The following information has been taken from the Lower Lydbrook Conservation Area Character Appraisal as produced by the Forest of Dean Districs Council. October 1995.
Lydbrook: Conservation Area "an area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desireable to preserve or enhance"
(The Garden Cafe and Gallery is set in) The Malt House, itself part of the estate of Lydbrook House, at the bottom of the village of Lydbrook. Between them the two buildings make up two of the four listed buildings in the village.
Lydbrook is a large village set in the valley of the Greathough Brook which is a tributary of the River Wye. The Lydbrook Valley is narrow and steep sided with the result that Lydbrook itself has a strong linear form, and is tightly constrained. though the whole village is known as Lydbrook, the settlement is divided into three parts, known as Upper, Central and Lower Lydbrook.
The development of Lydbrook, and its form and character, owes much to the industrial history of the area. Coal, timber and metal ores were all important elements in the early development of the settlement, followed later by metal industries, particularly tinplate, and the construction of railways, including the Severn and Wye line. The buildings on the valley floor still reflect this later period of industrial development. This industrial character is especially noticeable in Lower Lydbrook where the bridge parapets of the old Severn and Wye line can still be seen, and also workers cottages which served the former tinplate works are still in existence.
Lydbrook House was built in the early 19th century and is an imposing three storey brick built house with a hipped slate roof, and sixteen-pane sash windows. Little is know about the reason for such a grand house in this location. A small section of Offa's Dyke is present near Lydbrook House.
The Malthouse is adjacent to Lydbrook House, within the same grounds, and was built at the same time of coursed rubble stone with hipped slate roof. It was the village malthouse.
Colours Within the Area
The predominating colours within the Conservation Area are green and brown, as the vegetation of the valley sidedand the trees are so prominent. Colours are generally subdued with a mellow yellow/green stone being used in the construction of many properties, and dark grey slate on the majority of roofs. There is also the rich red of the bricks used in the building of Lydbrook House and Viaduct House.
The steep sided valley faces north and therefore recieved little sunlight in the depths of winter, making it sometimes a gloomy place. The River Wye floods regularly which causes flooding to many of the lower lying properties and to the road near the river.
Tree Cover in and Around the Area
Individual and groups of trees are an important visual feature in the Lower Lydbrook Conservation Area. The main groups of trees are located on the hill slopes outside the Conservation Area, but these form an important backdrop to the built development. In and around Lydbrook House are a number of fine single specimen trees which are protected by the Conservation Area designation.
Type of Buildings
Buildings within the Conservation Area are generally domestic dwellings, with none of the industrial buildings remaining. Many of the houses though, reflect the industrial past, particularly those at Mill Row which were workers cottage serving the old tinplate works. Properties range from these small workers cottages to more 'grand' houses such as Lydbrook House close to the river. The dwellings are generally two storey, though some of the 'grander' properties mentioned above have three storeys. There are also two public houses.
Open Spaces Within and Around the Area
Just over the road from The Garden Cafe is a riverside park known as 'the Tump'. The land was donated by the Vaughan family to the village of Lydbrook. The area consists of two tarmac parking areas, benches, canoe launch and informal picnic area. Ornamental trees have been planted. From this area, which overlooks small rapids on the River Wye, there are good views up and down the Wye Valley
For a view of the former Lydbrook viaduct, which crossed the valley directly above the Malthouse and Garden Cafe, click on this youtube link: