I grew up here and know the woods very well, spending most of my childhood exploring and appreciating nature in the forest.
If you are planning on visiting the picturesque Forest Of Dean, or simply interested in finding out about it, be sure to read my article. I hope to provide you with first hand knowledge of the best places to see whilst you are here and give you some tips on things that will make your experience more enjoyable and manageable. Depending on which time of year you decide to come, I want to give you the best ideas and preparations possible. I hope you will enjoy reading what I have to say and I hope it will be very useful for anyone visiting for the first time who intends on exploring this lovely part of Gloucestershire. I will be writing about my opinions from a survival / bush craft point of view but not directly aiming it towards that audience only. Many people from all walks of life come here to see the forest and witness it's natural wonders.
“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
When you are at home and you get an adventurous thought pop into your head, it can sometimes be very easy to act spontaneously and end up in the middle of no-where without a solid idea of which direction to head in or find yourself in great difficulty and distress by getting lost in the big forest.
Preparing properly before you head out exploring the wilderness is essential which is why I am writing about this subject first before anything else. There isn't much worse in regards to travel than coming to an amazing place only to find yourself stressed and looking for the quickest way out. You should know that I have learned this the hard way by walking too far off the beaten track and running out of daylight before I found my way home.
Good footwear - Preferably good hiking boots / Wellingtons ( not your best white trainers or High heels . Don't want your feet getting wet and end up with sores after miles of walking which can ruin your entire trip.
Waterproofs - Lightweight waterproof coat with a hood and waterproof trousers to keep you dry. I have been out in the torrential rain in the forest and if it's cold you will kick yourself for getting soaked through and not being able to warm up.
Something warm - You don't want anything too heavy, if it's Summer. In Autumn - Spring - Winter I always recommend that you bring along something warm like thermal insulated undergarments as the temperature can drop drastically in the evening time and through the night time especially. But you also don't want to over do it. Being too hot when having a long way to walk can be frustrating and the exercise you are doing when moving is usually enough to keep you warm with normal clothing on.
Spare socks - Make sure you bring some spare socks in-case your socks get wet. Your feet are very important when traversing the wilderness. ( keep old ones in thin carrier bag if they are stinky )
First aid - I always carry a small basic first aid box with me with plasters, sterile wipes, antiseptic wipes, bandages, scissors, microporous tape, saline eye wash, a spare lighter and insect repellent. If you have a fall and cut yourself badly which is quite unlikely if you are being sensible then you will not have immediate access to a hospital right away - so having this box as part of your equipment is very important.
Food - Personally I like to take high energy foods with me things that don't take up much space like peanuts, chocolate, raisins, biscuits and depending on how long I am out for I might prepare some fish wrapped in tinfoil with herbs ready to be cooked on the fire. A small oven grid or the thin metal mesh from a disposable BBQ will come in handy for cooking but you can place your fish / potatoes onto the hot embers of your fire to cook them nicely inside the foil :)
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Water - Take 2 decent sized water bottles with you, you will need to stay hydrated on your adventure and if you decide you fancy a nice cup of tea or coffee then boil some water in a saucepan over the fire. I will explain about fires later in the article and the safety measures you will need to adhere to.
Map - Having a map is very useful and can be used alongside your compass to navigate yourself back into civilization when you have walked too far to remember the way back. Sometimes I take a big bag of monkey nuts with me and leave a trail of shells behind me so I can find my way home. ( just kidding ) You can find a map of the Forest Of Dean online before you go and either print it out or purchase one from a nearby local store or petrol station.
Compass - It's wise to have one especially if you are planning on walking off the path then you can refer to your map and know the direction you should take.
Knife - very useful but often not used at all, just remember it's illegal to carry one unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less. No need to take a machete you aren't in the jungle.
Tent - If you are planning to stay out overnight, you would be wise to take a small lightweight single man tent although taking a friend along with you is much better not only for company but in case you have an accident, so a decent sized one wont hurt providing you are willing to take it in turns to carry it. I often take a small tent with me into the forest and set it up straight away in my favourite spot then come back to it later but a light tarpaulin can easily be tied to provide rain cover temporarily.
Medication - Don't forget any meds you may need or any aids like inhalers or epi pens you may require.
Telephone - A good mobile phone no matter how much it costs won't do you much good if you can't get any signal. Having had this problem before personally I recommend going to a place higher up than you already are or heading towards open area since the trees can affect your signal quite a lot. Carry a spare battery or portable charger so you never run out of power in case of an emergency.
Tourist Information Centre in Coleford
Tourist Information Centre is located in Coleford town which is open from Monday to Saturday 10am until 16.00.
Let the adventure begin!
