Littledean Roman Temple Site

2500 years of history and still going

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The Hauntings of Littledean Hall

The Launch of my new book The Hauntings of Littledean Hall took place on Thursday the 19th of July at the Forest of Dean Bookshop in Coleford, Gloucestershire. The Launch was well attended and met with enthusiastic interest and good initial sales. The book was published by Douglas McLean Publishing and copies can be obtained from : The Forest Bookshop, 8 St John Street, Coleford, Gloucestershire GL16 8AR or via their website.



Posted 5 years, 4 months ago at 7:29 pm by Donny Wright.

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April showers, May flowers…

What a funny year it has been for the weather, but however it has felt for us it seems to have produced a beautiful affect in our apple orchard, with the blossom being fantastic.

These photos weren’t taken at the absolute peak of the blossom, so we shall leave that to your imaginations.  Enjoy….

Early Victoria Apple blossomClose up of one of the “Early Victoria” apple blossoms

Flowers on one of the young treesFlowers on one of our younger trees

View down one of the rowsLooking down one of the rows of the orchard

Apple FlowersBlossoms on my favourite “Sterling Castle” apple trees

Japanese MapleOur Japanese Maple

Cherry treeThe Cherry tree (the blossom has gone over)

We are looking forward to a great summer, I have noticed that some of the blossom has set on the apple trees so here’s hoping for a good crop too.

Posted 7 years, 6 months ago at 7:35 pm by Katie Wright.

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Spring Flowers at LittleDean Hall

We are always blessed with the spring flowers in and area LittleDean Hall in Gloucestershire.  Despite the rain and cold this year they are just as lovely, if not more so because of those same reasons.  Amongst others we have Daffodils, wild primroses, wild viola, planted primroses, aconites and windflowers and soon will be the bluebells and the lady’s smock.

Tete a Tete DaffodilsTete a Tete Dafodils.  They look great in a pot and cheer up dull corners

Daffodils and HearteaseThe Heartease are just starting to go over, but this is their second flush.

Native PrimroseOne of many Primroses, this one is a bit sleepy though!

Purple PrimrosesA Single Purple PrimroseThey may not be native but they are so pretty.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago at 1:42 pm by Katie Wright.

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New Herb Patch

With the weather warming, we, at Littledean Hall Gardens, have had to get on with those important end of winter jobs.  One of these was to cut all our basket willows back, leaving us with lovely bundles of green, brown and yellow wands.  I have had a image of a small herb patch in my head for a little while and this harvest allowed me to get on with bringing it to reality.

The area sits at the end of the vegetable garden and covers about 2meters by 4meters.  I have in-situ woven 4 willow pots at each corner and then divided the internal are cross ways into four with low willow hurdling.  We have a small standard Bay tree in the centre of the cross.  Along the edges I am training Lavender, Rosemary and Sage into low hedges.  The internal areas will be planted up with perennials and annual herbs including echinacea, thyme, chives and basil.

Our newly planted Herb Patch

Our newly planted Herb Patch

I think it adds a little touch of formality amongst the general chaos of our veg garden!

Image showing our newly planted herb area

Image showing our newly planted herb area

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago at 10:43 am by Katie Wright.

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Spring is coming?

After having so much snow this little bit of more mild weather has been a relief.  Just the temperature rising that little bit has started the earth stirring.  The snowdrops are out in Newnham and there are daffodils and other spring flowers staring to poke their green heads through the chilly ground to bring cheer to all of us missing their joy.

We had our first strong wind, could hardly be called a gale, the other day which, other than upsetting the plastic moveable greenhouse, just seemed to call into action life even further.  Unfortunately during the snows a few of the smaller branches came off the great Cedar tree, leaving what feels to us a big gapping hole in the canopy, but really just adds to the tree’s gnarly charm.

We hope that our newly planted nut walk will, when it is ready, burst into life and put on a green gown to highlight this future major feature of the lower walled garden.  Until then we continue to chip away at the mountain of work, enjoyable though it is, until spring really hits in and the cutting, pruning and trimming ceases for another year.

