This Saturday the Blood and Sand entertain Cinderford, with home matches for both the 1st and 2nd XV against the men from the Forest of Dean. The 3rd XV entertain Norwich Medics.
Cinderford is in the Forest of Dean. There is evidence of occupation of the forest back to Neolithic times. Long barrows speak of Iron age occupation before the Romans. The oldest occupied house in England is in the nearby village of Littledean - parts of the structure of the hall date back to the the fifth Century Saxon building - though there is also a Roman temple in the grounds. The Hall has been rebuilt several times the current structure is Stuart.
The Norman kings claimed the forest as their personal hunting grounds. By Stuart times the easy access to both coal and iron made the forest a very valuable royal asset. While Charles 1 was attempting to rule without Parliament he used the forests as a source of income. This led to a series of uprisings as the local residents lost their traditional rights as the land was sold off. In the case of the Forest of Dean, to Sir John Winter.
These disafforestation riots were a precursor to the Civil War. However, the Parliamentary victory did not resolve the foresters problems. Cromwell continued the policy of enclosing and selling off the forest. When Charles II landed to reassert the Royalist cause, he tried to rally the discontented foresters to his army. Unfortunately it was defeated thoroughly at the battle of Worcester and Charles had to flee. On the restoration Winter reasserted his rights which led to more unrest. But eventually in 1668 Charles II restored forest law.
One key feature of life in the forest is the right of free mining. This right was formalised in 1682 - though there is evidence of much earlier origins. Any person living in the Hundred of St Briavels - which includes all of the Forest - that has spent a year and a day working in a mine within the Hundred, earns the right to a plot of land on which they may mine for coal or iron. Even when coal was Nationalised these private mines were excluded. However, due to the back breaking nature of the work, only around 150 freeminers remain active.
Cinderford are two places above us in the league table, but have lost their last two games, so both sides are looking to get back to winning ways. We lost the fixture in the Forest in very difficult conditions 14 - 9 which suggests there is little between the teams.
Having had two weeks off, the 2nd XV have a chance to get back to winning ways with against Cinderford. Cambridge won the game at Cinderford 10-26.
The 3rd XV take on Norwich Medics. The Medics lost to Shelford III last weekend so the 3rd XV will be hoping for a good win.
Updated 18:35 - 14 Feb 2019 by Marcus Streets