RIDING BACK IN TIME
"If you go down to the woods
today, you're in for a big surprise
" It isn't teddy bears
who are the unusual inhabitants of the Forest of Dean, but you may
still get a surprise! It seems camels are the new locals - as Tessa
Although you may immediately conjure up pictures of sandy
landscapes and hot winds when you think of camels, you may be a little
off the mark.
Deep in the Forest of Dean, a national park famous for
its medieval English countryside and traditions, you can hop aboard one
of the forest's resident camels for a trek you'll never forget.
Inside Out's intrepid presenter Tessa Dunlop hopped aboard
one of the camels to find out more about this amazing park and its residents.
Meet Taiphet. He's the new man in Tessa's life and will
be carrying her across the land between two rivers in the Forest of Dean.
As the pair eye each other up suspiciously it seems Tessa
is slightly more concerned than her new partner. "Does he bite,"
Taiphet has been living at a farm near Chepstow where
owner Alistair has been looking after him.
"They were working camels in Somerset but they haven't
worked since foot and mouth," he says.
Now it's time for Taiphet to make the journey from the
farm into the forest. He is due to arrive by the end of the day and will
take up his role of being a Forest of Dean local.
Tessa becomes slightly concerned when she hears Taiphet
hasn't been ridden for four years, but is assured he is "usually
OK when he's away from home".
The voyage begins
temperament preceeds him|
Image: Courtesy Nicholas Davis
Taiphet is moving to Speech House, where he will take
visitors for treks along the forest paths where they'll get a different
view of the area.
Visitors don't have to put up with the precarious Bedouin-style
set up you may find elsewhere. Taiphet has his own designer seat, which
Tessa is rather pleased about.
The journey is about to begin but our fearless explorers
have got stuck at the starting gate.
Taiphet is more worried about his stomach and Tessa is
given instructions to let him eat the nettle leaves if he wants.
The other camels are a bit miffed because their pal is
heading off alone, well in theory anyway.
Still not quite sure where to find the accelerator, Tessa
asks for some advice. "It's eight feet up, so don't fall off,"
says rather unhelpfully.
Finally Taiphet gets the hint and the journey begins.
The pair have until sunset to arrive at Speech House, so Tessa plans to
discover a bit more about the forest on the way.
Lying between the Rivers Wye and Severn, the Forest of
Dean is home to some of Britain's most spectacular countryside.
One of the few remaining Royal Forests in Britain, the
forest has maintained much of its tradition and heritage.
of Dean is a walker's delight with paths and tracks leading you deep
into the forest|
In 1938 the forest was designated a "National Forest
Park" - the very first in Britain, which means it was recognised
as having cultural and environmental significance.
The Forest of Dean boasts plenty to do, even if camels
aren't your cup of tea.
Tessa and Taiphet take a break from their journey as
they come across a group of local children.
Tessa is given a lesson in camel control - apparently
if you wave a branch in front of your camel you'll get some action - but
she can't help but think that a few generations ago these children would
be living a very different life.
Dating back to the 17th Century, the Forest of Dean had
the highest concentration of iron furnaces and forges in the whole of
If you look around at the lush landscape it can be hard
to imagine today, yet incredibly there are still some freeminers who live
and work here.
As Taiphet sets out to eat his own bodyweight in leaves,
Tessa finds out about mining from Dave Harvey, one of the few freeminers
who keep the tradition alive.
|"It's a privilege to say I'm a
freeminer and I've been one since 1963"|
Dave is a freeminer and fountain of forest knowledge.
He has worked here most of his adult life and couldn't be happier.
Eight hundred years ago miners were granted the right
to mine coal and iron ore within the Forest of Dean.
Although the numbers of miners today are dwindling there
are some, like Dave, who wouldn't want to do anything else.
"The Forest of Dean is classed as God's own country
there's so much to learn. I was born and bred here and I love it,"
Back on the trail
Alas chatting isn't going to get a certain camel delivered
on time so it's back on the road for Taiphet and Tessa.
Unfortunately for our pair of explorers the weather isn't
bothered about their mission, but a bit of rain isn't going to stop these
|Forest of Dean Facts|
The Forest of Dean is one of England's last remaining
The Forest occupies an area of 204 square miles
Around 20 million trees cover the forest including;
oak, beech, ash, birch and holly trees
The forest was originally designated by the Saxons
The Forest of Dean has its own museum that houses
a collection of artefacts that illustrates the historical importance
of the area
As they continue their journey Tessa passes the Clearwell
Caves, which boast nine caverns to explore, and takes a detour to look
at Mallards Pike.
Taking its name from a tollhouse that used to stand at
the site, Mallards Pike is a picturesque man-made picnic area surrounding
a large lake.
The pair are slowly but surely making good ground, although
Taiphet's dawdling is interspersed by regular "snack attacks"
as he passes a barrage of tasty trees.
As they enter the final stages of their journey Tessa
and Taiphet are stopped by Roger Drury from the Forest of Dean's own community
Taiphet has become bashful so it's up to Tessa to find
out why a national park would need its own radio station.
Run by five paid workers and a group of volunteers, the
community radio station was set up in 1995 when it broadcast to Cinderford
during a three day festival.
Forest of Dean Radio now broadcasts once a week, and
pretty well anyone can drop in to make a programme, though it seems they
are drawing the line at Taiphet.
And so our weary travellers mosey in to Speech House,
a day full of adventures behind them.
Built in 1676, Speech House was originally a hunting
lodge for Charles II, though it soon became known as the administrative
heart of the forest.
weather was against them Taiphet and Tessa made good time|
Image: Courtesy Nicholas Davis
The largest room became the Verderers' Court, so locals
knew it as the place you went to talk or to make a Speech - hence the
name "Speech House".
Speech House is now a luxury hotel in the heart of the
forest, and the new home of Taiphet the camel.
As Tessa dismounts she gives her travel buddy a word
of advice. "As for your new neighbours - I've found they're fiercely
loyal, charismatic and always put the forest first.
"So as long as you behave yourself, Taiphet, you
should be just fine here," she says.
The pair part with a camelish "smooch" and
Tessa bids farewell to her new four legged friend, thankful he has helped
her find out some of the history and tradition hiding in this beautiful