Now that you have researched what type of things you will need to take with you on your adventure, you are ready to step foot into a place you will never forget.
There are many different attractions to see on your travels.
Perrygrove Rd, Coleford GL16 8QB
It is a very ancient 14 acre area of woodland that has been part of inspiration for Tolkiens middle earth fantasy epic and has a lot of history including evidence of open cast iron ore mining which you will find dates back to the roman period and maybe earlier. A truly magical place to visit when you are here although a fee is required to enter this place it really is worth it. Open only on Wednesdays and weekends.
The Rocks, Clearwell, Coleford GL16 8JR
In a place called Clearwell near the small market town of Coleford there are fantastic caves to visit that have been extensively mined for iron ore throughout the centuries. Nowadays the caves are being used as a museum of sorts to showcase the rich history of mining in the Forest Of Dean.
One of my favourites, the Sculpture Trail is a place where you can take a relaxed walk and see many different sculptures commissioned for the forest. I remember from when I was a young boy seeing the fantastic Giants chair sculpture which unfortunately has been taken down after many many years for safety reasons and turned into charcoal for local artists to use. Other sculptures include a beautiful stained glass window hanging from the trees and a giant pine-cone! but I will leave the rest for you to discover yourselves.
Symmonds Yacht and the Wye Valley
Very beautiful part of the forest that I would not allow anyone to miss out on when visiting here. Symmonds Yacht is a small village which stands on the banks of the river Wye and borders Gloucestershire into Herefordshire. The viewpoint before you go down all the way to the Saracens Head is absolutely breath taking so don't miss it ! it's quite a trek all the way down so be sure to stop into the lovely pub at the bottom where you can eat fabulous food and enjoy the river. They run cruises by boat and you can walk to the Biblins bridge which is about a 2 mile long walk from the Saracens Head and it wobbles as you walk across it, I think it's amazing.Hope you enjoy :)
With all the lovely attractions that you can enjoy here you wont run out of things to do . In-fact hopefully you will be planning your next trip to fit in the things you didn't have time to do on your first visit .
Never be afraid to step off the path and see the real forest because you have an endless opportunity to get away from the busy walks of life and experience the natural landscape in it's raw form . I have been out walking with my camera and the dog off the track and seen some incredible sights such as wild deer slowly approaching and also Wild Boar which have recently been re-introduced .
Since Norman times, the Forest Of Dean has had mostly one species of deer - fallow deer. A few red deer were released into the Forest in 1999, but have some what moved to the South West of the Forest in the Wye Valley. Really a magical sight but be sure when you are on the road to drive responsibly and be aware that they can jump out at any time because I can assure you they aren't very magical when one gets injured or killed by your fast moving metallic vehicle.
Boar were once common in the Forest of Dean. They are thought to have become extinct after they were hunted for food, but they have been reintroduced. In medieval times, boar from the Royal Forest were supplied for the King's table - there is a record of an order for 100 boars and sows for a Christmas feast in 1254. Wild boar are normally secretive, and largely nocturnal if they are not interfered with and are unlikely to attack people. There have, however, been a number of problems with boar in the Forest of Dean with damage or injury to people, pets and property. ''They are a bloody nuisance digging up our lawns'' as put by my wonderful Grandmother Margaret.
Birds of Prey
All these are fairly common sights in the woodland areas.
- Barn Owls and other smaller Owl species
- Peregrine Falcons
- Red-Kite (rare)
Other animals such as Foxes, Badgers, Hedgehogs, and Rabbits can often be seen. If you are lucky enough you can a glimpse of the elusive Kingfishers with their incredible petrol-blue feathers that will really make your day special. You are most likely to see them down by the river which is where I have often seen them. You see the occasional Heron, standing gracefully perched on a rock watching the water or flying through the air, bigger than any other birds in the UK.
When lighting fires in the forest, make sure you are sensible and responsible for your actions. Put a circle of rocks in a cleared area where the fire cannot catch onto debris and spread. Don't break living trees to use as firewood. It is easy to find dead and broken kindling and firewood in most areas so there is no need to damage anything in order to enjoy your time. Make sure all fires are completely put out or burned out before leaving the area and DON'T LEAVE LITTER ! Enjoy :)
Be careful to have your dogs on a lead, as boar will be very protective of their young like most animals, don't feed them and remember they are wild :)
Enjoy the Forest and check out the group H.O.O.F!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 21, 2018:
It looks lovely. I had only heard of the Forest of Dean from Harry Potter but had never given it much thought. The United Kingdom has a lot of fantastic scenery that, in my opinion, is way underrated. Great pictures, too.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 21, 2018:
I have never been to the Forest of Dean. Your article encourages me to go there.