The past, present, and future of Forest of Dean’s next major tourist attraction

Work on the £2.1million government-funded Destination Lydney Harbour project has finally begun.

The first phase, at the area between the A48 roundabout on Harbour Road and the docks, consists of creating toilets and a café – both of which should be open next year.

Plans include improving walkways and cycle tracks, as well as creating new mooring and seating points. There will be a new walking trail (to link the Harbour to the town) and public artworks installed to add creativity and colour to the area.

There are also plans to refurbish the historic swing bridge, and potentially repair the sea gates.

New glass-fronted upmarket fish restaurant

The crowning glory will be an upmarket fish restaurant to bring in plenty of visitors. Richard Cook, the owner of the Severn and Wye Smokery, intends his restaurant to have contemporary glass front panelling to give diners views into the picturesque harbourside area.

He also wants to move his £53 million fish business to the docks where he can create an 8,000 square metre eel-breeding facility to preserve rare elvers found in the River Severn.

Winning funding bid by Lydney Coastal Communities

The bid for funding for the project was written by the Lydney Coastal Communities Team, which includes the Environment Agency and Lydney Yacht Club. Funding for the first phase is via the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Coastal Community Fund.

Forest of Dean district councillor, Bernie O’Neill, said he was delighted that work had finally begun on the scheme.

The cabinet member for economy @FoDDC added:

“As the COVID-19 lockdown eases we are entering a critical period of recovery.

“The completion of the harbour regeneration project will help strengthen our community and local economy and complement the immediate work we are doing now to ensure people feel safe when they come into our towns”

Lydney Harbour dates back to Henry II

A port during the reign of Henry II, Lydney Harbour was originally located near the town’s church. It was a busy shipbuilding area until the River Severn changed course and Lydney became landlocked as a result.

Coal saved the harbour in the 19th century

The Lydney Harbour we know today was built around 1813 and consisted of a horse-drawn tramway, which was used to transport coal and iron to both the wharves and dock area. That’s because the Forest of Dean was a big mining area, exporting around 300,000 tonnes of coal a year. There were even nine coal tips created at the Harbour, with three cranes to aid moving cargo onto the boats.

But WW1 and a huge economic post-war downturn put an end to the area’s thriving coal industry

Wood became the saving grace in the 1940s

For a time, pine was the main export from the harbour area, thanks to the government-funded Pine End Works. Plywood was used for aircraft during WW2. It was created using imported wood from Africa. The industry lasted until 1977 and the plant closed in 2004.

As for the future of the harbour, the new development is exciting but climate change may lead to flooding, with the result some analysts predict it’ll all be underwater by 2050.

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