There is much to be said for a Forest of Dean education. Lydney is home to some of the region’s best and brightest; a town of philosophers, poets and deep thinkers.
There is also much to be said for sarcasm, which the previous paragraph is full of.
The inhabitants of Lydney (or Lydiots as I like to call them) are perhaps the worst of all Foresters; ignorant, bigoted and utterly unprepared to accept that we are now living in the 21st century. I believe it was Aristotle who once said “All men by nature desire knowledge”. Hmmm, I wonder if he ever visited Lydney…
The town itself is like a section of the Natural History Museum, however this is less because of the charming architecture or old English character, but more because of the Neanderthal-like people roaming the streets. The main shopping area of the town hardly gives Oxford Street a run for its money, and unless you are looking for a second hand pram or a bag of chicken feed, you had better look elsewhere.
Let’s talk restaurants. London has Dinner by Heston, Paris has Le Cinq and New York has 11 Madison Park. Lydney has . . . Kaplan’s Café, an establishment that brings a more literal meaning to the term greasy spoon. And it is not just the spoons that are greasy here; the staff are positively varnished in week old bacon grease and lard drippings [allegedly]. The culinary innovation of the staff at Kaplan’s Cafe knows no bounds; forget sous vide or confit, the microwave is the cooking method of choice here. The ‘chefs’ have a real talent for cooking your food exactly the way you don’t like it. For example if you like you bacon crispy it will be closer to raw. If you like your egg yolks runny, they will be crumbly and dry. Ask for coffee and you will most likely get orange juice (from concentrate of course).
Lydney is soul crushingly drab in appearance, and colour is a rarity. The typical Forest of Dean architecture comes in just 3 colours; brown, grey… or a mixture of brown and grey. Most of the houses come only half finished, as if someone started painting an exterior wall and then just though ‘oh f**k it’ and gave up halfway through. Some other styles you may encounter include; chipped pebbledash, cracked rendering and red brick that has turned a kind of polluted-black over time. I don’t know which architect was employed to design this town but I can only assume they were a complete drunkard and/or utterly insane.
One surprising fact about Lydney is the fact that it boasts a train station (well, more of a shack really). My guess is that this was hastily constructed by the first outsider who moved to the town, wanting to establish a quick escape route for anyone else foolish enough to move there.
The dense forest surrounding the town acts as a meeting place for doggers from all over the south-west. At night, literally every pull-in or forestry track is taken up by a suspiciously rocking car or two. The height of dogging season usually coincides with the local deer population’s mating season. It is a noisy and disturbing time of year.
The three main towns in the Forest of Dean (Lydney, Coleford and Cinderford) form a kind of Bermuda Triangle; anyone not from the area who is travelling between them usually disappears without a trace. If you do get lost in The Forest of Dean, do not expect the locals to help you. Instead, expect to be hunted through the trees by a group of 6 fingered mutants in a manner akin to The Hills Have Eyes.
The dialect of the Lydney folk is difficult to understand and impossible to master. It is a harsh, deep west country drawl that sounds like Long John Silver swallowed a brillo pad. The reason for the offensive sound they make when talking is because decades of inbreeding has now altered their vocal chords to the point of mutation. They do not converse with each other so much as communicate in caveman-like grunts. The world’s leading scientist of primate behaviour is currently undertaking a study to better understand their communication techniques.
I remember a conversation I once had with a colleague of mine. We were discussing the Forest of Dean when she asked me what Lydney is like, as she had never been there before. I told her; “If you can imagine a classical Parisian suburb of beautiful renaissance architecture filled with sophisticated intellectuals. Maybe you can picture a grand country estate in the Cotswolds with lovely ornate gardens and lakes, inhabited by royalty. Perhaps a quintessentially English village with cobbled lanes, thatched cottages and duck ponds, where the children frolic and play in the nearby meadows and buxom maidens milk their cows with glee; Lydney is like none of those things.”