Forest Holidays Forest of Dean – Part 2
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Ancient forests, hand-pulled ferries and steam engines
survival skills? Zipwire through the treetops? Llama trekking? Rock climbing? I was so
spoilt for things to do during my midweek break at Award-Winning
Forest Holidays Forest of Dean site. More than 20 activities were bookable
through the smart TV in our luxury Golden Oak cabin. My partner John, who is
not so active, was happy to sit on the decking and read in the glorious
September sunshine so I decided to explore the area on foot.
Day 1: Walking to Symonds Yat, crossing the Wye by ferry and bridge
maps bought from the Forest Retreat shop, a compass, a walking pole and
rucksack full of essentials I set off from the cabin in the crisp early Autumn
air for a nine-mile circular walk. Striding out along the forest path I was
amazed by the silence and the absence of other walkers. I forced myself to slow
down to practise forest bathing and was rewarded with the
appearance of a tree creeper winding its way around a nearby trunk; a nuthatch
tapping into the bark to catch insects; squirrels scampering.
into my walk, I stopped at Symonds Yat café to refuel with coffee and a
generous slab of carrot cake. The views across the River Wye from the 500-foot
high clifftop are truly spectacular. Scrambling down the steep and muddy path
towards the river, grateful for the use of my hiking pole as a brake, I landed
outside the Saracen’s Head pub where I took the traditional hand-pulled
ferry across the Wye for £1.40. Following the friendly ferryman’s advice, I
followed the riverside path for 1.5 miles to cross the river at Biblins
suspension bridge – a slightly scary construction to rival those in Costa Rican
rainforests. From there it was a slow and steady climb back up the steep hillside
and through the forest to our cabin.
A long soak
in our private hot tub in the late afternoon sunshine provided welcome relief
for tired muscles. This was after I’d wasted time searching the cabin for
goggles to wear as the Forest Holidays’ video for using the hot tub instructs
you to “use the plastic glasses provided.” Of course, they were referring to plastic
wine goblets! Doh!
Dinner: The New Inn, Shortstanding,
just half a mile from the cabin proved to be a friendly local with large car
park and equally large sports TV providing good quality, home-cooked pub grub.
Day 2: The Dean Forest Railway
coincided with a steam heritage day at the Dean Forest Railway that runs between nearby Parkend and Lydney. John has restricted
mobility but decided to join me for the experience. Following the website’s recommendation,
we drove to Norchard Station where there is a huge free carpark. We‘d have been better off parking at Parkend
where the small carpark was adjacent the railway line and, as it was off
season, seemed to have some spaces. At Norchard we had a lengthy and, for John,
painful walk from the disabled parking area, across several tracks and up a
steep slope to the upper platform to catch the train. It was all wheelchair
accessible however and they had ramps to access the carriages.
We spent a
relaxing couple of hours travelling backwards and forwards, enjoying the
magical sound of the steam engine chuffing as it built up speed and tooting as
it approached each station. I loved seeing the smiles lighting up the faces of
people passing by or waiting at level crossings. The sight of the little steam
engine instantly dispelled any displeasure at having to wait. Many waved and we
waved back. At Lydney there was a break while the steam engine uncoupled to
move around to the front of the carriages for the return journey. Some
passengers chose to take the 20-minute walk to Lydney Harbour on the River Severn and return via
a later train. Several of us jumped out excitedly to watch the engine reverse
around the bend and reappear tooting with clouds of steam, leaving all of us grinning
like little children.
Dinner: The White Horse Inn on the Monmouth Road. It was very busy for a
Wednesday night and took 40 minutes to get our starters. Decent enough food but
not ‘Michelin starred’ as described in a recent review.
Day 3: Puzzlewood, Lydney Harbour and Tintern Abbey
enchanted world of Puzzlewood lies just 3 miles from the Forest
Holidays site. This ancient mossy woodland has been used as a filming location for
Star Wars, Merlin and Dr Who. I spent a magical 90 minutes following the
pathways through craggy, moss-covered rocks beneath hanging creepers, spotting
interesting bird life along the way.
I drove a
further 8 miles to Lydney Harbour where a short circular walk afforded
far-reaching views of the River Severn and its bridges. A peaceful drive along
the riverside took me into Wales and up the Wye Valley. I was heading for
Monmouth but was stopped in my tracks as the magnificent 12th
century Tintern Abbey emerged into view. I spent a
peaceful 30 minutes wandering around these ruins spouting half-remembered lines
from Wordsworth’s famous poem. A lovely end to a magical break with Forest Holidays.
Thai, Sling. Great authentic Thai food cooked and served by friendly chef Ice,
from Bangkok and Chiangmai. This tiny restaurant is hidden within the Sling
Village Social Club House. You have to enter the club to buy drinks from the
bar and on the night we visited two stern-looking women’s teams were engaged in
a serious wooden skittles tournament. We were made welcome but felt like slightly
John were guests of Forest Holidays, Forest of Dean site, staying in a
2-bedroom Golden Oak cabin.
Holidays offer mid-week, weekend breaks and longer stays at their 11 forest cabin locations across Great Britain.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Forest Holidays.
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