Aside from getting scared in the most haunted castle of England, it’s not said that there isn’t anything to do in the Forest of the Dean where St Briavels is based. In fact, there’s absolutely hundreds of activities to test your nerve, steel, wonderment, creativity and best of all, appreciating England. So here’s what, both Tom of TomarHawk’s Travels did during our bank holiday weekend stay close to the Welsh Border in Gloucestershire.
You can see how J.R. Tolkien became inspired for his Middle-Earth novels when he toured this special and unique 14 acre land of wood. Stepping into the moss covered and limestone cracked maze, dodging trees that hang precariously over the edges, you can still see the modern inspiration that projected itself on screen during episodes of BBC’s acclaimed Doctor Who and Merlin. And more importantly for me, Amy Pond walked throughout the maze…
But prepare yourself to get lost and be wandering around, bumping into stressed parents who ask where’s the way out. I give a clue, just stick to the edges of the wood and you’ll find the way out. It’s definitely worth paying the £6 entrance fee and you’re guaranteed a magical day out with or without kids. Based just off the road on the way to Coleford from St Briavels, this piece of wonderland will have you coming back and back again for more. I know I will, that is if Amy Pond returns.
Whilst I didn’t do this activity and opting instead for the Offa’s Dyke Path Walk, Tom definitely enjoyed this half day trip down the River Wye, starting in Wales before crossing the border back into Wales. Plenty of rapids, scary moments and good old banter is definitely guaranteed. Just watch out for this blog post on this…
Walking the Offa’s Dyke
As Tom Kayaked down the River Wye, I instead opted to walk Offa’s Dyke Path. In Anglo Saxon Times, King Offa of Mercia wanted to keep out the Welsh and probably took inspiration from the knee high Hadrian’s Wall, its use to keep out the Scots. So began the 200 mile Dyke path scretching from Sedbury near Chepstow on the Severn Estuary to Prestatyn on the North Wales coast. Offa commanded his men to undertake a linear earthwork project to dig up soil from the Powys kingdom side (Wales) to be deposited on the Mercian kingdom side (England) so that the Mercian’s could be more protected from attacks by the Welsh and also a great view vantage point for the English to see the attacks coming. At some points, the Dyke is 8 feet high!
I admit that when I set off my walk, I didn’t actually know about Offa’s Dyke. I saw it mentioned on footpath notices but I thought it was named after some random person but I do have to tell you this, it’s absolutely beautiful. The Wye Valley Section will definitely give absolutely panoramic and breath-taking views:
And what’s more the Dyke runs through the Forest of the Dean, so you may glimpse shy wildlife in an environment when it’s just you and nature. Sun shining through the trees, I was startled to spot a very rare sighting…can you spot it in the photo?
A round trip of 10 miles definitely brought the fitness fanatic freak in me and I thoroughology enjoyed walking alongside the River Wye, through small hamlets, farms, woods and villages. It’s England at its best. And it’s all thanks to King Offa!
Advertised as the ultimate iron mining experience, Tom and I both agree that we wouldn’t be coming back here again. Perhaps we’re not interested in mining but we felt the eye-watering £6.50 entrance fee was perhaps a bit too much for what we took away from this experience. However, we did enjoy walking thorough the network of Caves and possibly became little kids for a while. But I think it pretty much explains how enthusiastic we were when this question got punted to me as I walked out of a passageway,
‘what’s back there in that direction?’ ‘Just more Rock…‘
However, if Caves are your thing, then I would recommend it. We probably liked the gift shop more.
The Secret Forest
Just as we were leaving Clearwell Caves after a nice spot of tea and Toblerone cake, a tantalising leaflet waved in our direction promising our fulfilment in the promising The Secret Forest. It’s not so secret. You turn left after leaving the Caves and on your right hand side, there it is.
And indeed it was a kids’ place but for us man kids, we ran riot.
Tom got his awkward pig poses done whilst I got my own Bruce Forsyth poses done.
It’s probably not aimed for adults but it’s rather tongue in cheek for us.
We were in the Forest of the Dean and we were loving the English Experience.
Now it’s time to find out in the next post what we got up to in St Briavels…
If you would like to know what other activities are available in the Forest of the Dean, then check out VisitForestoftheDean.
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