When Dante’s Inferno was written all those years ago, the author gave us the most detailed and descriptive account of the nine different circles of Hell.
Turns out he missed one.
There are in fact 10 levels of Hell, and whilst the 9th circle is commonly thought to be the worst, the tenth circle is truly horrific.
And its name is Cinderford.
Cinderford is a small, decrepit town in the arse end of Gloucestershire, with a population resembling Sauron’s army of orcs from Lord of the Rings. Some of the most bizarre looking human beings, who would not be out of place on a David Attenborough documentary, spend their days roaming the cracked streets in search of something to do.
When driving through Cinderford, you could be forgiven for thinking you have taken a wrong turn and ended up in Chernobyl. The rows of stained and crumbling houses, abandoned petrol stations and closed down shops are so depressing that the manufacturers of Sertraline have actually set up a small outlet on the way in to town for anyone foolish enough to pay a visit.
There is nothing in Cinderford to remind you that you’re in the 21st century, apart from the Co-Op at the top of town (which i’m told allegedly still deals in shillings).
There is little employment around these days. In decades past, the economy was based largely on coal mining, with many Foresters proud of this tradition of hard work and manual labor.
Well, I guess they have little else to be proud of.
There are no tourist attractions whatsoever in the town, and based on the lack of regeneration, employment or places to socialise, one can only imagine that the town council is run by a sheep with learning difficulties.
Let’s talk residents.
My favourite of Cinderford’s many many strange inhabitants is a lady who works in one of the local supermarkets (I won’t name it but it [oh no you don’t – Ed]). She looks remarkably like a blobfish, a strange, gelatinous creature found off the coast of Australia. Another particular favourite is the square headed mechanic who can occasionally be spotted working at the garage leading out of Cinderford (my favourite part of town). His head is so distinctly rectangular, from a distance you may mistake him for the traffic lights.
Incidentally the town traffic lights were sold off in 2012 due to budget cuts.
A sign stands proudly at the entrance to Cinderford, and it reads:
‘Welcome to Cinderford, the heart of the Forest’.
Hmmmm. . . . maybe replace the words ‘welcome to’ and ‘heart’ with ‘avoid’ and ‘anus’ and you will be a little closer to reality.
A visit to this nauseating little settlement will always result in some suicidal feelings, but don’t worry, as soon as you leave Cinderford it is like a huge weight has been taken off your shoulders, as if you have left the twilight zone or the set of a David Lynch film and returned to reality.