ON a visit to Newent the other day, wandering along Broad Street, I called into the ChillOut Zone for coffee and discovered something much more than a café.

Its origins are in the Newent Millennium Trust, which post millennium became Newent Initiative Trust in 2003. This is a not-for-profit trust which supports many initiatives, including the ChillOut Zone, which itself in turn supports many activities. Newent Town Council also provides support. 

The café is in what was, at the millennium, a derelict area, consisting of a former shoemaker’s shop in the days when towns had shoemakers. There was also an abandoned house, and an alley where newspapers were stored. 

Now, with extensive building work and local support the replacement building is the new ChillOut Zone.

With a fully equipped café, it’s a community centre, a meeting place, an arts & crafts centre, a venue for Knitting and Nattering (with the emphasis perhaps more on the nattering than the knitting), a ‘mend and repair’ club and a youth club. 

There are links to Newent Community School, and opportunities for work experience. Emily, who was behind the counter when I visited, explained the development of the Zone with obvious enthusiasm.

Many young people have raised funds for the pool table and the wi-fi. However, as my visit proved, you don’t have to be a young person to drop in. You don’t even need to buy a coffee.

At the moment, the ChillOut Zone is open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays, although there may be the opportunity to extend the opening days in the future.

The Initiative is also working towards the development of a skate park for the town, and has designed the statue of Valegro for display in the town centre. 

Valegro, with rider Charlotte Dujardin, from Newent, are probably the most illustrious Forest sporting personalities of all time, despite the distinguished list of international rugby players and cricketers from Cinderford, Lydney and St Briavels. They are multiple gold medal winners in Olympic and world events in the specialist equestrian discipline of dressage.

With all these facilities, and the lake, the bird of prey centre, and the iconic (an overused word, but appropriate in this case) 1688 Town Hall on stilts, Newent is a newly discovered treasure for someone who has only just started to explore this part of the Forest.