Forestry England have today released a new heritage assessment report for Cannop Ponds. This report is an independent assessment which looks at the potential impacts of future work at Cannop Ponds on its heritage.
The report finds that whether the dams are rebuilt or removed, loss of some of our industrial heritage is inevitable.
Cannop Ponds form part of the historic industrial landscape within the Forest of Dean, and were created to provide a reliable source of water for the Parkend Ironworks.
Lower Cannop Pond was created first, in 1825, using the embankment of a tramway to create a dam on the Cannop Brook. Water was then diverted from the pond along a channel (called a leat), which can still be seen today to the south-east of the lower pond. Upper Cannop Pond was created a few years later to increase the amount of water available for the ironworks.
From Lower Cannop Dam, water was carried through the leat to the water wheel at the ironworks. The connecting leat can still be traced on the ground and is just one surviving part of a network of waterways that channelled water to the water wheel.
While the ponds and their structures are not legally protected as listed buildings or scheduled monuments, they are still an important part of the Forest of Dean’s history of coal mining, iron working and stone quarrying.
The findings of the Heritage Impact Assessment will be an integral part of the process of developing solutions and making a decision on how to address dam safety requirements.
Kevin Stannard, Deputy Surveyor for Forestry England, said:
“Cannop Ponds are an attractive and much-loved part of the Forest of Dean. The Ponds themselves are part of our industrial heritage with a story to tell.
“There are different types of heritage, and each has a different value and interest to different people. At Cannop, the ponds are part of the historic environment, constructed as they were to harness the energy of the water to power industry.
“The Lower Cannop dam was first built to carry the horse-drawn tramway, and is such a valued part of our built heritage.
“The actual structures of the dams are approaching 200 years old and are likely to contain evidence of their original construction and centuries of repairs and alterations.
“From what we know so far, no matter what option is chosen for Cannop, the industrial heritage will be impacted. Our challenge is to develop realistic options that respect these heritage values, whilst also addressing the needs of today.”
The challenge for Forestry England is how to balance the duty of care and legal requirement to make the reservoir safe, with the needs of our wildlife and a changing climate.
Whatever the solution, sadly there will be a loss to the historic environment – either to the historic landscape or to the historic structures. These two things cannot be easily weighed against each other.
While compromises will need to be made, we will seek to ensure we mitigate any losses to our heritage, record what we have before it is lost or altered and tell the story of the Forest for future generations.