As we are sure you are aware, the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley are areas of extreme natural beauty. We love exploring them ourselves just as much as we love telling our visitors about the hidden gems of the area. One such hidden gem is situated just under three miles away from the hotel at St Briavels and is yet another awe-inspiring natural occurrence: Slade Brook. This area was designated an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in 2003 because of its series of small waterfalls and pools which are known as Tufa Dams.
There are approximately sixty tufa dams along a section of Slade Brook which are the longest set in the country and are the result of both physical and chemical processes.
Rainwater enriched with calcium carbonate rises to the surface from springs along the brook. The water then has the carbon dioxide naturally removed by vegetation such as twigs, branches, algae, and moss which when coupled by the slow flow of water allows for photosynthesis which, in turn, removes the carbon dioxide. Once the carbon dioxide has been removed, the calcium carbonate is deposited which causes the dam-like structures known as tufa.
The natural beauty of the brook prompted a local poet, Sean Swallow to write this poem:
Slade Brook, December
For an hour, the applause of water over tufa dams ease,
and the brook more slowly pummels air into stone.
For an hour, foam accumulates on the surface,
a bust of toxic minerals,
and lime tree leaves will winter to be green.
Mist sweetens the woodland hour,
and every rotten thing connects a hairy root of ivy,
snakes up a mossy trunk and
monsters a butterscotch crown.
For a borrowed hour,
the flow does not draw down to the leathery River Wye,
and the yellow quarry trucks cease rumbling,
for an hour
threadbare wood sorrel grows on a hollow log,
growing until the rotten things that give it life also go.
Exploring Slade Brook and the Tufa Dams
Here at the Hotel, we have a series of walking maps kindly produced for us by Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tour Guides. The Slade Brook walk starts at Stowe Green, which is 1.3 miles by road from the Tudor Farmhouse. The route covers a distance of 4.3 miles and will take approximately one and a half to two and a half hours to complete. If you wanted a longer walk, you can combine this with the Stowe Walk to give a combined distance of 9.5 miles.
There are several points of interest along the route such as the proliferous use of the name Margaret as inspiration for place names. This could be in homage to St Margaret, or it could be in homage to the daughter of the Earl of Hereford in 1311.
Another significant point of interest is Lindor’s Country House Hotel. This Victorian house was built in the Tudor style in the 1840s however it features an iron fireplace frame from an earlier house dated 1600, although this is currently closed.
Don’t forget that you can book a table for a meal on your return to the hotel after your excursion or book a picnic to take with you. You may even wish to book a bike to be dropped off here at the Tudor Farmhouse from Wye Bikes to experience the area from a different vantage point.