Ted Homer photographs the county of Gloucestershire in a series exploring our relationship with land heritage and tradition

Words by Ted Homer

In modern times, our landscape is brought into question much more frequently; how we try to preserve our heritage and natural aesthetic, but also how we try to utilize our land for new uses.

This project aims to comment on these changes to our land, and investigate whether our perspective on land heritage and tradition is changing or if it’s dependent to the region, social class, or any variable.

Gloucestershire mirrors many of these same concerns the country faces as a whole. The county has four distinct regions; the Forest of Dean - a heavily post industrial area, The Cotswolds – a designated area of outstanding beauty, The Severn Vale – an area of low-lying land that follows the river Severn, and South Gloucestershire – a region that is made up of suburbs and commuter towns for Bristol.

Whiteway Colony, Cotswolds. 2015
The colony was founded in 1898 by a group of Tolstoyans, who bought 41 acres of land near the village of Miserden. Their socialist ideals included sharing provisions and welcoming people of all classes, religion and politics to be members.

The notion of ‘private property’ was rejected and the deeds to the land were burnt. Because of this, new colonists would be loaned a plot of land to build a home and live from. The colony abandoned their Tolstoy philosophy early on. Whiteway was visited in 1909 by Mahatma Gandhi, and was regarded as a failed Tolstoyan experiment.

The Colony still exists today, with some original structures, descendants of its original settlers remaining, and still no one legally owning land within the colony.

Thornbury, South Gloucestershire. 2014
When the county of Avon was created (1974) it was decided to take in much of the surrounding countryside of Bristol and Bath, taking parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset to form the county of Avon. In 1996, the former county of Avon was abolished, and instead of giving the areas back to the counties it was decided that the areas would create new Unitary authorities. South Gloucestershire was formed and named as such for the historic reason that it used to be southern Gloucestershire. The area is still part of the Ceremonial county of Gloucestershire.

A38 Patchway, South Gloucestershire. 2015
The A38 runs almost the full length of the county and has historically connected Gloucester and Bristol. Much of the A38 within Gloucestershire follows Roman roads and hasn’t changed course much overtime. The main shift in the road’s history was with the construction of the M5 (1962), which follows the route of the A38 closely and has taken much of the traffic from the road. This left many businesses and communities along the A38 affected, and there are still signs of this today with many pubs, petrol stations and hotels closed.

Cinderford, Forest of Dean. 2016
Before the 18th century, there was very little in the way of any permanent settlements within the Forest of Dean, apart from one small town of Cinderford. Much of the population was set up in illegal settlements made up of makeshift cabins on Crown land. The illegal settlers had to move in order to find work and for the threat of expulsion.

With industry and the population growing many settlers wanted to make permanent settlements, and so moved to the edge of the Crown owned forest and created roughly built hamlets. Overtime these hamlets became well established, and still exist like Parkend and Berry Hill. Industry continued to be the main employer within the forest, with the coal industry itself employing half of the male working population up until 1945. 20 years later the last large colliery, Northern United would close.

Dursley, Severn Vale. 2014
R A Lister and Co, set up in Durlsey in 1867 and soon became the towns largest employer and central to the area’s economy. The company started out producing a large range of agricultural machinery, until 1909 when they started to manufacture petrol engines. During World War l, the factory helped the war effort by producing munition components, and like many factories at the time women replaced the men that left to fight.

In 1929 the company started to produce diesel engines, and within the decade they became one of the largest manufacturers of diesel engines in the world. When World War ll struck the company went back to producing for the war effort again. After the war, the company struggled with labour costs and competition from abroad that copied their design. Many say that the company suffered because their engines were simply ‘too reliable’.

Through the company’s next 50 years they were bought out, merged with another company and in 1986 the company’s name changed to Lister Petter Ltd. In 2014 the company decided to relocate from Durlsey ending its association with the town. The 92 acre site that the factory was situated will be redeveloped with 450 planned new homes, a community hospital and commercial space.

Emersons Green, South Gloucestershire. 2015
The area was historically green belt land, used mainly for farming. It sits on one of the most southerly British coalfield which makes up the Bristol and Somerset Coalfield. Emersons Green itself wasn’t developed until the 1990’s, so it falls within the historic parish of Mangotsfield. The area was selected for development in 1985, and developers proposed to move the greenbelt further out to create a large residential area.

During the same period, the Avon Ring Road was created, which gave connections to other major roads such as the M32 and A4. These new transport links created an area perfect for businesses and eventually was decided to be the site for a new science and technology park. The £300 million construction of the park started in 2010 and was named Bristol Bath Science Park, which when completed should create around 6,000 jobs.

Robinswood Hill, Severn Vale. 2015
The hill was originally the main water source for Gloucester, with reservoirs built in the 1830’s that supplied the city until 1924. At its highest point, it is 650ft above sea level. Because of this the hill gains from panoramic views of the Severn Vale, Forest of Dean, Malvern Hills and both Severn Bridges.

In 1972 the hill became a country park, and in 2003 it gained importance by becoming a local nature reserve. In this time the hill became home to the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust headquarters, it also gained an artificial ski slope. The ski slope was also the place that Eddie the Eagle learnt to ski.

Princess Royal Colliery, Forest of Dean. 2016
Opened in 1842 the colliery grew to be highly productive for the Forest of Dean. At it’s height of productivity the colliery employed 1,300 men and produced 1,000 tons of coal per day. Princess Royal outlived many other large collieries of the area, and when nearby New Fancy colliery closed in 1944, Princess Royal found employment for 300 out-of-work miners. The colliery closed in 1962.

Some of the old colliery buildings are still in use by other industries and part of the site has been cleared for a new trading estate. North of the site is a very large spoil heap that belonged to the colliery that can be seen from the surrounding area.

Painswick Beacon, Cotswolds. 2015
Situated just over a mile north of the village of Painswick lies Painswick Beacon. Historically the site of an Iron Age hill fort called Kimsbury, dated around 500-100 BC. Much of the ramparts of the fort are still intact, but the interior of the fort has been heavily quarried. Local legends say that the stone quarried from the site was used to build Gloucester Cathedral.

In 1891 Painswick Golf club was founded. The course was partly built within the fort, using the ramparts to create a testing course. Now the long-distance footpath, the Cotswold Way runs through the site, and with the extensive views of the Severn Vale the fort attracts a lot of walkers.

Oldbury Nuclear Power Station, Severn Vale. 2014
Gloucestershire has been home to two nuclear power stations since the early 1960’s. The first nuclear power plant was Berkeley, which opened in 1962 and produced enough energy to supply a city the size of Bristol. After 27 years it was decommissioned, making it the first nuclear power station in the UK to close. The second nuclear power station is at Oldbury, and was built in 1967. This newer power station could produce almost double the electricity that Berkeley could. In 2012 Oldbury was also decommissioned.

The Berkeley site is going through decommissioning, but since 2014 has stored nuclear waste from Oldbury. Berkeley is believed to be cleared between 2070-80. Oldbury site may have a future as a new power plant, after it was selected by the government as one of eight sites suitable for future nuclear power plants.

A48 Nutshell, Forest of Dean. 2015
The A48 starts just outside Gloucester, and follows the River Severn. It stays within Gloucestershire until it reaches the Wales-England border and crosses over the River Wye. This stretch of the road is considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in Europe, with 28 serious collisions and 10 fatal incidents in the last five years.

The River Wye creates the Wales-England border. The A48 and the Gloucester to Newport railway line cross at the same point of the river. The railway bridge was originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and became his design prototype for his Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash, Cornwall.


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