WW2 evacuees

Yorkley Primary School 2024

We will be back with our good friends at Yorkley in May 2024 to get creative about WW2 evacuees and what it was like to live with the threat of air raids – remembering that nearby Bristol was heavily bombed during the war. More to come!

Children at work in Victorian England

Yorkley Primary School 2023

Local historian and Dean Scribblers founder Roger Deeks talked to the class about how children their age and younger worked in various industries in the Forest. The work was hard, dangerous and long hours. The children saw a demonstration of a hod boy in action. They all wanted a go!

Dean Scribblers visited the next week with our volunteers from Dean Writers Circle to help the students write their own stories as working children of the time. We had a full-on half day, at the end of which the stories were coming along nicely (and in some instances with much gore and emotion).

We were thrilled to publish the stories in an anthology which the children received from free miner Paul Baverstock.

WW2 evacuees

Yorkley Primary School 2022

The children’s learning about this topic included a visit from local historian and Dean Scribblers founder Roger Deeks to talk about how children their age and younger were sent away from the big cities to relative safety in the Forest during the second world war. Dean Scribblers visited again in April with our volunteers to help them write their own stories inspired by these events, which we then published in an anthology.

A Child in the Forest

St John’s C of E, Coleford 2021

Reading the Forest led a four day project with some students from Years 5 and 6 to discover what life was like for a child in the Forest 100 or so years ago. The project was based on Winifred Foley‘s A Child in the Forest. Foley was born in Brierley in 1914 and came to fame when her memoir was broadcast by the BBC in later life. The students also looked at illustrations from Bernard Kear’s Scenes of Childhood books which cover the early 1940s. They were fascinated by the similarities and differences with their own lives, and produced stories and drawings to reflect this.

Many thanks to volunteers from Dean Writers Circle who worked with small groups to help craft the stories. Great feedback from the teacher when the students put the finishing touches on their work. We were able to produce an anthology for them and present it before Christmas 2021. Well done, students of St John’s!

Wonderful to have this press coverage of the whole project in The Review newspaper of Wed 29 September

The Olden Days

Yorkley Primary School 2021

Our first post-Covid project saw us joining with Voices from the Forest to work with Year 5/6 on a project to bring the ‘olden days’ to life. Following a session in May with Voices from the Forest to talk about Forest dialect and how life was different not so long ago, students were asked to interview an elderly family member or friend over the spring break.

Key questions were around home, family and work life, and what the neighbourhood they lived in at the time was like. Dean Scribblers joined the team in mid June to help turn the answers into a piece of prose or poetry for an anthology.

The majority of the children found their interviewee, mostly Nan or Grancher, and discovered a lot of things which surprised them. For example – many houses, especially in the Forest, had no indoor toilet, homes were heated by coal fires alone, and those who lived on farms had a lot of hard work to do before they even got to school. Most walked to school, whatever the weather. One huge surprise was that – if the family had a television – you had to feed it with money at the back and, possibly worse, you had to get up from your seat and walk to the television to change the station!

The Nans and the children all enjoyed their chats, with the older generation thrilled to be asked.

We presented the children with two copies of the anthology – one for themselves and one for their interviewee, along with History Detective certificates.
A real pleasure to work with these inquisitive young minds.


Ellwood Primary School 2020

In autumn 2019, glass artist Sharon Foley visited the students to talk to them about the phone box in their village as part of an arts installation project sponsored by West Dean Council. We had planned that, over spring and summer, Dean Scribblers and Sharon would work with year 5/6 to help them learn about the history of phone communications, how phone boxes were used in the community and then to write their own stories and poems about phone boxes. We managed to hold a wonderful half-day workshop, including role playing with old phones. We were lucky enough to have a former resident and active user of the phone box for the children to talk with as well as the lady who cleaned the phone box for many years!  Sadly, however, the written work and publication of an anthology came to a halt with the Covid 19 lockdown, as did the art installation project.

BUT we are delighted that West Dean Parish Council has granted us money to fund the anthology at the time we can finish this work. We’re looking forward to achieving that and working with the school again.

