Foresters’ Forest: investigations continue

  • 3rd February 2018


What’s been happening since the Soudley Camp excavation took place in October? The Foresters’ Forest Project is a five year Heritage Lottery Fund programme exploring and protecting the Forest of Dean’s heritage, but what does it actually involve?

Since October we have been working with local volunteers to begin the huge task of recording heritage sites picked up by lidar several years ago (a form of aerial survey where the return time of reflected lasers targeted at the ground is measured). An incredible 1700 possible heritage sites have been identified from this survey, which uses the height difference between returning lasers to ‘remove’ trees and see the ground surface below. Gloucestershire County Council has tried to distinguish heritage features from non-heritage related anomalies and identify what each site is.

Enclosed hillfort with fields to north, east & south

Lidar survey of Welshbury hillfort & surrounding fieldsystem, with & without trees (Image (c) Peter Crow. Forest Research; source, Cambridge University ULM (2004))  


No one had previously gone out and matched up these interpretations with what’s visible on the ground. One of the project missions is therefore to visit as many of these locations as possible and identify and record what’s there. To do this, we have been training groups of local volunteers to carry out walkover surveys and record features they encounter. During the project’s pilot phase (in 2016), our wonderful volunteers recorded an impressive 227 heritage sites! Only 1500 or so to go…

Group of adult volunteers listening to guidance

Foresters’ Forest training day for survey volunteers


Now that the main phase of the Foresters’ Forest is underway, our survey volunteers are back out in the forest. Andy and Justin ran a refresher course before Christmas for volunteers from the pilot phase, along with two recent training days for new recruits. The survey group is now 50 strong, so three teams led by our more experienced volunteers have been formed. Each group has their own allocated 1km map squares of the Forest that they’ll walk over to locate, validate and record all lidar anomalies, beginning with the areas north of Cannop, Soudley and Coleford.

This valuable work, which will continue until the vegetation gets too high then pick up again next winter, isn’t just about understanding the lidar data for the sake of research. Information about what archaeology and built heritage exists in the Forest of Dean will help the Forestry Commission to manage the Forest better for future generations.

Keep an eye out over the next few months to see what we find!


One response to “Foresters’ Forest: investigations continue”

  1. Jenni says:

    That’s an epic amount of work but will be so rewarding. Hoorah for volunteer power!

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