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Things to do

The Dome Garden is located 200yds inside the edge of the Forest Of Dean so is surrounded on all sides by woods with tons to do nearby and a stack of attractions not far away. SO… here’s a round up of all the best things to do, to see and to visit.

(click on the highlighted names for hyperlinks to webpages and contacts etc)

Number one on this list is the cycling. Over the last few years huge amounts of cash have been heaped – as well as a lot of scalpings and aggregate – on the tracks and trails of the Sallow Vallets area of the Forest. There are also comprehensive support facilities which now make this one of the best and most varied off-road cycling areas in the country. But don’t be intimidated – it’s not just about the experts! There is something for absolutely everyone from babies and beginners to the brave and the bonkers.

The trails range from a level, surfaced, 12 mile family cycle trail all the way through cross country and enduro trails to the short, sharp, seriously scary downhill singletracks which host competitive winter racing events for crazies! There’s also the launch pad. A fantastic new resource run by the amazing people at rough riderz with full suspension 4-wheel bikes for disabled riders who have a taste for adrenalin.

The whole area is joined up by a cycle bridge over the only road in the complex. So there’s miles and miles of traffic free fun for anyone on two wheels.

The big highlight for us is the Verderers trail – just outside the Dome Garden and voted by virtually everyone – including Mountain Biking UK – as “the best blue route in Britain”. It’s a properly surfaced cross country route with 7.5 miles of ups and down’s and bumps and berms and the wildest final descent that’ll make you squeal with delight. It’s suitable for anyone who is reasonably confident on a mountain bike and has sections you can walk if it looks a bit tough. As one guest commented – “ it is, without question, the most fun I’ve ever had on a bicycle!”

If you forgot your bike there are two completely comprehensive hire facilities; the first and nearest is at Cannop (01594 860065) just at the bottom of our hill and bordering the family cycles trail. The second, Dean Forest Cycles, is slightly further away at Parkend (01594 368009) on the other end of the family trail. They sometimes do a drop off service so you can hire in advance and know that your bikes will arrive just after you do

In the middle of the family trail is the Forestry Commission’s Beechenhurst lodge – the main centre for organised activities from art walks to bushcraft sessions and mushroom picking tours. It’s also home to the well known Forest of Dean sculpture trail. If you know about Geocaching there is a multi-cache trail based along the sculpture route – just perfect as a basis for a good treasure hunt.

Just inside the car park at Beechenhurst is Forest of Dean Adventure’s climbing tower – a really cool climbing wall suitable for all sorts of kids from 6 to 60 (or more.)
There’s also a junior Go-ape (0845 6439215) and another one for adults at the beautiful Mallards Pike. So, more high wire fun between them than you can shake a stick at…

If sticks – of the walking variety – are more up your street you can organise a guided walk, go solo with a series of very simple walks or boldly set off on a few more tricky ones. You can also hire your own friendly llama or even a camel (07929 372933) for the day. It’s a nice gentle guided day out with a picnic in the middle. Kids are free and can ride in a drawn buggy if they don’t want to do the distance. For such a big forest, pony-trekking is fairly scarce, there is a tiny stables at Bream (07956087445). It’s only for small groups and gets quite busy, so is definitely one to book in advance. In the other direction is Redbrook Equestrian centre (01600 715339) Hacks for the confident, lessons for the less advanced and no one over 14 stone unless they’re very good.

Bushcraft sessions have been all the rage this last couple of years. They also need to be organised well in advance but can cover everything from a brief taster session to a full week of wild woods adventures. We bring specialist people to run these courses on site so just talk to us about this one.

There are two rivers that define the borders of the Forest of Dean; The Wye and The Severn. We are closest to the Wye where canoeing and kayaking are very popular with the Symonds Yat rapids only 3 miles away. There’s a lot of choice, from full day rafting expeditions further upriver, to hourly canoe and kayak hire in the calmer stretches nearer to the Domes. The best option is the three hour descent from Kerne Bridge to Symonds Yat. Utterly spectacular in either rain or shine and you can attack it from either end with companies who pick you up or drop you off in trucks with trailer loads of canoes behind. They are Wye Pursuits at Kerne Bridge (01600 891199) or Wyedean at Symmonds Yat. (01600 890238). We have negotiated a 10% discount with Wyedean but you do have to remind them!

More traditionally, the big deal with the rivers has been the fishing – now on the rise again after some decades of decline. The Severn is a bit of a drive but there are lots of well known local fishing spots there. On the Wye you can buy day rod licenses for the stretch at Drybrook just down the road. If you want to stack the odds in your favour though, or give younger anglers a chance, there are the trout lakes at Woolaston and the ponds at Broadstone park where you can organise lessons too – either way you’re pretty much guaranteed a tasty dinner.

For those who would rather swim with the fishes than hoick them out of the water, the stretch of the Wye at Dryborook makes for a cracking river swim. You have to be careful as it is a proper river and deserves and demands respect, but well worth it if the water isn’t too high.

Taking things up a notch in the adrenalin rating, there is a very enjoyable Quad Bike Trek – not just bombing blindly around a field, but longer trips across farmland bordering the River Severn. It’s very pretty and surprisingly can be quite calm. Unlike The Wire at Chepstow (01291 630 046) – the longest Zip wire in the UK – not cheap but very high and not for the feint hearted – oh and you have to weigh more than 3 stone and it’s only open at the weekends.

If you like racy, there’s Arctic Quest. Adrenalin rush guaranteed driving a team of barking huskies on 2-wheeled supersleds. Several groups have made the trip to Tewkesbury from here (about 45 minutes away) and all came back with rave reviews.

On rainy days, there are castles at Goodrich, and Raglan as well as lovely ruins to run about in at Chepstow,. There are fantastic caves at Clearwell where for a small group – but a slightly higher price – you can squeeze thorough gaps and climb over boulders to explore fabulous caverns and ancient mines 200ft under the ground – a surprising and wonderful adventure for sure. The ochre and iron ore mines at Clearwell are long since abandoned but if you want to see active workings there’s is one of the last operating coal mines at Hopewell. It’s run in the historical local tradition of ‘Freemining’, and is steeped in the heritage of the Forest Of Dean. It’s a brilliant little tour and completely eye opening – especially when you find out that local kids used to begin their careers in the mines from the age of 4!

An un-missable treat, on the road to Ross on Wye, is the fantastic butterfly zoo (01600 890360) next to the beautiful hedge maze. It’s run by the two brothers who planted it when they were kids n the fields behind their parents garden and they still provide a witty and welcoming commentary to the whole complex.

If it’s trains you’re after, there’s a museum in Coleford, but also a proper running steam railway a little further down the track. The best bet is to visit when they are running themed events, like Thomas the Tank Engine weekends, although they do also run a scheduled service throughout the year between Lydney and Parkend. At Perrygrove, there’s a miniature version, with a tiny locomotive that pulls mini carriages through the trees, as well as loads of other tiny things for smalls! They’re all very simple and small scale but the little ones do love them.

Just opposite Perrygrove is another nice attraction for children – and their parents too. Puzzlewood is a whacky, mossy, geological oddity of a forested valley along with a raft of little side attractions for kids including willow gardens and pygmy goats – not the biggest bargain in the Forest but really cool none the less..

The last item is the simplest one, especially on a sunny, summer’s day. Take a picnic to the Forestry Commission’s site at Wenchford – lovely woods and a little stream that runs through the valley, just perfect for messing about in the water on a warm sunny afternoon.

That’s your lot. Have fun!!

How can you not?

Jonny March 2018

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