A Journey through the Royal Forest to Chepstow
Leaving Ross by the A40 road and then following the B4234 it is possible travel through the heart of the ancient Royal Forest of Dean. Extending over 30,000 acres of woodland it lays between the rivers Severn and the Wye. Established by William the Conqueror as a royal hunting forest it was used exclusively as a Royal hunting grounds by the Tudor Kings. In 1938 it was the first forest in the country to be declared a National Forest Park. Now an area that is devoted to leisure activities it is hard to imagine that this Royal Forest was once very much engaged in a variety of industries, ore mining, coal mining, its timber was used for charcoal burning which was part of everyday life in times past.
The timber was considered to be of very high quality and was used in ship building, it was believed that Admiral Lord Nelsons ship the Victory and possibly the Mary Rose was constructed from the wood of the forest. It is possible for visitors to see evidence of this with the various exhibitions throughout the area.
For visitors wish to take exercise then perhaps cycling might appeal, if so then visit Pedalabikeaway, this is a cycle hire centre at Cannop Valley, situated on B4234 the centre offers hire cycles of all kinds and gives visitors the opportunity to ride on way marked routes which are traffic free. A café on site provides refreshments.
For further information Tel. 01594 860065.
By taking the nearby B4226 the historic Speech House can be reached, now a hotel it was once where foresters held their courts, known as the Verderers Court. The oldest part of the Speech House erected in 1669 and its purpose was essentially for the preservation of the forest and deer, which roamed freely through the whole area.
From here it is yet another way for visitors to take exercise but this time with a difference – Llama & Camel trekking, have a woodland walk in the company of these placid animals. Treks are held on a regular basis; further information can be obtained by telephoning:
Visits to the forest would not be complete without making the journey to Littledean Jail, with one of the country’s most infamous black museums, it is not a place for the fainthearted . Situated on a hillside not far from Cinderford it has been a house of correction, courthouse and police station. Much memorabilia is on show with connections to many types of punishment. To see what was known by many as the Alcatraz of the forest follow the A4151 where it is signposted. Tel. 01594 826659
In the near vicinity of Littledean stands the Dean Heritage Centre at Upper Soudley. Located in a listed mill building, it is the home of some 20,000 objects, see archaeological and history exhibits connected with the forest.There is a reconstructed 19th century ‘forester’s cottage, woodland walks, craft demonstrations, charcoal burning, an old fashioned school room to see and meals can be obtained in the Dean Heritage Kitchen. Tel. 01594 822170
Just ½ a mile south of Coleford on the B4228 Chepstow Road is Puzzle Wood; this is an area, which was used for opencast iron ore extraction in pre-Roman times. Extending over some 14 acres it is a place of exploration; with paths laid in the early 1800s there are passageways, bridges, moss-covered rocks, a magical grotto of trailing vines. There is also an indoor puzzle with secret doors and hidden passageways, farm animals to see. A Tea Room and Souvenir shop will complete your visit. Tel.01594 833187
Just a short distance away on the B4228 a delight for children (and some adults) is the Perrygrove Railway . This unique private railway offers a one and half-mile trip through farmland and woods, there is a treasure hunt for children to seek their box of treasure, they can play hide and seek in secret passages. The Perrygrove Railway permits unlimited rides. Tel. 01594 834991
Still in the same vicinity are the Clearwell Caves; described as a journey of discovery these caves were a source of iron ore for more than 4000 years. Ochre is still produced here and is used by artists and by others for natural paints. With nine caverns for the public to explore and blacksmith workshops plus a shop and tearoom there is plenty to see and do here. A picnic area and free parking add to the attractions. At Christmas the caves are transformed into a Christmas Wonderland. Tel. 01594 832535
By following the B4228 and then turning on to the B4231 Lydney can be reached. A visit to Lydney Park Spring Gardens is a must for lovers of gardens. Lydney Park is the home of Viscount Bledisloe, set on the western outskirts of Lydney these superb gardens covering 8 acres have an abundance of Rhododendrons, Azaleas and many other flowering shrubs, with a Roman Temple it is a relaxing way to spend time in idyllic surroundings. Picnic in the Deer Park and visit the museum. Teas are also available. Opening times – 11am – 6pm Sundays, Wednesdays. Bank Holiday Mondays 26th March – 4th June
Also daily 1st -7th May and 29th May – 4th June. Group bookings can be made during the season on other days for parties of 25 or more. Tel. 01594 842844
The Dean Forest Railway operates from Norchard Station, Forest Road Lydney. With a 9 mile round trip through the forest to Parkend it is carefree way to see parts of the forest on steam trains and heritage diesels. There is plenty to see, a museum a children’s park a lake, shops real ale pubs, village walks, in fact something for all.
The Forest of Dean Model Village is situated on the A48 at Old Park, here you can see the area of the forest in miniature, there are replicas of local buildings and landmarks. During the course of the year there are special events. In the autumn there are night time illuminations with a winter wonderland at Christmas time. For further information Tel .01594 845244
Take the A48 to Chepstow.
This ancient town has a long history with its castle foundations believed to have been laid in 1067, it is most likely that this was the first medieval stone castle to have been built in this country. The architect was William FitzOsbem who was the Norman Lord of Breteuil, Lord of Strigiol (Chepstow) and the Marches and Earl of Hereford.
During the civil wars the castle changed hands twice each time, held by the Royalists then taken by the Parliamentarian forces and repeated in the second civil war.
Chepstow town proper stands on the west bank of the Wye it is a walled market town that was once a port, the bridge which connects Chepstow to Gloucestershire was built by John Rennie in 1816 and was constructed in cast-iron. Within the town there are many places of historical interest. IE in Bridge Street the Powis Alms House –dated 1716, in Hocker Hill Street a building named St.Maur has a plaque recording Horatio Nelson staying there in 1802.
Some of the narrow streets add to the quaintness of the town with the area being an interesting example of times past. The Priory church of St. Mary was founded in 1071 and until the dissolution of the Monasteries it was occupied by Benedictine monks. A varied selection of shops, pubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants serve the needs of the local populace and the visitor.
- For more comprehensive information about Chepstow