The Forest of Dean, nestled up against the Welsh border in rural Gloucestershire, boasts an abundance of stunning scenery, ancient woodland and a huge range of flora and fauna. Read on to find out where to discover some secret Forest of Dean walks and unique views.
Known for its verdant beauty and quaint villages, the Forest has, in recent times, embraced tourism, providing a vast range of events, activities and destinations for old and young, fun loving and serenity searching. You can read about some of the most popular here.
Due to the size of the Forest, it covers a staggering 24,000 acres, it is also full of hidden gems, known to the locals and a few fortunate visitors who happen to stumble upon them. Read on to find a range of secret locations that are off the tourist trail and are guaranteed to live long in the memory.
Pan Tod Beacon – Stunning Vistas
Situated on Ruardean Hill, not far from the village of Ruardean (don’t mention the bear), is Pan Tod. If it is stunning views of the forest that you are after, and the Forest has a few, this one will not disappoint. Far less visited than some of the other viewpoints, such as Symond’s Yat, Pan Tod offers stunning vistas of the north of the Forest of Dean and beyond.
Standing at 290m, it is officially the highest point of the Forest of Dean. At the site there is a pull in and a memorial to the miner’s who died in the tragic accident at Northern Colliery in 1955, not long before the mines closed for good.
It’s a lovely spot; it is quiet, secluded and off the beaten track. You can drive right up to the viewpoint and you will probably find yourself the only visitors as it doesn’t appear on the normal tourist trails.
Mireystock Tunnel and Speculation – Walks and Industrial Heritage
On the site of a former coal mine is the picnic site known as Speculation, which is not far from Lydbrook. It is a lovely, peaceful place to have a picnic and it is in a clearing in the heart of the forest, even though it is just off one of the main roads.
Locals have used Speculation as a base to walk their dogs for years and although it is referenced in many guides, it rarely gets busy. At the top of the clearing, you can access one of the forest pathways, built on the embankment of the old Lydbrook line train track. From here you have a wealth of quiet tracks for long walks, soaking up the peace and serenity of the forest, while you may just spot some of the Roe or Fallow deer or even one of the little elusive Muntjac.
Head towards Lydbrook and you will come across Mireystock Tunnel which is a disused railway tunnel on the site of another mine. It’s a lovely Victorian tunnel, a remnant of the industrial heritage which you still find throughout the forest. There are plans to open it out and incorporate it into the network of cycle trails that criss cross the forest but sadly, this plan has yet to come to fruition.
Industrial Heritage walk
If it is a long walk through the forest, peppered with industrial ruins then we recommend the walk from the Dilke, the former hospital of the Forest, along the cutting and through the forest towards Drybrook on one of the old main trainlines that serviced the mines. Park your car in the small carpark opposite the Dilke hospital near Speech house and walk through the tunnel. This old railway line will take you through the forest, past numerous ruins of mines, with Foxes Bridge being the most notable.
You will love the beauty of the forest here and as the track is part of the family cycle trail (the map may help find it but the path is well marked), it is very flat so it is perfect for walkers or any age or ability. Be careful though, you will be sharing the track with cyclists but don’t worry, they are a considerate bunch.
If you want a little more from your walk, when you get to Drybrook Road Station, go left up the hill and you will be entering Woorgreen’s Lake and Nature Reserve. Woorgreens was the site of a huge open cast mine but now it is a nature reserve. This is a beautifully quiet walk for you to enjoy the marsh, heath and forest. You will find an abundance of birds here such as cuckoos and buzzards, as well as butterflies, dragonflies and reptiles.
Nagshead Nature Reserve – An abundance of wildlife
There are so many nature reserves in the Forest so it is hard to recommend just one. Nagshead Nature Reserve, in Parkend, is particularly enjoyable because it has so much to offer in the way of walking routes and the diverse range of nature on show.
There is a visitor centre on site and there are two circular waymarked nature trails on offer: 1 mile and 2 ½ miles. The Reserve is a partnership between The Forestry Commission and the RSPB so you not only get stunning scenery but there are a wealth of birds to spot as you make your way around. It also has some picnic benches, a few benches dotted here and there and it is pretty accessible, so it can be enjoyed by all.
For more hidden gems, read our next blog here.