Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Tour guides escorted two two groups of retired GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) staff in coaches from Worthing around the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley. GSK was once an important employer in the Forest of Dean, with a factory in Coleford manufacturing Ribena. This factory was recently taken over by the Japanese company Suntory. However, there is another historic GSK connection in the Forest: Horlicks, manufactured by GSK in Slough, was developed in the forest village of Ruardean by bothers James and William Horlick! The groups stopped for coffee in the historic Verderers Court, part of the Speech House Hotel, and lunch in the market town of Monmouth. The tour organiser from GSK was thrilled with the arrangements and praised the two tour guides for their entertaining commentary and depth of knowledge of the area. “They never stopped talking about how good it was”, was the organiser’s comment about the groups’ experience of the tour.
A lively group from Norfolk enjoyed a coach tour of the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, provided by Eastons Holidays. Starting from Coleford, they travelled past Puzzlewood, famous for its bizarre landscape which attracts filming as glamorous as Star Wars, past Clearwell Caves – no less famous as Dr. Who episodes were filmed there. They saw sites of ancient iron works, coal mines, quarries, the famous Speech House which houses the Verderers’ Court, and the charming villages of Ruardean, Lydbrook and English Bicknor.
They spent time at the lower Wye Valley’s most spectacular sites – Symonds Yat and Tintern Abbey. They stopped for lunch at the market town of Monmouth which straddles the River Wye and the River Monnow. Hopefully, their lunch was modest, as they eventually headed back via Chepstow and St. Briavel’s to Bells Hotel in Coleford for a sumptuous dinner.
A Probus group from Cheshire enjoyed a whirlwind tour of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley. Starting at Chepstow, the group then travelled into the depths of the Forest, past notable places such as Dark Hill, Nagshead, Speech House, the Dean Heritage Centre, then on to Ross-on-Wye to browse and grab some lunch. The group then went on to Symonds Yat West for a boat trip starting from the grounds of St. Dubricius Church, with its magnicent 17th century tulip tree. The group was fortunate enough to see a hand ferry in operation, starting from the Saracens Head in Symonds Yat East, to the west side. After the boat trip, everyone enjoyed a lavish cream tea at the 16th century Old Court Hotel. To some on the trip, the highlight of the day was yet to come. The coach the the road along the River Wye and stopped at Tintern Abbey so that all could take a look at the magnificent ruin and take some memorable photos.
The Forest of Dean is so much more than a glorious expanse of trees. This 20 mile tour reveals some of the Forest’s hidden secrets – royal, industrial, artistic, and natural. As we dodge the free-roaming sheep, we will pass the Verderers Court, nature reserves, former quarries, iron works, railways and coal mines and much more. In spring see the brilliant displays of bluebells and other wild flowers. In summer – see the trees in all their majesty. In autumn – see the amazing colours as the trees turn from green to red, bronze and gold and in the winter see the Forest stripped of its camouflage displaying the mighty oaks the like of which were used for Nelson’s fleet. We might even catch a glimpse of a wild boar!
The late 18th century Romantics made the lower Wye Valley a sought after destination for distinguished visitors. While they travelled by boat, we travel by road to appreciate why the area is now designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Even though nature takes centre stage, with the dramatic rising cliffs and spectacular viewpoints, history always features as well. The medieval castles at Chepstow and Goodrich remind us that this was once disputed frontier land between England and Wales. The striking view of Tintern Abbey also speaks volumes about the past – it’s no wonder that Wordsworth composed some of his most memorable lines whilst visiting the area. This tour follows the route from Chepstow to Ross on Wye and includes a stop at the historic market town of Monmouth.
Comments from G. G., Oxford University.
“We had a wonderful day, it was just what I had hoped……. Thanks for your help, it was even more essential than I had imagined”. (July 2009)