Francis Miles. V.C.

100 years ago today Francis Miles of Clearwell Gloucestershire carried out an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.


And today this plaque was unveiled and crowds gathered and the children sang ‘Its a long way to Tipperary’

BBC Points west were there so it should be on our local news tonight.

Relatives were interviewed


Speeches were made…… evidently he was known as Chris Miles and after the war returned to live in Clearwell until he died in the 1960’s


and old regiments were represented.

On 23 October 1918 at Bois-l’Évêque, LandreciesFrance, when his company was held up by a line of enemy machine-guns in a sunken road, Private Miles, alone and on his own initiative went forward under exceptionally heavy fire, located a machine-gun, shot the gunner and put the gun out of action. Then seeing another gun nearby, he again went forward alone, shot the gunner and captured the team of eight. Finally he stood up and beckoned to his company who, acting on his signals, were able to capture 16 machine-guns, one officer and 50 other ranks.



Attenborough says count butterflies; so this is how it is on Clearwell Meend.

I was motivated to spend an hour or so photographing the butterflies on Clearwell Meed today because we have recently had some Marbled Whites in the garden. As I had expected there were lots flitting about up there, possibly they were just about out numbered by the Meadow Browns, but they of course look more spectacular.

There were quite a few skippers about, I think both Small and Essex skippers. They are very difficult to tell apart, it all come down to the tip of their antennae and  the Essex has a distinctly black tip, as does the one below.

The Small skipper does not have a noticeably black tip…  Could this be him?

I also saw a Peacock, a Red Admiral and several Gatekeepers.





There were also lots of day flying moths, including Silver Y and Six spotted Burnetts.

And now a day later David Attenborough has urged us all to go out and count Butterflies, so who is ahead of the game…. Big butterfly count


Clearwell is the village in which I live, and it has a well and a little brook which I think is Thurstans brook. The water is quite clear and you would be forgiven for thinking that is how this village got its name.clearwell2

However on old maps it is marked as Clowerwell and once it was called Wellington.  The name Wellington means  “the place of the spring” then  it became Clowerwell meaning “spring among the clover” so that is how  Clearwell is derived. Nothing to do with the purity of the water.clearwell1

Clearwell Meend

Clearwell Meend is a portion of land above the village of Clearwell and behind Clearwell Caves.

Meend is an odd word and I have not found an origin for it but it seems to equate with Common.Clearwell Meend4

This area is quite mixed. it has open regions with grassland and bracken, scrub, trees/wooded parts and some shallow ponds.

There are good views across towards Wales on a clear day. It has an ancient standing stone although I think it is actually a replacement for a standing stone which was there some time ago but got vandalised by Christians who did not like the pagan connotations, anyway that’s another story.Clearwell Meend5

Just behind the standing stone and up the hill, if you look carefully, there is hidden in the developing woodland the remnants of some mine workings. The whole area is above the Clearwell Cave complex so will be riddled with excavations. There is also evidence of surface excavations.Clearwell Meend8

There are some shallow ponds which in January are full and one I know, does seem to retain water for most if not all the year.Clearwell Meend3

They do support various aquatic plants like this Lesser Spearwort.Clearwell Meend2

Near the top of the area close to the Coleford/Lydney road there is a splendid old Willow tree, one of the most impressive I have ever seen. It is difficult to estimate age as Willow is quite fast growing. This one looks as if it was originally pollarded and then grow on and subsequently the large branches were then individually pollarded again perhaps about 50 years ago. I would guess this tree is around 200 years old.( I looked up ancient willows on google and found a reference to one in Scotland where a willow post was put into the ground in Carnoustie in 1797 and is still alive, so that makes it 219 years old.)  Clearwell Meend1

Clearwell Meend9In terms of fauna and flora, I did not see much on this visit, the area is within the region officially designated as the Forest of Dean, but is not really connected to the main region.

However the distance from the main area is quite small and so wildlife could easily travel into and out of the area. There was evidence of wild boar having visited not long ago. They are a mixed blessing because the grassland are does support some rare chalk loving plants and boar rummaging about could do a lot of damage to the vulnerable populations.Clearwell Meend6



There were some interesting fungi growing on old Elder branches, they are now known simply as Ear fungi, though when I was younger they were called Jew’s Ear Fungus, I could never work out why, I presumed the ear of a Jew was quite similar to a non Jew, so why the name? Anyway we are now more P.C.Clearwell Meend7

So this is my very local patch, I live two minutes walk away and have decided that I should spend more time there and less time driving off to more ‘exciting’ places that are probably not more exciting just greener because they are  on the other side of the fence. I have been there quite a few times before, this was not my first visit. On previous visits I have seen Stemless thistles, Autumn Gentians, Ploughman’s Spikenard, Ladies Bedstraw and various other Calcicoles. In terms of fauna I have seen Common Lizard, Common Toad, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch, Longtailed tits and other tits, Buzzards, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer and others so it’s not bad and with more regular visits I could notch up some more exciting ticks.