Last walk of 2019, from Speech House

More than a dozen walkers enjoyed an end-of-year morning walk from Speech House Hotel.

The walk from Speech House led to the Forest’s favourite piece from the Sculpture Trail, the hanging stained glass window known as Cathedral. After gasps of appreciation and many photos, the walkers moved on to the site of the Rewilding Project, which had been shown in a recent episode of BBC1’s Countryfile. The project aims to introduce tradition crafts such as weaving, tannery, foraging back to the Forest. It holds events, workshops, training sessions, and even has its own shop which you can find on its website.

The walkers were told about two exciting rewilding schemes within the Forest. The first was the reintroduction of beavers to Greathough Brook near Brierley. Their job is to dam up the brook, to protect Lydbrook from flooding. Second, they were told of recent release of 18 pine martens, whose job it was to control the grey squirrels, with a view to reintroducing the native red squirrels.

The next stop was Woorgreens Lake, which is a beautiful remnant of open cast mining. This is typical of the Forest of Dean, where industrial archaeology is transformed into something beautiful for all to enjoy.

The group then went back to the other side of the busy road towards Spruce Ride. Walkers saw relatively new spruces at different points of growth, both on the way, and on Spruce Ride itself.

After a visit to Speech House Lake, the group divided into two. Those who wanted to relax before lunch retreated back to Speech House Hotel, those who wanted to continue enjoyed the old railway line, which is now a cycle track and walking track.

What a wonderful way to start the last day of the year!

Boxing Day walk from Speech House for those of all abilities

Boxing Day Walk, 2019
Mobility Scooter saves the day!

When an enthusiastic hotel guest at Speech House said that he wanted to join the scheduled Boxing Day walk but, unfortunately, had a broken leg, immediately solutions were found. Speech House provided him with an extremely robust mobility scooter, and the resourceful walking guide changed the route so that all could join in.

In the same group, there was a walker who was visually impaired. He was ably assisted by his partner but — again, it was the accessibility of the route that made it enjoyable for him as well.

The walk zig-zagged from the access path known as Spruce Ride, taking in Speech House Lake, Trafalgar Way, Nelson Grove, Reform Bridge, and the old railway line going over Central Bridge.

There are maps available at Speech House that show which paths are suitable for mobility scooters and wheelchairs. The vehicles have to be of a sufficient standard to withstand the rocky surfaces and, as on December 26, 2019, the extreme mud.

Nevertheless, it was heartening for all the walkers that no one was left behind.

River Wye, 2020 — the Gilpin 2020 Festival

What was the Prince of Wales doing in Ross-on-Wye on November 5, 2019? He was introducing the Gilpin 2020 Festival.

The year 2020 represents 250 years since a very influential book was written, establishing tours on the River Wye as the first genuine “staycations” in Britain. Observations on the River Wye was written by the Reverend William Gilpin, an amateur artist from the north who sought out landscapes that he claimed to be “picturesque”, establishing an artistic movement.

Gilpin chose the lower River Wye as the trip that most suited his artistic sensibilities. He wrote his book, including both text and sketches, not realising that it would spark a new fashion in travelling down the River Wye by boat, from Ross to Chepstow. Artists, writers and people as notable as Admirable Nelson took the trip.

There will be events all year commemorating the launch of the book. Watch this space….

A photo of The view from Symonds Yat Rock - Spring 2019
The view of the Wye from Symonds Yat Rock – Spring 2019

Humbug rock found on walk

A group of 22 walkers, ranging from tiny toddlers to retired stalwarts, some visiting from Switzerland and Thailand, joined a Forest of Dean guide for a walk from the Whitemead site in Parkend. Walkers strolled gently on the old railway line from Parkend to Cannop Ponds, coming off the track, past the stoneworks, and joining the historic Bicslade tramroad. They turned off to see the dramatic statue of two young brothers who died in a tragic accident at the Union Colliery in 1902.

Statue of the James Brothers

Imagine everyone’s surprise when a Forest of Dean Rock was found on the statue! This brought a smile to the tearful faces of all who contemplated the disaster. The beautifully painted rocks are distributed around the Forest, then transported to other locations. This particular one depicted baby wild boars — known as little humbugs. Who knows where this one will next be found?

Forest of Dean Rock
Forest of Dean Rock — little humbugs

SE Fitness visits the Forest of Dean

SE Fitness, a walking and running group based around Sutton Park near Sutton Coldfield, chose the Forest of Dean for their mid-summer walking trip.

Close to 40 enthusiastic walkers met three Forest of Dean tour guides in Parkend. They quickly divided into three groups and were led in three different directions to their ultimate destination — the Speech House.

One group had a quick tour of Parkend, learning all about the importance of iron and coal mining. They took a gentle walk on the old railway line toward Cannop Ponds, where they watched swans and ducks enjoying the sun. The second group set off through Nagshead RSPB nature reserve and eventually crossed paths with the first group at Cannop. The third group sped through the woods, passing one of the Forest of Dean’s remaining ancient oaks, past New Fancy — site of a large colliery — before making their way to Speech House.

At Speech House the three groups came together for lunch in the Verderers Court Room. The Room is still the meeting place of the Verderers, an ancient body of judicial officers who once dealt with Forest offences such as poaching the monarch’s venison. The Verderers’ authority is more limited now.

SE fitness members went home satisfied after a successful day, grateful that the weather co-operated, holding off the menacing clouds.

A photo showing visitors inside the Verderers Court at the Speech House
Visitors inside the Verderers Court at the Speech House