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago at 1:28 pm by Katie Wright.

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Winter Wonderland

We’ve had about 4 inches of snow average so far this year making the gardens look so beautiful.  Where as the snow has hidden some of the features it has illuminated others.  Such as our recently planted Nut Walk which starts at the Yew Avenue and reaches to the bottom of the walled garden.  It is a walk of cob nuts (Corylus avellana x maxima) with gateways and furthest reaches of Purple Hazel (Corylus avellana Maxima Purpurea).  We have also put two Wild service trees (Srobus torminalis) at the bottom of the walk as gateways into the Orchard on one side and the Nut area and into the fruit on the other.  These little trees show up so well in the snow and look like a proper walk already.  We can’t wait for spring and see them all burst into life.

Recently planted Nut Walk in the first snows

Recently planted Nut Walk in the first snows

We had visitors just before the snow which took us by surprize somewhat.  Wild boar, two of them apparently, have dug up the only lawn part of the Temple site making a rather large mess.  I have to say that personally speaking the thrill of having boar visit outweighs the work we will have to do to get the Tai Chi area back into shape.  It was in broad daylight that they were seen wandering down the road and they have explored the whole of Dean Hall’s grounds, though not causing too much havoc elsewhere.

Boar Damage on the Tai Chi Area

Boar Damage on the Tai Chi Area

The Forest looks so beautiful after a snow fall.  When the white highlights the dark and it is so quiet.  Walking through the Forest, you can pick out all sorts of animal and human tracks easily and admire the ever changing landscape.  It can not be beaten.

Two Bucks in the Forest on Solstice day

Two Bucks in the Forest on Solstice day

Posted 7 years, 10 months ago at 3:44 pm by Katie Wright.

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Who lived at Dean Hall?

Dean Hall has always had a special place in my heart. Since the days of my childhood until the present day I have felt a particular affinity with the place. Its atmospheres and moods have always tingled my senses, often creating  intangible and inexplicable sensations of belonging  and deja vu.
My parents came to live at Dean Hall in the mid 1950s. My grandmother knew that one of her mother’s Penberthy cousins from Cornwall bought a house in Gloucestershire, but she knew not where. That was Major Professor John Penberthy of  Trewergie, whose family owned Dean Hall between 1998 and 1938.He was a 4th cousin of my father’s grandmother.
It is only as a result of the internet that I now know that my mother’s great grandmother Eleanor Nevill, was a direct descendent of the Dene family, the lords of Dene, who built  the original house which still carries their name to this day. Equally surprising is that the Braynes, Bridgemans and Pyrkes, families which owned the Hall from the early 16th to the end of the 19th centuries, were also kinsmen of my mother’s Nevill and Lewknor ancestors.
Finding that my family has significant family and ancestral links with the place, does’nt change how I feel about it.  It does however quicken my pulse and it gives me an explanation as to why I have from time to time felt so deeply attached to it. Before I sold the main part of the house in 1997, I always considered ownership of an historic house in the late 20th century was more a custodial privilege than a personal thing. I still believe that to be the case. If anything my own family association with Dean Hall gives me more desire to conserve and share that part of Dean Hall in my care with those who are interested in all the historic complexities of this remarkable place.

The Victoria County History gives the following account of who lived at Dean Hall since the middle of the 16th century, based on surviving deeds in the Gloucester Records Office:-

