The Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tour Guides have a long list of topics that they are able to discuss and present when they visit organisations such as Women’s Institutes, Garden Clubs, Tour groups, and others. They are able to talk about coal mining, iron mining, castles, churches, industrial history, monarchs, trees — just to name a few. However when it comes to October — near Halloween — many organisations opt for the topic “The Mysterious Forest — Spooky Stories from the Dean and Wye”.
Coming out of two years of of uncertainty, lockdown, fear and trepidation, a good many organisations have opted for this very same topic. Has Covid-19 made them think of ghosts? Or do they just want a topic that is not too serious, but provides a certain frisson!
From Devauden in Wales, to Ruspidge in the Forest, to Upton St. Leonard’s near Stroud, audiences have been enjoying stories about the ghosts in the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley. Will they be prepared to visit the much-haunted St. Briavel’s Castle? Will they be too frightened to walk or even drive down Naas Lane in Lydney? Will they drink in the Fountain Inn in Parkend, or the Angel in Coleford? Let’s not even mention Clearwell Caves!
A number of people in the audiences were prepared to mention ghosts that they had experienced in the Forest, giving the presenter a fright as well.
A list of many of the talks are available on the Home Page of this website.
Visitors to the Speech House Hotel enjoyed a glamorous Xmas long weekend, with treats ranging from cocktails and canapes to guided Christmas and Boxing Day morning walks through the Forest, led by a Forest of Dean & Wye Valley guide. They visited Speech House Lake in the swirling mist, imaging that this is how it looked when the lake was portrayed as Lake Avalon in the television series Merlin. Normally the lake is enjoyed by anglers in the fishing season, but it looked magical on Boxing Day morning.
From the Lake they followed a windy footpath that snaked its way through fallen trees and over brooks, till they reached an old railway line which is now a well-used cycle trail. They managed to negotiate passage with the avid cyclists, and made their way back to the main access path known as Spruce Ride.
The walkers had been to Spruce Ride on Christmas Day as well, on the way to Nelson Grove on Trafalgar Avenue, to see the progress of young oaks planted to commemorate a Forest hero, the Admiral himself who lobbied vigorously to protect the Forest of Dean oaks.
Their guide then led them through criss-crossed paths that reached one of the Forest’s gems, that is, the Cyril Hart Arboretum. They had enough time before lunch to marvel at the redwoods, the cedars and the splendid monkey puzzle trees, before hurrying back to the hotel to prepare for a sumptuous lunch.
The walk certainly helped them build up an appetite!
The Forest Of Dean and Wye Valley Tour Guides were delighted to be able to introduce the area to the Eriba Caravan Owners Club who were spending a week at Whitemead Park at the beginning of September. The members came from all over the country and because of the Covid restrictions they had been unable to meet up for 2 years.
One of the Tour guides provided an illustrated talk when the caravan owners got together on the Friday morning. Altogether there were nearly 100 club members staying on site and on the Monday a third of them chose to have a day out exploring the area by coach with one of the other tour guides. Willetts of Coalway provided the coach. Throughout the day there was plenty of cheerful banter between the driver, tour guide and passengers.
As well as exploring the Forest of Dean there was a coffee stop at Taurus Crafts, photo opportunities at Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey. After the drive up the lower Wye Valley, lunchtime was spent in Monmouth. The afternoon provided far reaching views from the coach on the north edge of the Dean before reaching Symonds Yat Rock. As well as looking at River Wye and beautiful scenery from the famous viewpoint, there was time for a cup of tea or an ice cream.
The day finished with a view of Darkhill Ironworks, bringing home the importance of the Dean and Wye Valley’s rich industrial history.
“I arranged to have a private walking tour for my husband’s 60th birthday with (a Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tour Guide). She was a great tour guide. She knew lots about the area of the Forest of Dean where we were walking and offered a wide range of information on the industrial architecture, local history and geology-everything we had asked for! Thank you!“
When a family from Bristol wanted an imaginative birthday present for their husband/father, they simply hired a tour guide to take them on a 2-2.5 walk through the Forest, with an introduction, and plenty of chatter along the way.
They first discussed this with the guide who immediately thought that the ideal starting point for industrial architecture, local history and geology was New Fancy, with the Geomap, the sculpture, the viewpoint and the screens. The guide designed a walk through windy, twisty paths that eventually reached Speech House Lake. The group came back via Spruce Ride and the ex-railway line — another one of the family’s interests! The group finally got back to New Fancy and climbed up to the viewpoint. They decided to have a picnic of bagels there. Being a bagel aficionado, the guide was even able to inform the daughter from Manchester where to find good bagels.
An energetic walking group from Dinton visited the Forest of Dean during a June week of glorious sunshine. Before starting out on their treks, they listened to a talk from a Forest of Dean & Wye Valley guide, who introduced them to the area and prepared them for what they would find.
The coordinator Gordon Lupton said afterwards: “Our group enjoyed your talk and several of the sites you mentioned were visited during the week of dry sunny weather“. He also highlighted the welcome from the Dean Heritage Centre after their walk at Mallards Pike.
The group stayed in the magnificent Speech House Hotel, where they were comfortable after their walks in the sun.