Gloucester
Dean Forest Roman Road
Blackpool Bridge
Near Viney Hill
Gloucestershire
 

 

Exposed beside the minor road running between Viney Hill and Parkend is a section of ancient road. For many generations, Foresters, including this writer and the well-known Forest of Dean author, Humphrey Phelps, knew this piece of road as ‘the Roman road’. There was even a sign put up stating that it dated to the 1st or 2nd century AD.

Now there is some dispute as to whether the exposed stones and kerbing are Roman or medieval so the sign has been taken down. Nevertheless, it is a thrill to see this ancient road threading its way through the old trees, one branch forging straight ahead fording the brook, and the other branch diverging up and over the little bridge. We know it is a very old bridge because it is built without a keystone.

There is no doubt that the ancient road follows the route of the Roman road from Weston-under-Penyard to Lydney on the River Severn. In fact, the Forest of Dean is criss-crossed by Roman roads. Humphrey Phelps has captured beautifully the mystery and history of the Forest in his book: The 'Forest of Dean' published 1982.

Reproduced below is the section about Blackpool Bridge and the exposed road:

At Blackpool Bridge there is an exposed section of Roman road, some twenty yards long and about eight feet wide, complete with kerbing. On the other side of the brook a few hours work could easily expose a much larger section. A noticeboard reads: ‘Roman Road, Lydney to Mitcheldean, known length 10½ miles, probably 1st or early 2nd century AD.’ But some people believe the road pre-dates the Romans and that they only adopted it. However, it was the Roman’s road to Ariconium (Weston-under-Penyard) even if it was not originally built by them.

The Roman’s Ariconium was a 250 acre complex of iron smelting works and the iron ore was brought from the Forest along this road. That the town was a Roman Birmingham cannot be doubted’.

Today there are a few farms at Weston where the pastures are deficient in cobalt which results in unthriftyness in cattle and sheep and this deficiency is attributed to the ancient ironworks.

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Drummer Boy Stone
Near Blackpool Bridge is the Drummer Boy Stone, a block of Devonian Conglomerate with two hollows one of which contains iron. The history of this stone is unknown, but there are several theories: it held sacrificial blood, it was used as a cresset, as a mold into which molten iron was poured, it marks the grave of a Drummer Boy. Or it could be just a stone with a couple of hollows, one of which had mysteriously acquired some molten iron - there is an outcrop of quartz conglomerate in this district and several blocks of it can be seen.
 
There is a more modern road beside the Roman one at Blackpool Bridge , and while the Romans splashed over a brook we can travel over a bridge on the way to Upper Soudley. This narrow road through the woods is quite the most delightful road in all the Forest, especially in springtime when the wild cherry trees are in bloom.
 
Getting There
- By Car:  
Leave the A48 at Newnham heading to Viney Hill. From the Newnham direction take “New Road" towards Parkend. New Road changes its name to ”Fancy Road”.
 
Turn right under the old railway bridge. Follow the little road for about 500 yards (450 meters) and where it veers right over a very old tiny stone bridge you will see the exposed stones and kerbing of the “Roman” road.  
 
Google Maps - Roman Road Forest of Dean