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Surfing the Severn Bore

Posted on 24th April 2017

While the Forest of Dean is somewhere we associate with calm retreats, relaxing ambles through the forest and chilled afternoons in local pubs, the area has an adventurous side that is both surprising and exhilarating.

Surfers on the Severn Bore

If you wish to combine your relaxing Forest of Dean cottage holiday with an activity-filled itinerary, then bring your surfboards as riding the Severn bore is a rite of passage for any English thrill seeker. If you are expecting waves to rival Hawaii then you will be disappointed, however if instead you want to encounter a natural phenomenon on the front line and have an extended surfing experience, then this would be perfect.

The Severn River has the second highest tidal range in the world, measuring up to 50 feet. Due to the shape of the estuary and the conditions of the tides, a surge is created that ripples along many miles of river. The first person to surf the Severn Bore was Colonel ‘Mad Jack’ Churchill who made his own board and attempt on the bore in 1955 and it has attracted other adrenaline junkies ever since with growing popularity. It can get busy, with up to 30 surfers attempting to ride the wave at any time, so keep an eye out for others on some of the narrower stretches of river as people weave to keep ahead of the surge.

If you have little interest in participating, there are lots of places to view the spectacle from the safety of dry land. On the really high surges, there can be something of a party atmosphere in the different viewing spots, with people cheering on the surfers. The Severn Bore website not only gives you the best times to try and surf the Bore, but also the best locations to view it from and all the details on how to sign up to surf the Bore.

Image Credit: Tess (Wikimedia Commons) 

Where to spend New Year’s Eve in the Forest of Dean

Posted on 21st December 2016

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to celebrate the coming of the New Year. The Forest of Dean may be more famous for its wild woodlands than its wild parties, but there are plenty of exciting events to enjoy for the New Year, whether you live in the area or are on a Forest of Dean cottage holiday. So, take a break from the last-minute Christmas shopping and check out these New Year’s Eve events in the Forest of Dean, from parties to plays.

New Year’s Eve parties

Toasting drinks

If you’re looking for a classic New Year’s Eve party with a twist whilst avoiding the rush of the capital city, then Gloucester is the place to be on December the 31st. Various events ranging from pub quizzes to club nights will be occurring across the district, so whatever your style, there’s sure to be a soirée to suit you.

Liquid Gloucester Masquerade Ball

On the evening of the 31st, Liquid-Diva Gloucester will be hosting a full-blown New Year’s Eve party at their Masquerade Ball. If you fancy heading out with a group of friends to dance in 2017, look no further. Expect a champagne bar, performers and dancers, a full club transformation to recreate the theme and professional photographers ready to capture your best moments all night. In Liquid, dance to club anthems of 2016 with laser lighting, Co2 cannons, stilt walkers, pyrotechnics and confetti cannons. In Diva, expect iconic tunes from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, plus retro giveaways.

Café Rene

For something a little more traditional, Café Rene is the perfect place to visit on New Year’s Eve. Nestled in the cobbled Southgate Street in Gloucester, this venue offers a spirited setting for the evening, with two floors providing revellers plenty of space to dance all night, or enjoy a casual drink if you prefer. As SoGlos report, past New Year’s Eve themes at Café Rene include musical genres spanning from house beats to indie anthems, so this is set to be a great place to be come midnight!

Eating and drinking

Canapes

As well as a variety of fantastic local pubs and restaurants spread throughout the Forest of Dean area, several venues are hosting specialist themed nights for the festive season. So, if you’re not a party-goer, yet would still like to indulge in a tipple or a delicious meal, the Forest is a fantastic place to spend your New Year’s Eve.

The Grand Tour Dining Experience at Aunt Martha’s

Possibly the most unique food and drink experience in the Forest of Dean area for New Year’s Eve is to be found at The Grand Tour Dining Experience at Aunt Martha’s. This Victorian-themed venue is set to undergo a transformation on the 31st, transporting guests into three unique time periods like no other in one immersive dining experience. Aunt Martha’s has created three exclusive dining areas – the ‘Oriental Tea Pagoda’, an ancient Egyptian temple and the imperial Indian palace anti-room. Complete with original artefacts and unique dishes, this is set to be an unforgettable experience for the taste buds and the imagination alike!

Family events

Clearwell Caves

Image Credit: Penny Mayes (Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, New Year’s Eve isn’t all about the adults, and so if you’re in search of the perfect family activity, the Forest of Dean is full of opportunities. With acres of fascinating woodlands and plenty of family-friendly attractions, there is something to keep everyone happy here!

Evie’s Aeroplane Christmas Fantasy at Clearwell Caves

Spark the imagination and creativity of the little ones this New Year’s Eve with ‘Evie’s Aeroplane’ at the Clearwell Caves. This delightful fantasy creation is a charming story about a little girl and her toy aeroplane, following their adventures during the Christmas season. Track the displays telling the enchanting story of ‘Evie’s Aeroplane’ created through nine impressive caverns, all designed by children’s book illustrator Heather Holland. The adults can also enjoy an underground Christmas market selling seasonal gifts and decorations and an underground Café as the kids explore.

