We joined the Forest of Dean Ramblers for a four-hour (plus half an hour lunch break), ten-mile walk around the Forest of Dean last weekend. Several years ago, we had done a couple of walks with the Ramblers in the South Downs, and thoroughly enjoyed them. The group back then consisted mainly of twenty-somethings. This time around we had simply set our mind to doing a bit of hiking in the Forest of Dean, a beautiful stretch of hilly woodland next to the Welsh border in Gloucestershire. Neither of us had visited before.
I took an afternoon train from London to Gloucester, where I picked up the rental car and waited for Ms B, while getting some work done from the room at the Ibis Hotel. Because it is off-season, we had managed to get a large double-room for under £30. At around 8pm, I picked up Ms B at the train station. We had a quick bite, purchased some snacks for the hike the following day, then drove back to the hotel for an early night.
The breakfast at the hotel didn’t entice us to stay long, so we checked out early and arrived at The Nags Head pub in Yorkley more than half an hour before the time. Jackie, our leader for the day, was already there and greeted the first few hiking enthusiasts who had arrived with us. Quickly the numbers rose to 18 hikers and Jackie warmly welcomed everyone and introduced us to the other members. All of the other hikers that day were long-standing members (the newbies had still joined more than two years ago), several were involved in the running of the club. Most of them were usually doing at least one walk per week. Some of them three or four every week, well done there!
From the outset everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and one-by-one walked a bit with us to say hi. A very good mix of people from all types of backgrounds. Some had done some serious hiking, such as four weeks across Western Canada. Everyone had some interesting anecdotes to share. Some of the members have known each other since the 1970s, not talking about the couples. We were the youngest members of the group by a pretty far margin, which is perfectly fine in our book.
The landscape was outrageously beautiful throughout. Until we started doing a bit of research during the days before the trip, we had not realised how many famous movies and TV series had been filmed in this Forest: from Star Wars to Doctor Who, from Jack the Giant Slayer to The Huntsman, it would probably be easier to list the movies that had had NO scenes filmed here.
Our walk was called “Jackie’s Backyard”, because Jackie lives right next to the route and knows every last corner inside out. She made sure that everyone kept up a brisk pace and didn’t mix this hiking tour up with a casual walk in the park. Until the lunch break, when we sat down for 20 minutes on a few random rocks in the middle of the Forest, to eat our packed lunches, we only did one other proper stop.
At Mallards Pike next to the large pond we bought some tasty, fresh coffee at the little café and sat down for just under 15 minutes. The other stops along the way were usually just for a minute or two, to allow Jackie to talk about the next section of the route and throw in a bit of background information and history.
Despite the fact that it had not rained in a week, there was still a lot of mud involved and we were glad that we were wearing our heavy hiking boots. There are a couple of great viewing points on the way, from which, on a clear day, you can see the Severn bridges. However, during the day it gradually became mistier and foggier and started to drizzle more and more frequently. The running gag within the group was to point into the thick fog and then talk about the great views you would have, if you’d have them, often in great detail and with gusto.
We were impressed how well-organised the hiking tour was and how effortlessly we made our way around the circular route without any incidents. We will definitely do more walks with the Ramblers soon, in the Forest or perhaps closer to London.
We had a quick drink at The Nags Head, then we were on our way to Wookey Hole in Somerset, where we were going to stay for the night. The following morning we did a three-hour caving experience (well, mine was only 2.5h) called Wild Wookey (post here), then spent the rest of the day exploring beautiful Wells and Cheddar Gorge, both only a few miles away from Wookey Hole. In the evening we returned the car in Gloucester and took the train back to the Smoke.
Looking for more ideas for activities? Check out our posts about kayaking, horseback riding, quad-biking, mountain biking, bouldering, driving a Rage Buggy, jumping out of an airplane, or riding a very fast rubber boat near the North Pole (Spitsbergen). If you are interested in hiking gear, check out our mate Noel’s blog post on his packing list. For more travel inspiration feel welcome to eyeball our recent group collaboration post where some of our travel blogger friends write about the favourite holiday destination in their respective home country.