Lydney, on the banks of the Severn Estuary, is often said to get its name from Lludd or Nudd on the basis of there being the remains of a Roman Temple dedicated to Nodens there, though there are other theories about the origin of the name. I recently spent some time in the area and unsuccessfully tried to visit the site of the temple, but it is on a private estate and I was unable to gain access. I did, however, explore the Forest of Dean, which stretches from along the banks of this part of the Severn across to the River Wye. In particular I followed the course of some streams through the forest. The small river that runs down through Lydney to the Severn is called ‘The Lyd’, but only from the point where it emerges from the forest and runs down through Lydney itself. Several streams run together at this point but the main one is called ‘Cannop Brook’ and runs in a deep valley right across the forest for about ten miles or so from a source area where several springs are marked on the detailed map above the village of Lydbrook on the banks of the River Wye. So there is another ‘Lyd’ place name on the other side of the forest but no obvious association, as far as I know, with Nodens here, though the site was inhabited in Roman times. And in spite of the name of the village the brook running through it is not ‘Lydbrook’ but ‘Greathough Brook’. At least it is now, but apparently it was known in medieval times as ‘Lyd Brook’ or ‘Lud Brook’, explained in local records as ‘Loud Brook’ (Old English ‘hlud’) because of its rushing down the steep slope to the river. The stream can be followed back to two sources in the forest. One is a spring and the other a well. These two sources (‘Little Hough Brook’ and ‘Great Hough Brook’) run together under a bridge, which carries a forest road over the stream. “Hough’ (‘hock’) is puzzling. But it might have been ‘how’ (‘hill’) or ‘howe’ (‘hollow’).
The track back to the spring from this bridge is about a mile along the road running by the side of the stream, but the place from which it emerges is inaccessible and is part of the grounds of a large house, a fact which was stressed to me by the property owner who came out to enquire what I found so interesting to look at as I tried to locate it by peering over the fence! Back at the confluence, the other stream flows down through the forest and can be followed along a delightful winding path. Here is pure enchantment. For much of its course the stream is hidden in a narrow channel beneath over-arching ferns. But to wander along the steep-sided valley with its wooded slopes listening to the waters rushing through the green valley floor is to enter an enchanted place. The valley virtually sang its numen song in its tinkling waters and rustling leaves. Even when a brief shower fell I felt blessed by the drops of rain falling on my face. I slowed my pace; this walk should be for ever. At one point the stream was easily reached from the path and I knelt and touched some of the water to my forehead and spoke a blessing
But the path did have an end and I emerged from the trees onto a lane turning away from the stream now rushing swiftly down the slope from a point above, where the well is marked on the map. The lane went ahead past some ramshackle farm buildings but then turned across the slope to the well. From a path leading off the lane I could see a mound surrounded by watercress. Here was the well, a sadly neglected structure with a padlocked gate across it. It stood next to a cottage and a car was parked across the path. I was probably trespassing again! So I stood there briefly, took a few photos, and left, skirting the forest to follow a track down to a point beyond the confluence of the two streams and followed the course of Greathough Brook as far as the outskirts of Upper Lydbrook village. It was a wonderful day. Though I found no temple of Nodens or anything significant about Lludd, the streams of Lyd sang to me and are flowing through my dreams.