forest of dean

The Royal Forest of Dean, Vale of Leadon and Wye Valley offer you the opportunity to see typical English Countryside at it’s best ! The Royal Forest of Dean was designated as a National Forest Park in 1938, the first in England, and offers you its natural beauty and outdoor leisure. The Forest of Dean is steeped in history, from ancient megalithic sites through to the industrial revolution and the coal mining of the 20th Century.

The most comprehensive website for things to do in the area and local history is Wye Dean Tourism, combining the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean in one easy resource.

The Forest of Dean lies in the western part of Gloucestershire, between the rivers Wye and Severn and on the borders of Wales and Herefordshire. It is one of the most distinctive areas of Britain having a seductive charm and character that is uniquely its own. Its range of stunning landscapes and spectacular scenery has inspired artists, craftspeople, inventors, poets and playwrights, as well as the many visitors who return to the area year after year.

The Forest of Dean consists of four quite different landscape areas:

The ancient Royal Forest lies at the very heart of the district with the market towns of Coleford and Cinderford offering an insight into the industrial heritage and history of this fascinating area.

The Wye Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty and forms the western border of the Forest, separating England from Wales. This unique area offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities such as canoeing and fishing on what is perhaps Britain’s most unspoilt major river.

The Vale of Leadon is a quintessentially English area featuring rolling farmland, vineyards and black and white timbered buildings centred around the picturesque town of Newent in the northern part of the district.

The Severn Valley, through which flows the country’s longest river, is famous for its tidal bore, Blaisdon plums and perry pears. The old Severnside port of Lydney is the area’s main town, and is a thriving business and shopping area. Steeped in history, abundant in local food, rich in culture, and bursting with spectacular scenery, the Forest of Dean offers you the chance to discover a part of England unlike any other.

Why not stay for a few days to fully explore the very best that the Forest has to offer.


Clearwell Caves

An extensive natural cave system, mined for iron ore to make some of Britain’s most complex and oldest mine workings; dating back well over 4,500 years, when Neolithic miners dug for ochre pigment.

Atmospheric ancient caverns with an exciting and intriguing past. Dr Who and Merlin are amongst the many films and television programmes that have been made here. Walk through eerie iron ore workings and tunnels, following in the footsteps of generations of miners that cut their livelihood from the rock.

Clearwell Caves are pleased that the Goverment has decided not to continue with disposal of public forests in England. However, the threat of disposal may still be in the background as they will be creating a ‘panel of experts’ to consult over the future for publicly owned forests; to report in September 2011.

Clearwell Caves wholeheartedly supports the ‘Hands Off Our Forest’ (HOOF) campaign and thanks the committee for their successful campaign to keep the Forest of Dean publicly owned by the Government ensuring that the people of this country can  fully enjoy their woodlands, and managed responsibly in the interest of the nation and on our behalf by the Forestry Commission. See for more information and to see what you can do.

Hopewell Colliery Museum

Cannop Hill, Coleford.
B4226 Coleford to Speech House Road

Walk through a true Forest of Dean Freemine.
See mine workings, some date to 1820’s. See the old mine working tools on diplay and visit the cafe.

This is an opportunity to visit a Freemine in comfort. One of the main features is a caplamp guided tour down New Road Adit to a previously worked coal seam, only 18 inches high and returning to the surface by a drainage adit driven in the 1800’s by David Mushet. The tools of the miners’ trade are all on display. There is free admission to Cafeteria and Surface Museum of Mining Tools and Equipment.

The proprietor, Mr Morgan, a “Free Miner” himself, still mines coal in Phoenix Mine, on the opposite side of the road.

Hopewell is a real mine, so practical shoes and warm clothing should be worn. Conditions may present difficulties for some disabled visitors who should telephone in advance. Hopewell is close to many footpaths and cycle ways. Ramblers and Cyclists are welcome.

The Free Mining Tradition

This is unique to the Forest of Dean and was established in the reign of King Edward 1 (1272-1307) as a reward for the part played by the Forest miners in the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed. Between 1668 and 1777 a Court of Mine Law met at intervals in the Speech House to deal with disputes among miners. It was presided over by the Constable of St Briavels, with the Gavellor and Clerk of the Court attending and verdicts were given by a jury of 12 Free Miners. To become a Freeminer a man had to be born within the Hundred of St Briavel, more or less the area of the Forest, and to have worked for a year and a day in a local mine within the Hundred. Even today a Freeminer has to apply to the Deputy Gavellor, to work a claim or a ‘gale’ in the Forest. There are now only a handful of free miners left.

