Walking in the Forest of Dean
25 routes in the historic Royal Forest
By Mike Dunn
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Guidebook to 25 walks in the Forest of Dean, between the Severn and Wye, from 4-mile routes to all-day sections of long-distance trails such as the Offa's Dyke Path and Gloucestershire Way, this guide is ideal for exploring the forest and its history and includes the information needed for walkers of all abilities to explore this ancient area.
Seasonswalks can be enjoyed in every season, with the central forest providing shelter on windy days
Centresaccessible from Gloucester, Lydney and Chepstow, while the key centres within the Forest of Dean itself are Coleford and Cinderford
Difficultynone of the routes should present any technical difficulties, although all of them require basic route-finding skills and the walks following part of long-distance trails are challenging full-day expeditions; many follow clear forest tracks and paths across farmland
Must Seeiconic hills (such as May Hill), forested slopes, coal and iron-making sites with furnaces and ponds, sensational views, picturesque landscapes and a rich cultural and social history
The 25 walks in this guidebook range from relatively simple half-day strolls to challenging full-day excursions along parts of the three long-distance trails which thread their way through the area. With the exception of these longer routes, which will take a full day and require a good level of fitness, almost all of the routes are circular walks and generally they can comfortably be completed in half a day. The walks are described in four sections, covering the western ridges above the gorge of the River Wye; the forested ridges and valleys of central Dean; the eastern ridges together with the lowlands between the Forest and the Severn; and the long-distance trails.
Hemmed in by two major rivers, the Severn and the Wye, the Forest of Dean is truly a land apart, with a distinctive landscape and a unique cultural identity. Encircling ridges and forested slopes give the central Forest a secretive quality, while the ridges above the Wye gorge and the Severn Vale offer sensational views and easy walking.
Historically annexed as a Royal Forest since before the Norman Conquest, it remained a protected hunting ground as well as a site for coal-mining and ironworks from Roman times to the Industrial Revolution. Now, the combination of secretive forests, rolling farmland and ridges above the Wye gorge and the Severn Vale provide excellent paths and spectacular views.
The result is a guidebook that offers all the information walkers need to enjoy a wide range of walking among the rolling countryside of the Forest of Dean.
- 21 day walks and 4 linear routes along long-distance trails, right across the Forest
- illustrated with OS map extracts
- with notes of historical and natural interest along the way
Geology and landscape
Plants and wildlife
The impact of man
Getting to and around the Forest
Where to stay
What to take
Maps and waymarking
Using this guide
1 Above the River Wye
Walk 1 Around the northern ridges
Walk 2 Biblins and Yat Rock
Walk 3 The Stones of Staunton
Walk 4 Dean’s Cathedral and the old Wye
Walk 5 Across the Hudnalls
Walk 6 To the Devil’s Pulpit
Walk 7 Woolaston Common
2 The Heart of the Forest
Walk 8 Speculation and the northern collieries
Walk 9 Bixslade and Cannop Ponds
Walk 10 Nagshead and Dark Hill
Walk 11 Parkend to Blakeney
Walk 12 The Sculpture Trail
Walk 13 New Fancy and the Speech House
Walk 14 Mallards Pike
Walk 15 Soudley Ponds and Blaize Bailey
Walk 16 The Soudley Rural Geology Trail
3 Eastern Dean and Severn Shore
Walk 17 May Hill
Walk 18 Littledean and Welshbury
Walk 19 Longhope and Flaxley
Walk 20 Newnham and Bullo Pill
Walk 21 The Awre Peninsula and the Old Severn Bridge
4 The Long-distance Trails
Walk 22 Offa’s Dyke Path
Walk 23 The Gloucestershire Way in the western Forest
Walk 24 The Gloucestershire Way through central Dean
Walk 25 The Wysis Way
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Useful contacts
Every one of the routes included in this guide is covered on a single 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey (OS) map, Outdoor Leisure sheet 14 (Wye Valley & Forest of Dean), and it is recommended that this should be used to supplement the detail provided on the 1:50,000 map extracts which have been reproduced at 1:40,000 in this book. Many of the routes use forest roads and tracks, which may occasionally be closed because of forest operations.
Waymarking in the Forest of Dean is extremely variable, ranging from exemplary along the Offa’s Dyke Path national trail to unsatisfactory in a number of the less frequented parts of the area. Even some of the better-known routes, such as the Wysis Way, suffer from erratic waymarking, with signposting missing at a number of crucial points along the route. Some roadside signposts are missing, vandalised or badly sited, and waymarks in the deeper countryside are not provided in some crucial places. Gloucestershire County Council’s priority is to maintain roadside signposts rather than to waymark routes in the countryside, which is understandable because of resource constraints but can be deeply frustrating. Path problems can be reported online at www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/prow. Where problems exist a more detailed description of the path to be followed is given in the route description.
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Mike Dunn was born and bred in Leicester but has now lived in Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan for over 30 years. He worked for the Welsh Assembly Government, latterly specialising in environmental and conservation issues, and has also written widely on landscape, walking, pubs and real ale. His books include The Penguin Guide to Real Draught Beer, Walking through the Lake District, Walking Ancient Trackways and Real Heritage Pubs of Wales (with Mick Slaughter). He is married and has two daughters, and his interests include playing and organising tennis (he is a Board Member of Tennis Wales), birdwatching, cricket and real ale. Mike's favourite locations for walking are the Welsh borders, the Hebridean Islands and the Lake District.View Articles and Books by Mike Dunn