12 March 2017- Coleford and Newland, Gloucestershire
Me, PG, Kate Force One and Magic Dave
Forest of Dean the destination, we headed off very slowly, even by our standards, with stops to pick up forgotten phone, purchase an OS map (a keen 4 mins before shop opened), then intense in-car appliance-related milling (KF1 and MD) and lack of concentration (me and PG) which led to forgetting to leave the M48. But eventually, we arrived in Coleford and parked up by the possibly exciting-but-unvisited railway museum.
After a false start which led to a tour of the District Council Offices carpark, we set off in the direction of Newland, across gentle hills and passing over a dismantled railway, then along a green lane, which research by Magic Dave told us was a burial path: Coleford not having enough cemetery space, bodies were taken to Newland, Cathedral of the Forest, for burial.
Newland charming, but we decided to push on towards the Wye, doing a loop south along a valley, then over a ridge and back north along the Offa’s Dyke Path with the river down below to our left. Amazing views over to Wales, with the Sugarloaf and the Skirrid on the horizon. Landscape rather hobbit-esque with beautiful stone cottages and steep secret valleys and woods. Game breeding appearing to be big business, with many pheasants flapping, interesting compounds designed to keep foxes out and areas laid out for shooting- a totally different sort of landscape management.
Then a steep ascent back over a wooded ridge and back into Newland. Beautiful village with the large, and presumably ancient churchyard in the centre, and lovely houses around it, including a run of early seventeenth-century almshouses and a ‘lecturery’, a habitation for a lecturer being included in the almshouse foundation. And a remarkable, completely new built ‘historic’ mansion, which the devil’s window informed us was an actual historic house, burnt out a few years ago and rebuilt from scratch.
Controversially, we decided not to visit the church in favour of the pub (PG having declared he’d reached his ecclesiastical limit during previous week’s holiday). And just as well, we only just got in before the Ostrich closed for a quick pint outside: charming and characterful establishment, definitely worth a longer visit. Then it was back onto the green lane to retrace our steps to Coleford, and home via a (lazy, not get out of the car) tour of the castle at St Briavels.
Overall, a walk of indeterminate length (depending if you believed PG’s instinct, my mapreading or KF1’s iphone, somewhere between 4-8km), but definitely many steep climbs: aching legs but worth it for a lovely secret bit of landscape, hidden from the Wye and the big Welsh hills behind a ridge. Much talk during the walk of places we must visit, things we must do: first on the list, make a list…