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

Is it a twig? is it a snake? no, it’s a slow-worm!

Sloe worm
Walkers find sloe worm in RSPB Enclosure, Nagshead

Walkers from Whitemead in Parkend had just entered the Nagshead RSPB enclosure after visiting Monument Mine, one of the few remaining coal mines run by Freeminers in the Forest of Dean. After a few yards they were confronted with a shiny, slimy-looking creature that remained rigid on the path. Snake? No, we decided, it was a slow-worm a type of legless lizard. It posed beautifully for photos, and we made sure that the dogs were kept well away from it.

The walk through the woods was particularly glorious, as late bluebells poked up through the ferns and bracken. Birdwatchers were out with impressive photographic equipment, but were looking up at birds rather than down at lizards!

Rotarians enjoy walk from Speech House

A group of Rotarians spent an activity-packed break at Speech House. Part of their package included a short pre-dinner walk from Speech House, taking in a few notable pieces from the Sculpture Trail — Echo and Cathedral — as well as a tour around the Gloucestershire Wildlife trust enclosed area where the beloved Exmoor ponies still roam.

Exmoor ponies
Rob ‘Savage’ Sargent captures the ponies on film

The ponies have been doing an excellent job grazing, keeping the wild grasses short and manageable. However, a corral has been built to enclose them when they will be rounded up and moved some time by the end of spring. They were never intended to be permanent residents at this nature reserve. They will be moved to another area, possibly Tidenham Chase, where they will munch happily there.

Fortunately the Rotarians were able to see them in this distinct habitat before they are moved off.