Since its creation in 1993, the FDP has taken an interest in conserving the environment, natural and man-made, of the Dymock poets’ area and enhancing its opportunities for quiet enjoyment. During 2013 and 2014, two proposed changes to the Dymock environment have exercised the FDP committee and prompted us to consider how best we as a small organisation can play a part in conservation and recreation enhancement.
Building on May Hill
In May 2013, we heard of a plan to build a large executive-style mansion on the slopes of May Hill. This was a favourite spot of the poets; indeed, Edward Thomas’s poem Words was composed on the hill, during a cycling expedition with John Haines. The location for the proposed development was on a particularly lovely spot. The FDP sent in a formal objection to the planning application and joined with local residents to fight the proposal, issuing a press release about our concerns and lobbying councillors. We were delighted when at the eleventh hour, just before the Forest of Dean Council’s planning committee would have come to a decision on the proposal, the applicant withdrew his application. You can read about ‘The Battle for May Hill’ in our Summer 2013 newsletter.
Polytunnels at Redmarley d’Abitot
Then, later in 2013, Redmarley d’Abitot parish council asked for our support to head off a plan to cover a large area west of the village in polytunnels. The poets would have known this area well. Lascelles Abercrombie’s base in Ryton was close by and the cottage at which Robert Frost confronted a local gamekeeper about access to local woods stood close to the proposed development site, just off Poets Path 1, which runs along its southern boundary. We consider that the proposed development would transform this small-scale, intimate and varied landscape into an alien, industrial one.
FDP committee member Jackie Tweedale urges Forest of Dean District Council councillors to refuse planning permission for polytunnels at Redhill Farm at a protest in Coleford in February 2014.
Part of the land at Redhill Farm, Redmarley D’Abitot
FDP committee members examine the impact on the landscape of polytunnels at Lintridge Farm, Redmarley D’Abitot in January 2014. This farm had already been covered in polytunnels, and it adjoins and is in the same business ownership as the farm that was the subject of the planning application.
Again, we lodged a formal objection to the Forest of Dean District Council and worked with local people to campaign against this plan. You can read about our activities on this front in the article entitled ‘Poets versus Polytunnels’, which was published in the April 2014 edition of our newsletter.
In July 2014, the applicant for planning consent at Redmarley, Cobrey Farms, based at Ross-on-Wye, lodged an appeal to government against the refusal of planning consent. The FDP has written to the inspector considering this appeal re-stating its objections. We await the outcome of this appeal with great interest.
What next – proactive campaigning?
We in the FDP committee would like to do more to conserve the poets’ landscape. Of course we appreciate that the FDP will always remain primarily a literary society and of course we prefer to work with farmers, landowners and developers wherever possible. However, we should like to be in a position to consider proposals for change in the area systematically, f or instance, by regularly examining the registers of applications for planning consent and those for the advance notification of the removal of hedgerows.
But we should also like to campaign proactively for new measures to conserve and enhance the Dymock poets countryside, for instance, through the designation of new conservation areas to increase protection for key spots, the encouragement of schemes to restore the landscape and wildlife value of areas that have been damaged by modern agriculture and the replacement where necessary of road signs with others more sympathetic to the area’s history.
We should also like to extend our work in defending and extending the rights of walkers, cyclists and riders in the Dymock poets area. Individual members of our committee, such as Barbara Davis and Jackie Tweedale, have done much to defend public rights of way threatened with closure or diversion. But there is so much more we should like to do or at least to consider doing. For example, should the network of Poets Paths be extended? Should we campaign for more public access to particular sites? How can we encourage greater access to the poets’ countryside for people with disabilities? How can we encourage safer cycling in the area?
Is any of this an aspect of the FDP’s activities in which you would like to play an active part? If it is, do please get in touch with us, through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning or texting Marion Shoard on 07743 534 443.