Text by Tony Oldham (2001). With kind permission.

Tel : 01594 810706 (Museum)

Forest Web

A virtual guide for things to do and see in the Forest of Dean –

Taurus Crafts

Love Crafts? Martin our potter, Carrie the stone mason, Virginnia and Les the stained glass workers, Clive the leather worker, Christine the felter, Sarah the jeweller and Mark and Maren our chocolatiers mean there is often something to see being made. Our picture framer and our resident knitters add their skills to the mix. Our own Gift Shop, Soap Sense and Indigo offer a range of products from local artisans and gifts.

Love Art? Kathy our resident artist displays in the Gift Shop, there is always an art exhibition and we have a range of ‘must see pieces’ in our gardens.

Love to have a go? Our holiday activities programmes include a variety of creative activities for children. See our website for details.

Love Food? We put the Forest on a plate. Cakes, chocolates, bread and soups made by us; local jersey cream milk; fresh salads using our own organically grown vegetables; Saturdays we offer an all day brunch and Sundays a roast, both based on local products. The local food shop and deli features smoked and cured meat produce from the award winning Graham Waddington and carries a wide range of local meats, sausages, bacon, cheeses, milk, cream, eggs, breads, patisserie, tarts, beers, cider and wines made in the local area. From further afield, the delicatessen offers a choice of Spanish cheeses and chorizos and Italian pastas and sweet things.

Love markets? Throughout the year we have a range of food markets and in the build up to Christmas we hold the largest craft markets in the area.

Free on-site parking – Find us on the A48 West of Lydney, GL15 6BU.

The Old Park, Lydney, Glos, GL15 6BU
Tel :01594 844 8411594 845 636

Cafe, restaurant, gift shop, gallery, working pottery, craft units. Original crafts, exquisite gifts, fresh food, handmade pots. Great atmosphere for all the family


Beechenhurst Sculpture Trail

Formerly the site of Speech House colliery, Beechenhurst is now the ideal base for a family day out with walking trails, cafe facilities and a play area.

Beechenhurst is the starting point for the famous Sculpture Trail, the walk features pieces by famous artists set in beautiful woodland surroundings.

The Gavellers Cafe and restaurant opened on October 3rd 2008 in the new extension to the Lodge and provides a range of wholesome food with new items added to the menu each month. Coach parties should book with the cafe in advance on 01594 827357. To check cafe opening times please use the Gavellers website, link listed under useful sites.

Forest Connections, a shop area showcasing local products and the Forest of Dean area, is situated next door to the cafe. Charcoal BBQ hearths and a loft suitable for meetings and seminars can be hired from Forest Connections, please enquire on 01594 822612 or pop in for more details.

A special events area with a group gas BBQ is available for hire from the Forestry Commission on 01594 833057.

The Dean Heritage Centre

Camp Mill, Soudley, Forest of Dean, Glos. Tel. 01594 822170

The Dean Heritage Centre has five galleries and a library to explore inside the Museum, numerous displays and attractions to discover outside and a cafe overlooking the mill pond

The Museum of the Forest comprises 5 galleries. These explore the history of the Forest from the Ice Age to the present day.

The Gage Library contains over 18,000 historic records and archives and is the perfect place to search out local history enquiries or trace your family history roots. Local historians will be more than happy to help you with any research questions you may have.

The Gage Library is open to the public on Monday and Wednesday afternoon’s between 2pm-4pm. Telephoning for an appointment is recommended.

Outside Displays

The Forester’s Cottage is an accurately reconstructed Victorian home with open fire and garden. In the cottage grounds you’ll find a pair of Gloustershire Old Spot pigs, chickens and local varieties of orchard trees.  The Charcoal Burner’s Camp is situated in the woodlands, adjacent to the Museum and is where demonstrations of traditional turf and earth charcoal burning take place. The charcoal burners hut is used during these burns as a place of shelter and sleep for those doing the night shifts. See our events page for more dates and times of the charcoal burn demonstrations.  The Freemine is dug into the side of a hill, and is a replica of a traditional Forest of Dean coalmine, as used by Freeminers.  The Adventure Playground Follow the woodland path along the Soudley brook and you’ll discover a woodland adventure playground with lots of things to do and play on!

Other Attractions

Enjoy a range of homemade cakes, meals and drinks in our café overlooking the mill pond.

