TWO thousand years on, and the Romans who dug iron ore in the Forest of Dean are leaving council officers with a headache and ratepayers with a bill!

Plans to widen and divert the Lydney to Coleford road near Bream church have been put behind schedule by the discovery of massive caverns and lakes below the proposed route.

Now council officers have ordered a major survey to determine what infilling will be necessary before the road can go ahead.


"A recent collapse at one of the houses near the present road highlighted the problem," county council road engineer Dorian Whiting told the Review. "A micro-gravity survey along the route located some voids," he said.

The cavities are the remains of old iron mines between the former Winding Wheel public house and St James's church.

"The old entrance towards Bream's Cross was probably covered up when they built the present road," says Colin Wildin, of Court Farm, whose fields will be crossed by the diversion.

"There is also another system stretching under Bream itself towards the war memorial," he said.

The county council has constructed a new entrance in a nearby quarry to give easier access to the workings.

"We asked local cavers to go in and explore," said Mr Whiting. "We had old maps from the Deputy Gaveller's office and they were able to partly update them.

"It showed something had to be done, so we have commissioned Halcrow consulting engineers to carry out a full survey and make recommendations for infilling. Once this is agreed we hope to let the contract for infilling later in the year and that for the road by the end of the year."

The existence of the caves and lakes was known by local residents.

"Youngsters used to play down there," says Colin Wildin.


"The Court Farm farmhouse has been there so long there's probably no need to worry about subsidence," said his mother, Mrs Beryl Wildin.

Reports suggest the biggest lake is actually beneath the church.

Mr Ray Wright, of Clearwell Caves, said there were many old Roman iron ore workings in the area.

"The ore was very close to the surface and they simply followed the seams. If they went underground they just followed," he said. "There used to be a lot of entrances in nearby fields but they were gradually filled up."