- Travel and Places
The Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
The Royal Forest of Dean, an area of outstanding natural beauty that lies between the River Severn and the River Wye in Gloucestershire, England.
The Royal Forest of Dean, once a little known natural woodland in Gloucestershire, separated from the rest of the county by 2 large rivers, the River Severn and the River Wye. But things are changing, the word is getting out about what a lovely part of the country this is to visit, a great holiday destination.
This area is a brilliant place for a camping or caravan holiday, there are also plenty of Bed and Breakfast places around and you can go sightseeing in the Forest, do a bit of mountain biking, hiking or canoeing on the River Wye.
Symonds Yat Rock, The Biblins The Sculpture Trail, Cannop Ponds and The bluebell woods at Blackpool Bridge are amongst some of the better known tourist attractions in this region once used by the kings of England as a hunting ground.
More recently a place where people born into the Forest (well strictly speaking the 'hundred of St Briavels') could have free miners rights and where sheep are allowed to roam freely under ancient sheep badgering laws.
You can find a map for the Forest here on Google Maps
For other Holiday Destinations in Europe check out this link.
A great guide to the Forest of Dean and surrounding areas including the Malverns
Has a 5 star rating and is a very affordable guide to the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean. A great help for finding the best places to visit in the and around the Forest.
The family home
One of the reasons I have a soft spot for the Forest of Dean is because this is where I was born and bred. The photograph is of our family home at the end of High Beech Road in the Pludds just above Ruardean.
I call it the family home but it is actually where my grandmother lived and my father when he was a child.
It has long been sold and renovated now, but when I used to visit and we are only talking about perhaps 40 years ago there was no plumbed WC the little building you can see in the garden to the left was it, a wooden shelf with a hole and a bucket underneath served as the toilet. This used to have to be emptied on a fairly regular basis and a place found to bury the contents. Also the only water to the house was a single cold water supply which was used to fill the huge kettle that could be heated on the range in the only kitchen/living room.
This, my father assured me, was luxury as when he and his 7 brothers and sisters that all lived in this little cottage were children they had to take turns to walk down the hill to fetch water from the nearest well. All a far cry from the modern bathrooms and central heating we are all used to today and hard to believe now that that was only one generation ago.
Life was a little tougher back in those days.
A few family photos for your interest - The views from here over the Wye valley towards Symonds Yat are pretty spectacularClick thumbnail to view full-size
The view from High Beech
You can see the River Wye forming the shape of an acorn as it does a U turn towards Symonds Yat. The scenery through this part of the Forest is wonderful but quite difficult to get a good viewpoint of it.
I once did a canoe trip down the Wye from Kerne Bridge near Goodrich Castle down to Monmouth in Wales. It's a fair hike by canoe but you get to stop at the Ferry Inn or the Saracens Head at Symonds Yat for lunch and you pass through the Biblins and go under Symonds Yat Rock. The last haul as you leave the Forest of Dean and head into Wales is the toughest because you will have been paddling for about 4 or 5 hours by this time and probably feeling a little weary.
Monmouth Canoe Club organise these trips and you can leave your car at their car park while they transport you up to Kerne Bridge with hired canoes and safety equipment, drop you off and let you paddle all the way back to Monmouth under your own steam.
The River Wye and Kerne BridgeClick thumbnail to view full-size
A lovely spot is near Blackpool Bridge
The bluebell woods near Blackpool Bridge are a sight to behold, acre after acre of blue carpet in the spring time. You get to these woods by driving from Cinderford towards Soudley, home to Dean Heritage Center. There is a bad bend just as you approach Upper Soudley where you will see a cattle grid and a sign for Blakeney I think going off to your right.
As soon as you take this road you will see the start of the bluebells (at the right time of year of course). Keep going down this road and you will find plenty of places to park. These are modern times so make sure all valuables are well hidden if you are going to leave your car.
One of the nicest places to park up is close to Blackpool Bridge at Wench Ford picnic site, where you will find a little stream and a lots of country trails that will take you through the woods and even more bluebells. You can have a barbecue here as well if you want to make a day of it, one of the few places in the Forest where you are allowed. We used to have our company barbecues here back in the days when I worked for a living but had to stop because us Foresters kept bringing all our relatives in for the free beer, we were a canny lot.
Even if the bluebells aren't out this is still a lovely spot to visit and here you will not be too far from Soudley or Cannop ponds either and if you look at the map I provided at the top of the page you will find all these places marked for your information.
Ruardean interesting to me and famous for its Horlicks.
Ruardean is where I was born and bred with my 2 sisters and brother and is where I still have family, so of course holds a special interest for me.
The Horlicks reference is because of the Reverend John Horlick whose descendents James and William brewed their first cup of Horlicks in a shed behind the Malt Shovel Public House which is a good eating house today and was once a previous employer for me as I used to put the skittles up for the ladies skittle team when I was a slip of a boy. Can't remember how much I got paid now, probably about 50p for the night, but I do remember being given half a pint of cider to quench my thirst after my toils, strictly illegal of course as I was only about 14 years, old but it sure tasted good.
I visited my home village recently and it actually feels as though time has stood still there a little bit, of course things have changed but there is still a lot that hasn't changed at all.
A couple of the villages institutions are the local store (now the post office as well) and the butchers which are owned and run by the same family today as when I was a very small child and I have to say provide a service to be proud of.
If you have a chance to sample some of the cooked ham from the butchers you will not be disappointed and when you go into buy it you will feel like you got there by tardis, I loved it, a real blast from the past and lovely people to boot.
You can find out a little more about Ruardean by reading the Wikipedia article which you can access through this link.
Ruardean and surrounding area - Ruardean sits on the side of a hill looking out to the Welsh Mountains over the Wye ValleyClick thumbnail to view full-size
The capital city for The Forest of Dean is Historic Gloucester
To find a little more information on Gloucester you can visit an article I wrote here at Historic Gloucester
If you have time you could take a day out to visit the capital to see the famous Cathedral, Gloucester Docks and generally have a good look around the city. I can recommend Ye Old Fish and Chippy in Hare Lane for lunch and a traditional British meal, lovely.
The Severn Valley and GloucesterClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cheese Rolling at Coopers Hill Gloucester
Winifred Foley - A Best Selling Author from the Royal Forest of Dean
Winifred Foley was born and grew up in the Forest of Dean during the 1920's, funnily enough around about the same time as my father's family. I recently read her book Shiny Pennies and Grubby Pinafores which describes a time during and following the second world war. She is living in London during the war but longs for her beloved Forest of Dean and once the war was over she moves back to the Forest to take on a dilapidated old cottage working and earning a living wherever she can. Lovely book and very representative of the lives and times of my family in the baby boomer years.
Her most famous and best selling book was Full Hearts and Empty Bellies, now on my wish list of books to read.
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