Forest wildlife

Heart of the Forest Community Special School 2020

Dean Scribblers worked with senior students during March 2020, on a project which focused on the natural world. We lined up four Forest wildlife experts to talk to the students over a period of four-five weeks. We were able to deal with bats with Forest bat expert Dave Priddis and raptors and other birds with Helen Mugridge, but very sadly the promise of grazing animals with Rosie Kelsall of GWT and amphibians and reptiles with David Dewsbury were cancelled because of Covid lockdown.

After our sessions, Dean Writers Circle member Jean Cooper Moran led the students in a workshop to think about and write down, or draw, what inspired them about the session, ready to turn into stories and/or artwork. The students produced some excellent work and we decided to go ahead and produce an anthology given many would be leaving the school that year.

Here is the cover, designed by one of the students, Lucy Page, and an inside page with one of the Mitcheldean competition winning poems.

Our thanks to Royal Forest of Dean Rotary and the High Sheriff’s Fund, part of the Gloucestershire Community Foundation, for funding the anthology. (See Our Sponsors)

World War 1 and World War 2

Lydbrook Primary School 2019/2020

‘Hawks’ years 5/6 studied both WW1 and WW2. One of our volunteers, Forest-born author Sarah Franklin, visited the school in November 2019 to talk about her book Shelter, set in the Forest in WW2, and how the Forest has inspired her writing. The students plotted and drafted a class story as the precursor to developing their own stories for an anthology about Lydbrook and war. And illustrations too.

Special thanks to Lydbrook Parish Council for their sponsorship.

The anthology, Lest We Forget, was presented to the children on World Book Day, 6 March 2020, which was very exciting. They also had the chance to talk to Jo Durrant on BBC Radio Gloucestershire about their experience with the project.

We also had an excellent write up in the local press.

Poetry WW1

St John’s C of E, Coleford 2019

Year 6 are studying WW1 and we are working with them on a poetry anthology on that theme, which will feature the students’ poppy illustrations. One of our volunteers, Val Ormrod, led the class in a poetry workshop at which first drafts were completed.  Poet Stewart Carswell has chosen three of the poems to be awarded prizes. The winners were announced on 13 December when Nick Penny, Mayor of Coleford, presented the students with their copies of the book of poems. Stewart commented on the depth and quality of all the poems. Congratulations to Jo, Chelsea and Ellis for first, second and highly recommended respectively.

We are grateful to Clearwell Caves and to Nick Penny Event Services for providing the prizes for St John’s winners.

Special thanks also to Coleford Town Council who sponsored the anthology of the students’ poems.

Yorkley Newsletter writing competition

Sponsored by The Yorkley Newsletter, this competition was open to all young people living in the area. Yorkley has been home to important writers such as FW Harvey, Richard Morse and Ivon Adams so we were pleased to receive over 50 entries with strong support from Yorkley and Pillowell schools as well as home-taught young people. All participants received a certificate from the then High Sheriff of the County of Gloucestershire, Charles Martell, as well as a copy of the anthology of all entries, which was illustrated by local artist Bec Rydeard.

See what the schools had to say here.

Yorkley Newsletter Competition 2018/2019

See what the schools had to say here.

Cinderford and the Forest of Dean

Forest High, Cinderford 2019

We were delighted to announce the winners of the Year 8 Forest High School competition at an event at St Stephen’s Church, Cinderford, on 14 September 2019, with prizes courtesy of the Chepstow Bookshop and Dean Writers Circle. Here’s a link to the local press coverage.

All the entries were poems, on the theme of the Forest and Cinderford. During the week beforehand, judge and performance poet Ben Ray visited Year 8 to workshop a session on performing their poems. An exuberant and noisy hour!

See the winning poems here.


While Dean Scribblers’ organisers and volunteers give their time and skills freely, funds are needed to cover actual printing costs of anthologies. Sponsors are acknowledged on this site and in the particular anthology/ies their support makes possible. If you would like to help us keep our Forest literary heritage alive, please get in touch via our contacts page.

In addition to the project-specific sponsors acknowledged here, we are also pleased to have general sponsors as shown here, with our thanks