1. The River Severn and Wye Railway
The Severn and Wye Railway was a railway in Gloucestershire that was constructed to allow exploitation of the mineral resources of the Forest of Dean. Originally constructed as a tramroad by The Severn and Wye Railway and Canal Company, work began in 1810. In 1868 the tramroad was first converted to broad gauge, and then to standard gauge in 1872. Upon bankruptcy in 1893 it was purchased jointly by the Midland Railway and Great Western Railway. The railway became a joint venture on 1 July 1894 and became known as the Severn and Wye Joint Railway (S&WJR). At one time the railway consisted of 39 miles of track.
The picture (left) shows the former trackbed near Cannop Ponds.
2. Bicslade Wharf
From 1874, when the Severn and Wye Railway was converted into locomotive power, the cargo carried down the Bicslade Tramroad were transferred at Bicslade Wharf onto trains to be shipped to their destinations. Traffic slowly declined during the early years of the 20th century; on 25th July 1944 the last stones was transported via the line, coal traffic stopped in 1946.
The picture shows the site of Bicslade Wharf now renamed as Cannop Wharf.
3. Cannop Ponds
Cannop Ponds consists of two large ponds.
The lower pond was created in 1825 to supply water, via a leat, to a waterwheel at Parkend Ironworks. The flow of water proved unreliable and an upper pond was added in 1829 to boost the supply.
4. Forest of Dean Firms Stoneworks
The Stoneworks were built in 1901 by Messrs Turner & Sons of Cardiff who operated a quarry in Bicslade.
Now owned by Forest of Dean Stone, in recent years the works have been modernised with the intorduction of computer controlled stone-cutting saws. Bixhead Quarry is still used as a source of stone by the Company.
5. Bicslade Tramroad Rails
If you look carefully, on the track which runs alongside the Forest of Dean Stoneworks, you should be able to spot a length of remnant tramroad rail.
By the time the tramroad closed, the track consisted mostly of angle irons 4.5 inches by 2.25 inches, half an inch thick, and 12 foot long. The guage was nominally 3ft 6 inches, but this tended to widen with time.
6. Bicslade Tramroad
The tramroad was opened in 1812. It ran between Bixhead Quarry and Bicslade Wharf. It served the Forest of Dean Stone Firm, Union Pit, Monument Mine, (which is still being worked now), Mine Train Quarry, Bicslade Low Level, Hopewell Mapleford Colliery,, Bicslade High Level, Spion Kop Quarry,, and Bixhead Quarry. New sidings to the quarries were laid between 1812 and 1855 to deal with the expanding industries of the area, thus by 1855 the tramroad had reached its largest extent.
Traffic slowly declined during the 1900's. On the 25th July 1944 the last stones were transported via the line, and coal traffic stopped in 1946. The tramroad was operated by horse-power until traffic finally stopped in the 1950's.
7. Union Pit
Union Pit was the site of a terrible disaster on 4th September 1902, when the colliery was flooded leading to four deaths.
The memorial reads:
Of the Men Who Died in the
Union Colliery Disaster
4th September 1902
Brothers Thomas James, Amos James
William Martin, Herber Gwatkin
"A Sudden Change at Gods Command They Fell
They Had No Time to Bid Their Friends Farewell"
Also Those Who Were Trapped for Five Days
Thomas Cooper, James Gwilliam, James Hawkins
8. Monument Mine
Started by Gerald Haynes and Norman Ennis (free miners) in 1980 and originally worked by Gerald Haynes, Norman Ennis and Ray Ashley. Subsequently for about twenty years Gerald worked the mine completely alone, and the mine became known as Hayners Bailey Mine. On Gerald's retirement in 2000 the mine was taken over and renamed Monument Mine and is currently worked by three miners.
The Yorkley Seam is being worked, with an average section of 2-3 feet. A coal cutter is used to work back and forth along the longwall face. The top 1-2 ft of coal is then removed with pneumatic picks.
Wooden props are used, cut from local timber. The coal is moved down the face by shovels, where it meets a chute and tub in the main haulage road. The loaded tubs are then wound out of the mine by the direct rope electric haulage engine, to the screens at the surface.
Annual production is around 500 tonnes per year, and the coal is sold directly to the public at the pit head.
9. MineTrain Quarry
Mine Train quarry has been worked mainly for the mineral reserves of high quality iron ore, since pre-Roman times and particularly during the Victorian era, until 1947. Stone was also extracted for building.
The present operators have worked the quarry since the early 1970's.
10. Bicslade Low Level
Bicslade Low Level was begun in 1809 by Thomas Halford and David Mushet who leased the gale from James & Peter Teague. By 1841 production from the Low Level reached 32 tons per day. Production is believed to have stopped about 1871.
11. Hopewell Mapleford Colliery
The earliest record of working relates to 1841, when 4320 tons of coal were produced.
The colliery was then intermittently worked until the 1970's.
12. Bicslade High Level
Bicslade High Level was driven in 1826 by David Mushet, and like the Low Level, worked the Coleford High Delf Seam.
The Level also drained a large area west of the Cannop Valley.
13. Small Quarries
The lower of the Small Quarries was owned by T. Porter in 1877. The site has also been worked for coal.
The remains of a loading bank and screens can be seen.
14. Spion Kop Quarry
Spion Kop Quarry, named after the Boer War battle of Spion Kop, was started in 1900 by Messrs Turner & Sons, who also built the stone works at Cannop Ponds. The stone worked was the Pennant Sandstone.
The quarry was worked until 1923.
15. Bixhead Quarries
There were around 20 quarries in the area in 1675, working the Pennant Sandstone. The Bicslade Tramroad was extended to the Bixhead Quarries around 1855, thus allowing stone to be transported directly to the Severn & Wye's main line at Cannop.
A large quarry here is still used as a source of stone by the present Forest of Dean Stone Firms.
Listen to Ron Beard talking about Bixhead Quarries... Bixhead-Quarry.mp3
On the left during the descent to Pheonix Mine, you will pass by 'Knob Quarry', which is still being worked.
16. Phoenix Mine
The Colliery was first driven in the 1880's. The mine is intermittently operated today, the Yorkley Seam of the Pennant Group is worked.
The site includes the drift, tramway track, screens and corrugated iron sheds.
Fine View of the Speech House and Cinderford
From the heights of Barnhill Plantation, along the route of the walk, a fine view is afforded of the Speech House, and beyond it, Cinderford.