Some places inspire. The Forest of Dean is one such place for me. Living within the forest, with access just a hundred yards or so from our front door, we have the opportunity to walk amongst the trees every day, and do our best to do just that.
The weather has been very variable this Easter; everything from bright warm sunshine through to pretty violent storms with strong winds and pouring rain. We managed, however, to get a walk in the dry on each of the three days of the weekend break.
Our walk on Friday was the longest, with a trek up into the hills and along the less travelled trails to the bridge over the Greathough Brook where it runs under the road leading from The Pludds to Brierly. Along that part of the route, we came across a pair of deer relatively close up. I managed to get a photo of one before they wound their way deeper into the trees. A real privilege to get so close to the wildlife.
Our route then took us down the minor road to the village and across the main road into a part of the forest where the Forestry Commission are currently busy with some maintenance work; felling trees and clearing undergrowth.
This is a working forest, as well as a real tourist attraction, and we occasionally come across evidence of the work that keeps this a viable environment.
The wild boar had been busy and parts of the ground were churned by their activity.
We met a few cyclists on the main track and then diverted to the fishing lake, where the scene is a little reminiscent of a Canadian landscape to my mind.
We concluded the walk by re-crossing the road back onto the quiet tracks that led us in serenity along the steep sides of the valley until we returned home.
Saturday saw us on a less strenuous walk, along the main trail above our house where the railway line ran until it was dismantled in the 1960s. Apart from the flatness of the track and the occasional piece of ancient engineering, you’d never know the valley had once been the site of coalmining, ironworks and quarrying.
High winds had brought down a tree across the track, but we were able to duck beneath it and continue to a slightly hidden path running above the watercourse that eventually becomes the Lydbrook that gives the village its name.
No deer this time, but more evidence of activity from the wild boar. And so much birdsong. We saw blackbirds, chaffinches, blue tits, robins, wrens, tree sparrows, goldfinches, thrushes, magpies, jackdaws, great tits, and a pair of colourful jays. We heard woodpeckers and the occasional scree of the buzzards. Standing in the natural silence of the valley, where the only sounds were birdsong, the soughing of the wind through the treetops and the gentle gurgling of the brook below, we could imagine how the idea of Eden came about: we felt entirely alone in the landscape surrounded by nature.
Today, Monday, we made a figure of eight walk including some of yesterday’s ground and taking a diversion along the less used trail leading from the Old Vicarage and round to the Horton Bridge. We met a grandmother with her grandson and small terrier but otherwise spent the entire walk alone: as lovers of nature and peace, we prefer it that way! Some local with a responsible manner and the necessary tools, had cleared the fallen tree from the track to allow easy access for walkers and the occasional cyclist.
The wind was stronger and the ground wetter after last night’s storm but the sun kept peering from behind small white clouds in a sky predominantly blue. Standing on the edge of the deep valley side, with the roots of trees well below us and their crowns high over out heads, we could see how the wind played with their tops and whipped their narrow trunks. No mystery that such activity can eventually fell even strong trees.
The usual wood pigeons were still as we ventured deeper into the trees and we saw the reason as we came into a small clearing. What we initially took to be a buzzard soaring overhead we realised was in fact a goshawk; its paler colour and slightly less pointed wing tips identifying it. Wood pigeons form a good part of the diet of this magnificent bird of prey, so they were wisely keeping silent and still until it passed over!
Our walk finished with a short trek back along the old railway route and down the public footpath to the end of the road leading to our house.
It’s a privilege to be able to roam these natural mixed woods unrestricted by paths and fences. Long may that continue!