“A house outside the village by the Newnham road, known by 1628 as Littledean Hall and later as DEAN HALL,  became the centre of an estate built up by the Pyrke family. The house belonged until 1611 to the Cockshoot estate in Newnham, which Richard Brayne settled in 1552 on his son John,  later described as of Newent. In 1599 John, together with his son Richard, sold the estate to his nephew Thomas Brayne (d. 1604) and in 1606 Richard, who under Thomas’s will had a reversionary right, acquired it outright from Thomas’s widow Catherine. Richard sold the house in Littledean in 1611 to Richard Brayne of Bristol, a grocer, who sold it in 1612 to Charles Bridgeman of Poulton Court in Awre.  Charles, who bought land around the house, made it his residence  and at his death in 1643 left the small estate to his wife Catherine  (fl. 1657). His grandson Charles Bridgeman sold it first in 1657 to John Wade,  the chief administrator of the Forest of Dean,  and, having bought it back from Wade in 1662,  secondly in 1664 to Thomas Pyrke of Abenhall, a landowner at Mitcheldean.  Thomas took up residence in the house and enlarged the estate,  which at his death in 1702 passed to his wife Anne in jointure. She released it in 1703 to his son and heir Nathaniel in return for an annuity.  Nathaniel, who in 1710 added the Cockshoot to the estate,  died in 1715 leaving his son Thomas as his heir.  From Thomas (d. 1752) the estate passed in turn to his wife Dorothy (d. 1762) and his greatnephew Joseph Watts.  Joseph, who changed his surname to Pyrke, took possession in 1764  and died in 1803 leaving the estate of 185 a. in Littledean and Newnham to his son Joseph Pyrke  (d. 1851). From the latter it passed to his son Duncombe (d. 1893), whose son Duncombe  broke it up by sales. In 1897 H. J. Austin, a Lancaster architect, bought the house and c. 30 a. and in 1898 he sold the same to John Penberthy.  Penberthy, who bought other land in and around Littledean,  died in 1927 and, following the death of his wife Eleanor in 1938, his daughter Enstice, wife of E. W. Jacques,  sold the house to M. G. Corbet-Singleton (d. 1964). Corbet-Singleton’s widow Enid left it in 1975 to Mr. David Macer-Wright, whose son, Mr. D. M. Macer-Wright, was the owner in 1989″.

My mother’s ancestors were Thomas Lewknor a 4th cousin of Thomas Brayne of Dean Hall (died1604), the Hon. Francis Nevill the 2nd son of the 5th Lord Abergavenny  was a 5th cousin of Charles Bridgeman of Littledean Hall and Francis Nevill, grandson of the above, was a 5th cousin of Thomas Pyrke who bought Dean Hall from Charles Bridgeman the Younger in 1664.

Posted 8 years ago at 7:10 pm by Donny Wright.

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“A culture is no better than it’s woods” – a thought on trees.

We love trees! The Roman Temple site has regenerated itself in a relatively short time and we have planted other species to increase biodiversity and also the enjoyment for us.

The red berries of the rowan intermingled with the autumn leaf colours, the still green grass and the moody November skies.

Trees are such an important part of our plans for the garden, this area, the country and our world.  They gather and hold carbon, they provide habitat for countless (and still counting) species of animal, lichens, mosses and other plants whether parasitic or symbiotic.  They give us material to build with on small or large scales, warmth to cook with and be comforted by and beauty whether in their being or in the hands of a craftsperson.   W.H. Auden wrote “A culture is no better than it’s woods”
A thought backed up by recent studies by David Beresford-Jones, of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge into the disappearance of the Nazca. There are a number of great articles around, one from The New Scientist is no exception.  Of course this is extreme and I am in no way linking it to the happenings about us…..