Picnic sites and barbeque pits are also available (a perfect opportunity to sample our home-made charcoal) or why not just sit and enjoy our mill pond and watch the moorhens, mallard and mandarin ducks at play!

Other birds that frequent the waterside setting include; pied and grey wagtails, dippers, green woodpeckers, kingfishers, herons and the occasional cormorant.

Harts Barn Flower, Craft Centre and Tea Shop

Monmouth Road, Longhope, Gloucestershire, GL17 0QD (on the edge of Mitcheldean) Tel: 01452 830954

This old Norman hunting lodge is one of the oldest properties in the Forest of Dean, built by William Duke of Normandy to keep his hounds when he came to hunt in the Forest.

The main house and surrounding buildings have been sympathetically restored and incorporate the region’s principal centre for dried flowers and traditional crafts. A Tea Shop and Pets Barn Vetinary Centre can also be found on site.

Also visit The Old Dairy Tearoom whilst there – for fresh and local food, prepared daily on the premises.  Closed on Mondays except Bank Holidays

Westbury Court Gardens

The garden was designed 1695-1705. The house has gone but the garden survives and has the reputation of being one of the best examples of the ‘Dutch Style in England’ and of a ‘Dutch canal garden’. There is a banqueting pavilion and canals bounded by yew hedges. The garden was restored by the National Trust after 1967 with help from Kip’s 1705 engraving of the garden and the old account books from the time of its making. David Jacques (in Garden History, Winter 2002, pp 114-130) argues that (1) there was no Dutch influence on the design (2) ‘Dutch’ is not a useful categorization for garden designs, even in Holland (3) the present form of Westbury Court is based on a mis-reading of Kip and Knyff’s drawing by the National Trust. Jacques writes that ‘The engraving had been misinterpreted. The grass strip by the canal had been seen as the side of the hedge, and the plate-bande as its top.’ This misinterpretation led to the creation of topiary globes and pyramids on the the tops of hedges. They should have been set in a flat bed (plates-bande) of flowers. Please see the black and white engraving on this webpage and judge for yourself.

For information on the design of Westbury Court see: Irvine Gray, “The Making of Westbury Court Gardens” (Garden History Society Occasional Paper No. 1)

The house has long gone, but the ‘Dutch Style in England’ garden survives as the leading example of its type – a ‘canal garden’. There is a pavilion and two canals bounded by yew hedges. A formal water garden with canals & yew hedges, laid out between 1696-1705. Restored in 1971 & planted with fruit trees dating from pre 1700. Tel. 01452 760461

Dick Whittington Farm Park

This great all weather, family day out is situated at Longhope on the A4136 just off the A40, 8 miles west of Gloucester. As you approach the Park, there will be brown directional road signs to help. It is based at Little London, Longhope, Gloucestershire, GL17 0PH. Tel : 01452 831 137.

It incorporates 8,000 sq ft of Indoor Activities including a Restaurant, Shop, Play Area and Toy Corner. Outdoors it has a Giant Sand Pit, Farm Pedal courses, a Rickety Bridge Play Area and a Water Zone & Pets’ Corner have recently been added. There are also farm yard animals which children can look at and feed, and more exotic animals such as llamas, emus and peacocks.  And an aquariam, reptile and insect house. There are also Valley Walks and Hillside Climbs with “Spot the buzzard family” and “Follow the nature trails”

The Outdoor Picnic Zone will give you time to catch your breath and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this lovely setting, and you are able to take your own picnic.  It is a great day out for changeable weather, allowing you to explore outside and duck back inside to the cafe and soft play area when it comes on to rain.

Dick Wittington’s Centre represents fantastic value for money for family days out.


What could the magic of Puzzlewood be?  Could it be the maze of pathways winding through the gulley’s of mossy rocks, the twisted roots of the yew trees or the bridges, lookouts and other things you can find on your way round?

Puzzlewood is a unique and enchanting place, located in the beautiful and historic Forest of Dean. Explore a mile of meandering pathways, with its fantastic tree and rock formations, through this 14 acre ancient woodland. It has an atmosphere quite unlike any other wood you have visited. JRR Tolkien is reputed to have taken his inspiration for the fabled forests of Middle Earth from Puzzlewood, and it’s easy to see why.

As well as the woods we have pony rides, lots of animals, a willow maze, an indoor maze, an outdoor playground, plenty of picnic benches, a cafe and gift shop with lots of local crafts. Puzzlewood is used regularly as a filming location and received fantastic reviews from various publications.

Copyright © Mill End Mitcheldean, Forest of Dean