Devil's Chapel: A Secret Wonderland
A strange and eerie place lies in a corner of the Forest of Dean - The Devil's Chapel. Near to the village of Bream, this atmospheric network of chasms began as a "scowle", a geological phenomena unique to the Forest of Dean area.
Underground caves were formed millions of years ago and iron was gradually deposited in their cracks and crevices as time went on. The ground above them eroded away and the caves became open gullies.
Most of the scowles were exploited for mining the iron ore they held by the Romans as well as earlier Britons, then left abandoned to nature where they gained their fantastic moss-covered appearance. Many people will be familiar with the nearby Puzzlewood, a place created from a set of scowles and planted out as a forest, but The Devil's Chapel has escaped the hand of man, remaining much as it was centuries ago.
I'm not sure if anything devilish went on here but the central column, known as The Pulpit, does lend itself to imagined scenarios of witches or cult leaders howling out at their congregation. A nearby rock formation has the appearance of a set of doors into the cliff itself, fueling local belief that JRR Tolkien visited here and was inspired to create either Durin's Door or the entrance to the elven stronghold of Nargathrond. There was nothing in the professor's diaries to indicate that he did walk here but he did work remotely on translating the inscriptions found at the Roman ruins of Lydney, just a couple of miles away.
I take a very close look at this fascinating corner of the Forest Of Dean in my book The Mystery Of Mercia II, available now.