At the footpath sign we are crossing the Gloucestershire Way, a 94 mile waymarked and signed footpath that runs from Chepstow to Tewkesbury.
At this point the start at Chepstow is a 10 mile walk to the left and the end at Tewkesbury is an 84 mile walk to the right. Later, on Mill Hill, we will see one of the unique yellow Gloucestershire Way waymarks. They all carry the phrase that sums up the landscapes traversed by the walk: “’Forest and Vale and High Blue Hill’. This comes from the poem, ‘A Song of Gloucestershire’ by local poet F W Harvey.
Harvey lived his later years at Yorkley and knew the area well. He presided over concerts given by Whitecroft Male Voice Choir in the woods of Devil’s Chapel, less than a mile from here and part of Lydney Park Estate..
Ahead and in the distance is the woodland of Noxon Park. Before descending the track and entering the Park, which is a wooded area of scowles or old iron ore workings, it is worth contemplating what this must have been like for the early miners, including women and children, who walked this path many years before you.
Before the Mines Act of 1842 children below the age of 10 were allowed to work in the mines for up to 11 or 12 hours a day with Sunday as their day of rest. They would have been roughly clothed and poorly fed and their life expectancy would have been less than half of ours today. Conditions were extremely hazardous and the work unimaginably hard by today’s standards. In his book of 1853 William Cobden referred to it as ‘White Slavery’. The usual form of lighting underground would have been crude lamps or candles placed in a ball of clay and held in the mouth by means of a forked twig which pierced the clay ball. This crude candle holder was known locally as a ‘nelly’.