A to Z of the DeanWye: E is for…

E is for…

English Bicknor

The village is close to the county border with Herefordshire, opposite which is the village of Welsh Bicknor. The two towns lie on different sides of the River Wye.

English Bicknor is one of the ancient villages of the Forest of Dean, situated at the top of a hill overlooking the Wye Valley, and once the site of a motte and bailey castle, the remnants of which can still be seen.

Local folklore has it that should an inhabitant of English Bicknor see an inhabitant of Welsh Bicknor crossing over from the Welsh to the English side of the river, he is legally allowed to shoot him. This being the stuff of legend, it is unlikely to be accepted as a legitimate defence in court. In any case, later legislation surrounding murder will have superseded any such permission and as Wales is now considered no longer the enemy, its inhabitants are therefore under the Queen’s peace.


Towards the middle of March can be seen the elverman with their strange nets on the roofs of cars making their way down the lanes to the river. They will spend a long night on the river bank, dipping the net into the water against the flow, hoping for that big catch. Experienced elverman usually know where the elvers are in the river, but they keep that to themselves! They could be anywhere between Minsterworth and Tewkesbury.

Elvers begin life as eel larvae, drifting from their birthplace in the Sargasso Sea for three years across the Atlantic Ocean to the Severn Estuary. The elver season lasts mid March until the end of April and during that time countless thousands are caught and sold to the elver stations. From here they are exported live to Europe and Japan for the restocking of their waters.  When they were not so scarce they were quite a common local delicacy – live fried, egg added, lemon juice, pepper and eaten accompanied with bread and butter.


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