Edward Hunt's Forest of Dean Miscellany

Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

Spruce Drive

The Spruce Drive looking towards Staple Edge

Better to come too early than too late. For, even should March winds still bluster, coal will not be grudged us on the Speech House hearths; the walls are thick, the rooms are snug. Even outside there are warm places in the woods, and it is such a shelter that we seek to-day.

The great Spruce Drive, planted when the neighbouring inclosures were made about three-quarters of a century ago*, is close at hand. In reality there are two such drives, crossing each other at right angles. The shorter one is entered by strolling through the oaks and hollies to the east of the hotel, upon the right side of the road to Foxes Bridge and Cinderford. A fence dividing the inclosure from the open Holly Wood will soon be seen, and in this boundary a gate and a stile give access to the drive. But we will make for the north-west end of the longer drive which emerges on the open lawn just south of the hotel.

The two long lines of spruce were planted about forty feet apart, the trees in each being spaced at intervals of nearly thirty feet. They average now some fifty feet and more in height – comparatively shorter at the end nearer the hotel, but growing in towering stately dignity as we proceed. They form two giant hedges, which, as we pass between them, seem at once to shut us from all contact with the woodland life beyond. The March wind may, if blowing from the right quarter, sweep the long drive from end to end; to penetrate the spreading branches is beyond its power. We hear it harrying the bare trees in the woods upon the farther side; we hear the shivering rustle of the dead leaves clinging to the sapling oak. But the loud voice dies down to a mere sigh among the dark funereal branches that to-day protect us from the blast. All sounds – the scream of jays, the barking of a distant dog - come to us muffled through these walls of green. It is a place of great silence, broken only when a squirrel darts across the grass and leaps into a tree, to send a chattering defiance down upon us as we pass. Only above, the hard clear blue of the wind-swept March sky, a radiant vision, brilliant and clear between the dark tree-tops, looks down upon the sombre place.

  The text above is from:
                “The Forest of Dean”
                by Arthur O. Cooke
                publisher: Constable 1913

* The author, Arthur O. Cooke, is writing in 1912, this dates the Spruce drive to about 1850.

Edward Hunt