Harbour trail uncovers layers of Forest history

By Jake Chown  
Friday 1st July 2022 4:00 pm

Two of the sculptures ‘Lookout’ and ‘Coalarch’ are inspired by old photos from the harbour’s glory days. Pic: Charles Emerson

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VISITORS to Lydney Harbour are now able to learn more about the Forest’s rich industrial heritage following the completion of a new art trail inspired by its past and present.

Part of the district council-led ‘Destination Lydney Harbour’ regeneration project, a series of sculptures dubbed ‘From the Forest to the Sea’ has now been installed along a path between the harbour and the town.

The installations have been created by artist duo Denman + Gould, and are designed to “make connections” between the industrial history of the harbour and its present uses for recreation.

The project is part of the £2.1 million regeneration of the site, which has included the provision of a new cafe, public toilets and tree planting, with a lit footpath into town and the resurfacing of Harbour Road set to be completed this year.

Forest of Dean District Council Cabinet Member for Economy, Cllr Bernie O’Neill, said of the trail’s completion: “One of the main goals of our regeneration project at Lydney Harbour has been to develop the area as a recreation and tourism destination for local residents and visitors to the area.

“The art trail is a key part of achieving this. It will give people a new way of experiencing the harbour and of understanding its pivotal role in the Forest of Dean’s industrial past for many years to come.”

The trail starts at the roundabout on the A48 leading to Station Road, and continues along the former railway line alongside the canal, ending “where the harbour meets the sea.”

The first construction, ‘Tower’, is made of green oak and alludes to the timber cross-braced supports used in a range of local heavy industries, such as coal mining and railways, during the industrial revolution.

At the harbour, two eye-catching sculptures, ‘Lookout’ and ‘Coalarch’, are “silhouetted against the skyline” next to the Severn.

The artworks stand “in the footprints” of structures seen in old photos from the harbour’s golden age, beside coal tip number nine.

‘Lookout’ is inspired by an octagonal white hut, and is made of blue green Forest of Dean pennant stone.

‘Coalarch’ is made of timber which has been charred using a technique called Shou Sugi Ban, to resemble coal, historically one of the harbour’s main exports.

Along the walking trail between the train station and the harbour, three “playful” stacked sculptures inspired by the former railway on the path have been installed.

Sleepers have been inscribed with the poetic names of Forest of Dean collieries, and the ships that used to dock at the harbour.

Artists Russell Denman and Eleanor Goulding said of the works: “From the first moments we spent at the harbour we knew this project would be about the fascinating layers of history as well as the incredible landscape, and the inseparable connection between the two.

“When we first saw the archive images of these two buildings at the harbour we immediately asked ourselves how we could reimagine these structures for the future.

“One was up, one was down, one was black one was white, one was square, one was octagonal, we became very interested in how this relationship could work for two art works and what the two works could represent.

“We feel incredibly privileged to have been a part of this project, the harbour has become a place very close to our hearts as a place with such a rich connection to the past and an incredible place to experience the unique landscape of the Severn Estuary.”

The installation of the lit footpath on Harbour Road has also began this month, along with the resurfacing of the road by Gloucestershire Highways.

For more information, go to www.fdean.gov.uk/visitlydneyharbour.

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