes of colour from the wild flowers that grow scattered across the old Ironworks.
If you want more detailed information about the Darkhill and the Mushet family in this period (it is a fascinating tale of brilliance and mismanagement) then explore the Forest of Dean Local History Society's web-site - they also produce a very good pamphlet (Nr. 4 in their Walks Series) describing the walk around the Iron Works in greater detail.