Gallery four, on the upper floor of the mill, brings the story of the Forest up to the present day. Its purpose is to explain the changes of the last 100 years. Some of these have come from the development of forestry science, others from increased public interest in the woods.
In 1896 Glenbervie's Oaks were approaching eighty years in age. In addition to them other trees had been planted. including Beech and conifers. But Oak, mostly of even age, dominated the Forest. Now that ships were built from metal, the vast numbers of widely spaced, curly topped, Navy Oak had become a problem crop. At the same time it formed magnificent deciduous high forest which increasingly attracted visitors.
In 1897 R. C. Hill produced a report on the woodlands. His solutions were to fell the worst of it and to underplant the better Oak with Beech to draw it up. He also abandoned the management unit of the inclosure, replacing it with smaller areas called compartments.
The 1914-18 war once again highlighted the need for home-grown timber. The result was the creation of the Forestry Commission in 1919. At the outset, the Commission took over existing Crown woods and Royal Forests. Of the latter only six survived, including the Forest of Dean. It was the second largest forest in Britain.
Up to the 1950s, the Commission continued to plant broadleaves where the soils were good for them. Many other tree species were also introduced. After 1950 Government insisted upon maximum returns from state forests and coniferisation began. Conifers produced good timber in half the time taken by broadleaves. The character of the Forest began to change radically. Large areas of old Oak and Beech were clearfelled and replaced with fast growing evergreens. By 1971 local residents had persuaded the Minister of Agriculture to halt the process. He approved a balance of 45% broadleaves and 55% conifers for Dean. This mixture of tree types gives much visual variety to the woodlands and provides a wide spread of wildlife habitats.
Practical forestry has changed much since 1896. Until the early 1950s all felling was done by hand with the axe and crosscut saw. Today it is highly mechanised. Almost everything has changed including the products and their uses.
The use of the Forest for amenity has increased steadily; in 1938 Dean was made England's first National Forest Park.
Today the Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission for three objectives: timber production, amenity and conservation.
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