The Chinese have wood as their fifth element and in the customs of  Taoism “woodsmen of the T’ang and S’ung Dynasties …….. would bow to the trees which they felled, and offer a promise that the tree would be used well” (R. Macfarlane, The Wild Places.)  An idea that maybe we have lost in the west.  There is that episode of The Simpsons where a whole tree is taken into a factory and planed down and down until a single pencil (or is it a matchstick – I forget) comes out the other end.  Exaggerated but I am sure it has some grain of truth.
Trees, themselves, are wonderful organisms.  Their ability to react and change to their environment.  Their strength and flexibility.  It is no wonder that many ancient cultures look to trees to show the way for humans.  On the site we have examples of trees that have naturally grafted themselves together.  If you climb up into “Old Jack” the oldest of the sweet chestnuts you will see a tangle of branches now all interconnected through friction and healing – an incredible sight and a wonderful adventure playground.  We have examples of trees that have been weighed down with undergrowth and the throttling bramble and have just produced numerous new shoots, 90 degrees to the original, heading up for the sun.
Robert Macfarlane writes in his book The Wild Places, of visiting a wood where
“In a clearing, I found a storm-felled birch, prostrate but alive.  It had been blown over two or three years earlier, I guessed, from the exent of the growth since then: an ordered row of healthy branches which shot up from the main trunk.”
Trees are common, they line our motorways, are in our gardens and our parks.  So common, in fact, that we take them for granted. “…they are easily overlooked, especially perhaps by eyes turned to the movements of tiny birds[.....]. Their impact on our surroundings is overwhelming as that of landforms or weather [....] only when we look at old photographs or confront the effects of a freak storm do we realise with a jolt how much of a difference the growth, the loss and the variety of trees can make” (Collins Tree Guide, O.Johnson and D. More).  Living in the Forest of Dean, it is perhaps even easier to take trees for granted.  It is an area which lives up to it’s name and it’s woods stretch for many a mile, holding boar, deer and other such creatures from the “Wildwood” myths.  To us, however, each tree is special and we aim to conserve the ones we can and, if necessary, be a voice for doomed trees that are not within our protection.
Specimen trees are planted by humans, for humans.  The tree’s status allows it to grow to its maximum and , in so doing, shows off it’s utter beauty and  grace but there is something lonely, almost unnatural, about a “specimen” tree.  Just like a specimen tiger or great bear in a zoo. Robert Macfarlane writes of his late friend Roger Deakin.
“Trees to him were mutual organisms, best understood when considered in their relationships with one another”
We plant the specimen trees and so we feel an ownership of them, even though they will,given a chance, inevitably outlive us and perhaps many of our descendants to come.  However, ownership comes with responsibilities and some people, when moving in to an area, a new home, can not handle that.  At first opportunity they wish to strip, cut and fell these wonderful beasts and even Tree Preservation Orders don’t count for much when human aspects are taken into account.  A tree near us recently got cut down.  An old, beautifully large Sycamore was felled in a day.  It was hollow inside, according to the tree surgeons and “had to come down”, maybe, but it broke our hearts.  This tree stood in a field with no livestock  or children (that I have ever seen).  The drive to the property ran along side it.  I really can’t see why such a giant of a tree needed to be felled when it did not pose direct risk to life or limb, just a bit of inconvenience if it were to fall across the drive.  I am being emotional about this,  in plain terms of Health and Safety, of legal and legislation there was no choice, but it still saddens me deeply.

Posted 8 years ago at 4:11 pm by Katie Wright.

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Sweeping the autumn leaves

Now the nights are drawing in and the days are that bit more cool, the trees are starting to look towards their winter hibernation. The chlorophyll is departing leaving the other beautiful pigments of yellows and oranges to shine out. Trapped glucose in the leaves creates the amazing firey red. The trees within the confines of Dean Hall and woods beyond glow like the last sudden flame of a dying fire and then the leaves start to drop.
I love the blanket they produce on the grass and the roads; the sounds and smells. There is simply nothing better than kicking your feet through a pile of autumn leaves!
However, occasionally, neatness is called for and so I find myself sweeping up the leaves from some of the paths around our home and in the gardens. My alter ego is a Tai Chi teacher with LotusLeaf Tai Chi and I began thinking whilst raking just how similar the two activities are.
Tai Chi movements are lead by the Dantien (one of three areas of energy, this one resides in the area of the stomach) and so too, I find, is the sweeping. Using a wire rake in wide sweeping actions from side to side, turning mostly from the waist.
The mind is emptied, in Tai Chi it is a purposeful emptying while the repetitive nature of the raking seems to naturally create such a state.
Finally, to outsiders, both can seem completely pointless! I have had many people say how they can’t see that Tai Chi has many benefits, after all you don’t sweat! And yet ask any long turm student and they are bound to tell you of an increased suppleness, fitness and general well being. The leaves? Apart from the wonderful leaf mould we will get from them next year and the tidying of the garden, what more purpose can you ask for but to spend time with an clear and calm mind!

Posted 8 years ago at 8:37 pm by Katie Wright.

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