Canon Clifford Davies
Ruardean. April 2003.
Not surprisingly, with 27,000 acres of woodland within its boundaries, the Forest of
Dean abounds in wildlife - it is a naturalistís paradise. Birds and animals, some
secretive and rarely seen, some more sociable and† easily spotted, live out their lives
within the Dean. Such developments as the Forest Enterprise deer hide at Cannop
and the RSPBís reserve at Nagshead Enclosure have made the study of them a little
Over the past 30 years, animal and bird species and population have increased with even
the tiny muntjac deer now being spotted in parts of the area as well as the Norman-imported fallow deer which roam the Deanís central section.
The peregrine falcon nest site at Symonds Yat Rock has become world famous since it was
re-inhabited in 1982. Well over 40 peregrines have now been bred, reared and flown
from the site in the last 20 years. A viewpoint for the public has been jointly set up at
The Rock by Forest Enterprise and RSPB and is now probably the best site in Europe
to watch these magnificent birds of prey. The birds ignore the crowds - the tourists
were there before they chose their nest sites.
The powerful goshawk, once driven out of Great Britain by persecution, is now a
Forest resident with a number of pairs claiming territory and nesting within it. Only
recently (February 2003) a male bird was photographed in a pigeon loft in the central
Forest beside the "meal ticket" of the resident, tame male doves.
Another, once threatened species, the otter has made its way back into the Dean and,
although not welcomed by anglers, is tolerated and grudgingly admired for its
resilience. Even the now rarer polecat has been sighted in the Western fringes of the
Forest and another raptor, the kite, driven to near extinction, has visited the Northern
reaches, drifting over from Central Wales where it is now re-established.
The more common members of our native wildlife thrive in the Dean. The imported
grey squirrel and rabbit, can at times increase their numbers to pest size. The
multi-coloured, multi specied water fowl on the outer and central ponds provide a rainbow of colour as well as proving amusing to the visitors who feed them. The more
common birds, such as robin, chaffinch, crow etc have become adept at purloining
left-overs and even anglerís bait.
Improved management, increased education and a greater awareness of the rights of
other creatures we share the planet with, have all helped to improve the variety and
numbers of wild birds and animals in the Dean. If this respect is encouraged and
increases, the situation will improve still further. Already some dangerously threatened
species are beginning to recover in numbers, others in peril of being lost †will also start
to tread the path to survival.
The wildlife of the Forest of Dean is there to be enjoyed and in this beautiful part of
the British Isles, it provides an attraction that costs nothing but a little care and