The arden is the name of an area of England, which includes villages and towns such as Henley-in-Arden, Tanworth-in-Arden and Hampton-in-Arden. It was formerly thickly forested, and its name is believed to be derived from a Brythonic word “ardu-” meaning ‘high’, or ‘highland’.
The Forest of Arden, or ‘forest of the ardens’ was one of the largest forests in Europe, covering the areas that make up Warwickshire in England, and Staffordshire in England. It was the site of many settlements, including a large Iron Age hillfort at Henley-in-Arden, and other Roman settlements such as Henley Palace.
This vast, untamed woodland was a major feature of the landscape of central England, and the name ‘arden’ is still used to this day for the region, as well as the name of the local Forest of Arden hotel and country club. The forest is a World Heritage Site by virtue of its importance as a centre for British history.
It is now a relatively unpopulated and rural area. However, it remains a popular destination for tourists, as it is home to an abundance of historical and archaeological sites.
Some of the earliest settlements were made by Roman settlers, and there are remains of several ancient monuments in the forest. These include a medieval era wayside cross at the south-western edge of the forest, the Coughton Cross, a prehistoric salt track leading from Droitwich, and a Roman temple at Henley-in-Arden.
The forest was also the location of a number of Royal Forests, which were subject to the medieval forest law system that allowed landowners to protect their land from wild animals. The forest was a frontier in some respects, as it was the only way to access much of what is now the city of Birmingham and Coventry.
There is a national trail in the forest called the Arden Way. This path runs across the forest from Henley-in-Arden to Tamworth in Staffordshire, and it links to other national and local trails.
This path was once a major route through the forest, and it is still possible to walk around some of the routes that were once used. It is also possible to take a guided tour of some of the former settlements in the forest, such as Henley Palace and the former Roman site of Henley-in-Arden.
A national park was once located in the forest, and a section of it is now protected under the Forests of England Act 2008. It was once known as the “Great Wood”, and it is believed that the word ‘arden’ may have been a translation of the English phrase ‘Ardenoe’ which meant ‘wild forest’.