Gloucester
Soudley Ponds
Gloucestershire GL14
 

 

The Soudley Ponds are four linked bodies of water in the Forest of Dean, a haven for wildlife and surrounded by an impressive stand of Douglas Firs.

The pools are definitely man-made but the real mystery is who originally made them and for what purpose. Most locals have always known them as the ‘hammer ponds’ but we are now told that they were created for recreational fishing in the 19th century.

This writer is of the opinion that clues lie in the names of the surrounding woods – Abbots Wood, Foundry Wood and Wellsprings Wood.

These names tell us that Flaxley Abbey owned Abbots Wood until it was claimed by the Crown at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Crown actively encouraged iron-mining and metal working. Wellsprings Wood tells us there was plenty of water bubbling out of the ground forming fast flowing streams, and Foundry Wood that there was an iron foundry in the area.

We know that iron-working had been carried on in the Forest of Dean since Roman times and that mining and metal working was the main occupation of the Forest. We also know that furnaces and foundries grew up beside the fast flowing streams where waterwheels powered the blast furnaces and foundry hammers. We also know that streams were dammed to conserve water for the industry in dry times.

It is quite possible that the Soudley Ponds started life as small dams across Sutton Brook. This could account for the local names of Sutton’s Pools and ‘Hammer Ponds’.

History
The official history is as follows: Atkinson’s map of 1847 shows only a stream running through the valley where the ponds now lie, and it is nowadays assumed they were created as fish ponds after the land’s 1836 purchase by mine-owner William Crawshay. In 1899 the ponds, along with the rest of the Abbotswood Estate, were sold by Robert Crawshay, William’s son, to the Crown, from which point they were leased for fishing to private individuals.
 
It was only in 1906 that the ponds became as they are today, following the work of Arthur Morgan, who had that year acquired the lease of the ponds, and after whom the lowest of the ponds is still locally known as Morgan’s Pool.
 
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Today
Now in the care of the Forestry Commission, the top three ponds are nature reserves and biological Sites of special Scientific Interest. The lowest pond is leased to anglers of the Soudley Fishing Consortium so there is no public fishing.
 
Walks
The walking paths around the ponds are surfaced but not Waymarked. They start from both the north and south car parks.
 
A steep walk up the ridge leads to the Blaize Bailey viewpoint overlooking the River Severn.
 
The Soudley Ponds are lovely at any time of year, but particularly beautiful in Spring when the bluebells are in flower, and Autumn when the leaves change colour.
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)1594 833 057
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Getting There
- By Car:   From the B4226 Cinderford to Coleford road, take the minor road through Ruspidge to Soudley (signposted to the Dean Heritage Centre).
 
In the village of Soudley take the minor road to Littledean, finding the Soudley Ponds car park after 3/4 of a mile (1.2 km) on the right hand side. Limited parking available.
 
Google Maps - Soudley Ponds