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An Autumn Holiday

I realised it’s been a month since I last posted on here. Everything got a little too busy with yarn shows, yarn updates, winding & dyeing the Advent/December boxes, and various other things I won’t bore you with. This post is a long one, so settle down and grab a cup of something warm while you read. I’ve made the photos small as there’s a fair few of them, but if you want to see them bigger you can click on them.

A week in the Forest of Dean

We booked a fairly last minute holiday in the Forest of Dean. I used to go there a lot when I was growing up but haven’t been back properly for years. My husband had only briefly visited once a few years ago, and particularly wanted to visit Puzzlewood.

Our journey to the Forest of Dean was long and slow, with high winds and torrential rain. We were lucky the Severn Bridge was open when we got there as it had been closed earlier in the day, and was due to close again that evening. The traffic was horrendous, also thanks to a crash on the M5 that we thankfully saw before we got stuck on the motorway, so managed to divert around.

When we finally arrived we made a dinner from the things we bought at the farm shop on the way. The rest of the evening was spent knitting and reading.

Day 1 – Exploring Near the Buck Stone

We stayed in a converted coach house in the village of Staunton. There were walks right from the front door, and on Saturday, with weather thankfully the complete opposite of the night before, we decided to explore one of these.

First, we went into the local town, Coleford, for lunch and supplies. We found a wonderful café, which we’d return to later in the week.

We walked up to the Buck Stone, which has fantastic views over the Wye Valley. I also very much enjoyed the mossy dry stone wall. We saw our first Dor beetles of the trip. As we found out later, these were everywhere and were a constant of our entire holiday!

Day 2 – Forest Showcase, Cyril Hart Arboretum & the Sculpture Trail

Day 2 was a busy one! First we visited the Forest Showcase Food Festival where we bought lots of delicious local food. Then we visited the Cyril Hart Arboretum next door. There were some beautiful trees. The Redwoods were impressive, and I think my favourite tree was the Chilean Pine, also known as the Monkey Puzzle tree. Unfortunately for some reason I didn’t take many pictures at the arboretum, and those I did take weren’t good!

As it was on the way back to the house, we stopped off at the Sculpture Trail. It was quite busy and we found out it was around a 5mile walk so ended up not doing anywhere near all of it. We missed the most impressive sculptures, but had a nice walk anyway. The trail was absolutely full of Dor beetles and we had to keep a constant watch so as to not step on any. By this point we had already done a lot of walking and were quite tired, so called it a day.

Day 3 – Puzzlewood

I think visiting Puzzlewood was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s a private area of woodland which you may recognise from films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Secret Garden, and TV such as Merlin and Dr Who. We specifically decided to visit on the Monday as we thought it would be fairly quiet, and we were right. We don’t think it would have the same atmosphere if it was busy, and it was lovely being able to wander around and barely see anyone.

They also had various animals including a small flock of Soay sheep.

After Puzzlewood we were going to go for a late pub lunch but couldn’t find anywhere open. We ended up back at the café which was once again fantastic.

Day 4 – Orienteering

On Tuesday we decided to try something a bit different. My husband found an orienteering site where you use an app with an OS map to find markers hidden in the woodland. We found out there was one very nearby to where we were staying so thought we’d give it a go. Unfortunately this particular route didn’t allow us to officially start in the middle, which was where the nearest point was, but we followed the route anyway and just took photos of each point we found instead. There were three difficulties and being that kind of people we went for the hardest option. This had us off-track, climbing through woodland and hills and over streams. It was fun, exhausting, and we never managed to finish it, finishing after finding 7 of the 12 markers.

We set out a little unprepared, and had we known it would be such a long walk (we were out for over four hours in the end) we would have taken more food with us. Some stats from my Garmin: 10.27km (6.4m) in 4hrs 27min. 367m (1204ft) total ascent. 1270kcal burned. Considering we only had a bag of jelly babies, some dried mango and a cereal bar to share, it’s no wonder we were exhausted! Thankfully we had plenty of water and a flask of tea, but we could probably have done with more.

It was a great way to explore off the beaten track, and it turns out we’re better at map reading than we thought! We only checked the GPS twice, once because the marked paths didn’t exist, and once because we couldn’t find the marker but were convinced we were in the right place (we were, it was just sneakily hidden). Since then, we’ve found out there are courses all over the country, so we’re definitely going to try some nearer to home. The site is goorienteering.org.uk if you want to give it a go.

Day 5 – Rest Day

Having totally overdone it the day before, we had a rest day. Turns out that as we live in a fairly flat part of Dorset and don’t walk on hills very often, our legs weren’t entirely ready for what we put them through!

I got lots of knitting done, then we finished off the day with a delicious dinner at the pub just up the road.

Day 6 – Final Day

We went into Coleford to the local bakery and had breakfast in a café. Then we packed up most of our things and went for a final walk around some of the paths we spotted when we walked up to the Buck Stone on the first day.

We decided to leave that evening rather than sleeping and leaving first thing the next day. We find we don’t get any extra enjoyment out of staying the final night just to have to leave immediately in the morning.

Final Thoughts

We had a fantastic holiday and think we may have to go back at some point to do some of the other things we saw but didn’t have the time or energy to do. Now we’re back home I’m making all sorts of plans and having lots of ideas for Bluebell Yarns. I needed the break more than I thought, and I’m so glad we made the time to go.

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