A Day for Celebration

Dining in the Royal Spring.

Today marks 2 years in our new home in the Forest of Dean. The move away from East Yorkshire, family and friends, was planned and chosen, but none the easier for that. But it was the right time and, we hoped, the right place. Somewhere to settle for our retirement. A place where we could walk and become part of a community whilst living in a village surrounded by forest.

This looking down part of the 151 steps we climbed at the beginning of our walk.

It’s proved to be everything we hoped for. We arrived in the middle of winter. So far, we’ve had one day with a dusting of snow and a few morning frosts. Not bad for two years in England. We’ve discovered over 50 walks we can take from our front door, with a public footpath leading into the forest about 80 yards from the front of our house. The local shop and post office serves our immediate needs and we can reach it most days with a walk through lanes that take us off the road.

Almost at the top of those 151 steps.

There’s a medical centre with doctors and a pharmacy; essential as you grow older. The local garage services and repairs the car. There’s a decent fish and chip shop, a good hairdresser catering to both our needs, and a local pub at the bottom of the hill. That’s just been taken over by new management and food will be served there soon.

One of the lengths of track with rail to ease the climb!

The village hall is a hub of local activity, with the drama society putting on a few performances each year; entertaining and comic. I’ve become a trustee of the charity that overseas the venue and we meet monthly to discuss how we can improve and better use this wonderful facility.

Valerie pauses on the Gooses Neck Lane steps, this set going down.

Valerie is a member of the local bowls club and enjoys busy summer seasons, travelling to local clubs for matches with her teams.

The day started at a reasonable hour as I rose just before 08:00 and spent an hour or so in my study, writing the second book in my Generation Mars series. I managed around 1300 words before breakfast. Afterwards, we both returned to our computers and Valerie continued her research for our family trees whilst I turned out another 1200 words for the book and dealt with emails, Facebook, etc.

At the foot of the Goose’s Neck Lane steps.

Just before we were due to set out for lunch, Sid Phelps popped by for our signatures to nominate him as the Green Party candidate for local council elections. He’s a local man with plenty of knowledge of the forest, so ideal for the role.

Looking out over the Wye Valley from Coppice Lane

We donned walking shoes, stuffed our ordinary shoes in the small backpack, and set off for the Royal Spring, where we’d booked a table for lunch. It’s an interesting walk about 2 miles away, with climbs and descents along tracks, paths, some lanes and a couple of sets of concrete steps.

The Royal Spring is a welcome sight.

The sun was occasionally present on our trip up to the pub and we had a good walk, arriving with the feeling that we earned our lunch. A quick stop at one of the outside tables to change our walking shoes for ordinary footwear and then into the bar to be greeted by landlady, May.

The walk back took us down other tracks.

We were seated in the porch, with views over the valley of the River Wye, and May brought our bottle of celebratory Prosecco whilst we chose our meals. I indulged in the wild boar sausages and Valerie, who doesn’t eat meat, plumped for the day’s roast, without the meat, of course. The food was, as always, very tasty and, once we’d finished our wine, we ended with white chocolate cheesecake. Wonderful.

The tracks are still strewn with fallen leaves.

The walk back was by a slightly different route, since we were no longer concerned about the time. A little further but full of interest, even though the sun was now in hiding behind grey clouds. On the way, we popped into the local pub at the bottom of the hill leading up to our house, as some locals in the Royal Spring had mentioned that the new management of the Jovial Colliers were doing a Sunday Lunch tomorrow. Normally, one meal out a week is more than enough for us, but we want to support local ventures, so we went in to book a table. We discovered booking was unnecessary as this is an experimental effort, to see what sort of response they get.

In places, the public footpath follows lanes that serve as tracks to homes.

So, another lunch tomorrow. That will see the month out for us as far as meals out are concerned! Whilst there, a young woman arrived looking for the new proprietor, Matt, as he’d offered to help her move a piano into her cottage up the road. He was otherwise occupied and not home, so we volunteered to help as the place was on the way up the hill back to our home. With six of us around the piano, we eased it out of the van and into place in the house, meeting another couple of new neighbours in the process.

From the track, Lower Lydbrook is easily viewed, below.

Back home and back to the computers to continue our morning sessions. So, a good day.

And the final track leading to the road further down the hill, and our home.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here two years. In some ways it seems like only yesterday we made the move and in others we feel as if we’ve spent our lives here. Looking forward to another interesting year as 2017 unfolds.

14 thoughts on “A Day for Celebration

  1. Stuart, reading this my jaw dropped. It “broke my dream,” so to speak. I have a childhood memory of running like the wind, carefree down a hill, ahead of my father and the car. In my memory it was called Valley Forge but have been unable to find it. Seeing your post, I had that deja vu feeling. Can’t know for sure but loved the post and the pix and atmosphere.

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  2. I might be able to walk TO the pub, but not back as well, so you have my complete admiration. And how wonderful that you chose your new home so carefully as to be close to so many walks. We didn’t find out until we landed here that to walk longer than 25 minutes (with dog off lead), we have to put him in the car and drive to find somewhere. Not too happy about that.

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    1. It is lovely, April. And, now, the pub at the bottom of the hill, just 300 yds from home, is serving good food, so we feel even more blessed. One of the factors in choosing a location to retire to was the availability of good walks. Of course, although we knew this house was very close to the forest, it wasn’t until we moved in that we discovered just how many walks we can take from the front door, so we were very lucky there. Hopefully, you’ll discover more local walks as you get to know your new area and may be able to combine some of the shorter ones to make something a bit longer. Enjoy your well-earned retirement! And keep writing.


  3. I really enjoyed reading about this little slice of your life! The scenery is gorgeous, and your descriptions make it sound so pleasant 🙂 I haven’t explored the more rural parts of England before, but I once went to the Lake District and was stunned by the natural beauty there. Definitely makes me want to explore places like the one where you live!

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  4. Brilliant insight into your lifestyle and English semi-rural life (do I call it that?) in general.
    I reckon the bit about the piano removal (mental pictures pinging wildly there!) possibly warrants its own dedicated post.

    I read that author J. K. Rowling lived on the southern edge of the Forest of Dean at Tutshill from 1974 to 1983.

    Sorry Stuart, but just looking at those landscape photos of yours conjures wild thoughts of a Miss Maple type murder mystery. So many places to hide a body! These twisted thoughts on my part possibly have their origins in the fact I’ve just finished reading a book on the Moors Murders (1963-1965).

    Great pics. Great words. And the photo of you and your wife is such a happy shot. On that note, I’ll leave you with a quote about retirement I heard recently, which may or may not appeal –

    “When you retire you switch bosses from the one that hired you to the one that married you”.

    Well done Stuart!

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    1. Ah, Glen, bosses: most of those I worked for when employed were either prats or fools. A couple of exceptions only. And I speak as a man who spent most of his working life in some form of management.
      But marriage; if you’ve found the right one (I spent 18 years with the wrong one, so I learned some important lessons) can be wonderful. Our partnership works really well – we make a great team.
      Love your idea of a Miss Marple type mystery. Actually, I did write a short story along the lines of a body in the forest – came to me whilst I was training for the Great North Run in 2015. Must dig that out and submit it somewhere! Thanks for the reminder.
      You’re right about JK Rowling, and one of the scenes in one of the films was also set here in the forest, as were some scenes from some Star Wars movies. The great TV playwright, Denis Potter also lived in the Forest. And there are a number of writers here now, some even living in the same village as me, apparently.


    1. Eh by gum, lass’ tha’s raight! Don’t want all them there forriners maraudin thru t’forest!
      It’s a tourist area, Linda. All are welcome.


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