Getting lost in the Forest of Dean
Exactly one year ago to this day we were sat on this beach in New Zealand’s Raglan, marvelling at the way this volcanic, black sand sparkled under the midday sun, pondering how to live a life that makes the most of this fragile time we’re given. Fast forward 12 months, and we’re here on the edge of the Forest of Dean, determined to continue that adventure. It’s the Easter holidays, and this time, we’re exploring on home turf.
Seeing all of New Zealand’s stunning beauty helped inspire us to see more of the places nearer to home, so we made a pact with ourselves whilst we were away - we would still travel of course, but we’d also venture out to the places often overlooked, to try and see what’s right in front of us. When Forest of Dean and Wye Valley tourism reached out to us to explore the area, we jumped at the chance. And with the Severn Bridge tolls now gone, it’s even easier to get to (a mere 45 minutes from Bristol).
First up, Perrygrove, a charming railway set amid the rolling Gloucestershire hills. Steam engines that you can ride as many times as you like, a tree top adventure playground and a treasure hunt that culminates in the unlocking of a hidden box in a miniature village. In other words, the perfect start to our mini-adventure and a lovely way to spend the day, and to build up an appetite.
On to lunch it is then, and this wonderful gem tucked away in the small market town of Coleford. As we arrived Tudor Farmhouse, the sun was just beginning to break through the morning cloud. It was a nice quiet weekday lunch, which meant we had the pleasure of being the only people in the cosy, sun-soaked dining room of this beautiful village hotel. This is the kind of countryside place where you could easily fall asleep in one of the comfy armchairs, with its low ceilings, big open fireplaces and tall stack of board games waiting to be played. It’s no surprise that we end up staying here much longer than planned, which is alright with me.
Next stop, standing proudly above the River Wye and surrounded by an endless sea of green pasture, is Goodrich Castle. If this is conjuring stereotypical images of boring school trips or dilapidated ruins, think again. This 11th Century site was originally built by an English landowner called Godric as a timber structure at the top of an impressive hill with an even better view. A few centuries later, a French nobleman called William de Valence rebuilt the castle into a modern powerhouse of both defence and luxury, which you catch a glimpse of as you explore the site today. But the thing that really sets this place apart is just how well-preserved it is, which then creates a real feeling of being immersed in the history of it all. As you pass through the obligatory cafe and gift shop, you find yourself on a country track with woodland to your left, and a vast expanse of english countryside to your right. Pass the bouncing baby lambs with a spring in their step, and further down the path you go until the castle finally comes into view. With no cars or street lights or people around, and with only the gentle rustle of the wind through the neighbouring trees as the soundtrack, it’s not hard to imagine how this place would have felt back then, and it’s this feeling that makes a place like this worth the trip in our eyes.
Perhaps rather unsurprisingly, when bedtime arrives everyone sleeps well. And when the morning follows, a swift breakfast is partaken before we head out for our final part of this fun-filled staycation - cycling in the Forest of Dean. We’re kindly provided bicycles and helmets by Pedal A Bike Away, but the rest is up to us. The weather has turned out beautifully for us on this final leg of the journey, and despite a slight chill in the morning air, we’re soon peeling off layers as we cycle through the vast woodland around us. We opt for the family trail, and a wise decision this turns out to be, allowing us to enjoy a slower pace through the trails. Eventually we come to a clearing in the woods, which is the ideal spot to dismount from our trusty bicycles, pause for a drink, and take in for a few moments the wonderful setting we find ourselves in. That is of course, until the two boys start throwing rocks at each other’s faces. Still, it’s nice to be reminded of the beauty and inspiration that exists just around the corner. You just need to go and look for it.
Words by Ben, photography by Viv.
This post is brought to you in partnership with Forest of Dean & Wye Valley tourism, all views our own.
A big thank you to our sponsors : Perrygrove Railway, English Heritage and Pedal A Bike Away.
If you’d like to visit the Forest of Dean, you can check out this video to find out more about the area, http://www.wyedeantourism.co.uk/myforestofdean. There’s so much to do, we’ve only scratched the surface!