A BELOVED family attraction of significant cultural and historical importance to the Forest is inviting people to help celebrate its 40th anniversary this weekend.

The Dean Heritage Centre in Soudley has archived and celebrated the Forest’s societal, cultural and industrial history since it first opened in the 1980s.

Its museum, cafe and activities remain an important part of Forest culture today, with locals and visitors of all ages enjoying the centre’s varied offerings all year round.

This weekend, August 12 and 13, and throughout the coming week, the team will welcome people along to celebrate the milestone with a variety of events, including a ‘Summer Fayre’.

The centre is run by the Dean Heritage Museum Trust, a registered charity formed in 1979 out of public concern that the heritage of the Forest of Dean “was disappearing fast”.

In 1981 the Trust acquired its current site at Camp Mill and with generous donations from the local community was able to open a museum to the public in 1983.

Its five onsite galleries allow visitors to travel through time from the pre-historic Forest to how the community coped during WW2, including through interactive displays and activities.

The site at Camp Mill itself has a rich history, as it is thought to have been in use since the 1600s as an iron forge built on the orders of King James I, who controlled mining rights in the Forest at the time.

It was then setup as an iron foundry in the 1800s to make products needed by the coal and iron mining industries.

It then became a corn mill in the late 19th century, using a waterwheel to grind wheat to make flour to feed the Forest’s increasing population, and a leather board factory making insoles for shoes.

The site was converted into a sawmill in the early 20th century, producing railway wagons and sleepers.

Remnants of those industries can still be found at the site today, including a waterwheel and water-driven turbine.

It was then used as a scrap metal yard until the 80s when it became the Dean Heritage Centre.

This month’s celebrations begin with a Summer Fayre, featuring sellers of local crafts, books and produce as well as a range of activities on Saturday and Sunday (August 12 and 13).

A description of the event says: “We have a variety of stalls from local businesses including, crafts, books, jewellery, sweet treats, local produce and  much more. 

“On Sunday ‘Little Owlets’ will be in residence and we will have a performance at noon from the ‘TrebleMakers’.

“There will be kid’s crafts in our craft hut, lawn games in the paddock and a raffle. Everything is included in admission which means you can explore the museum and gruffalo trail too!”

There will also be guided tours taking place on Tuesday (August 15) at 11am and 2pm, booking for which is recommended.

And on the following day (Wednesday), the centre is offering free admission to under 16s for its ‘Kids go Free’ day.

For more information, go to www.deanheritagecentre.com/whats-on.