Whitemead Winter Woodland

Situated at the heart of the ancient Forest of Dean, Whitemead Forest Park is the perfect place to spend a few hours during the day of the 31st, in a classic countryside setting. Between strolling through the enchanting woodlands, take a spin on the synthetic ice rink and visit craft stalls for trinkets and artisan dishes. There are also several adrenaline-pumping activities to sample, such as archery, fencing, body zorbs, snorkelling and much more, plus a children’s indoor play area. To toast in the New Year, a bar is open daily, and if you decide to visit on New Year’s Day, you can even enjoy a delicious Sunday carvery.

Outdoor activities

Ice skating

For many, New Year’s Eve means champagne and Auld Lang Syne, but for others, the best way to welcome in the New Year is by ending 2016 as you mean to go on. If you’re a fan of outdoor activities and trying new things, why not sample these slightly more unusual activities on the 31st?

Ice skating at the Gloucester Docks

Head to the Gloucester Docks on New Year’s Eve to show off your skating skills on the ice rink for the evening. Perfect for anyone ages three or above, ice skating is a fun and festive way to celebrate the New Year. Plus, until the 2nd of January, skaters receive a special reduced price admission to the National Waterways Museum, Gloucester, which has recently been renovated and shares the history of Britain’s canals and rivers with boat trips and more.

Wild bird feeding at Slimbridge Wetland Centre

The perfect pastime for families with young children, or a day out with elderly grandparents, the Slimbridge Wetland Centre is hosting a special wild bird feeding session on the 31st December. Relax in the comfort of the heated observatory and learn from the warden’s commentary as he feeds the thousands of wild birds and hundreds of Bewick’s swans that have flown all the way from arctic Russia to Slimbridge for the winter. You can also take a walk around the reserve, getting up close to rare and exotic birds, mammals and the largest collection of amphibians in the entire county. From canoe safaris and an outdoor water play area to otters and flamingos to see, this is the perfect activity for all.

Mince Pie Special at Dean Forest Railway

If you’re looking for a New Year’s Eve event that is truly local, the Mince Pie Special at the Dean Forest Railway is for you. Take a relaxing stroll through the surrounding forest to spot deer and wild boar, before enjoying lunch at the railway café. The main event, though, is a trip on the traditional steam engine train, where every passenger will receive a complimentary mince pie.

 

A big week for local sports in the Forest of Dean!

Posted on 21st November 2016

Although many of us think of the area exclusively as a picturesque sanctuary for holidays, the Forest of Dean and its local area is increasingly gaining a profile for its world of local sports. This week has been one of huge success for various regional teams and charitable endeavours across the region who have taken to the great outdoors of the Forest in order to show off their talents and determination.

Rugby

Bream RFC’s first win for 18 months

A Forest of Dean rugby club has been praised after winning their first game in 18 months, which could mark a turn in their regional league performance. According to an article by Gloucestershire Live, Bream won by two points in a match against Brockworth, a game that was full of excitement.

The John Lewis memorial game began at a high pace, and saw much back-and-forth between the two teams as local crowds watched enraptured. In the final ten minutes, however, Bream really came into their own as the game ended with a brilliant turnover. As the Gloucestershire Live commented, “faced with scrums, driving lineouts and crash ball running, they never faltered” and made the local sporting community proud.

Increased funding for young cricket team

It’s not just rugby that is making its mark in the Forest. After being founded in 2014, the Forest Exiles junior cricket team has been going from strength to strength, a growth which has recently been recognised by the Gloucestershire Playing Fields Association, who just donated £500 to the club to assist with developing their junior section.

Forest Exiles secretary, Dan Keddle told the Review: “We already have one of our players embarking on a winter coaching course and we have big plans to start rolling out junior cricket from next April. We have already run some junior sessions and have plenty of interest. This funding will give us a great start to next season.

Regional Co-op teams play rounders for charity

As much as the Forest of Dean is gaining a competitive edge in local sports, the charity sports events organised by local groups are equally impressive. One notable example comes from the team at the Midcounties Co-op in the Forest, who recently pitted themselves against their colleagues in other stores to compete in a rounders tournament for charity.

In the inter-store tournament, employees from stores across the region played each other and raised £500 for charity, which will be shared between charities in Stroud, Cheltenham and the Forest of Dean Children’s Opportunity Centre. Leadership team ambassador at the Midcounties Co-operative in the Forest, Chris Chandler, told the Forest of Dean Review in an article on the event:

“As well as enjoying a day of exciting action, we’re really pleased to have raised £500 to be split between The Forest of Dean Children’s Opportunity Centre, as well as our partner charities in Stroud and Cheltenham, enabling them to continue the excellent work they do for communities in all three regions.”

Local boy’s charity swing success

From swinging a rounders bat to swinging at extreme height, The Forest Review also reported on a man who recently embarked upon one immense task. Tom Bendall suffered from severe brain injuries in 1998 when he was hit by a car in Aylburton and told he might not walk again. However, far from letting this hold him back, Tom has made huge progress in the past two years through physiotherapy and personal gym training. Such was his determination that Tom decided he wanted to raise money for The Lodge, Chepstow rehabilitation home in Tutshill, where he has lived since 2011.

So, he decided to attempt a charity swing. This dream came true recently as friends and family watched him jump off a 245ft-high swing at the National Diving Centre. His mother, Pam Bendall, told The Review:

“It was lovely to have a good crowd of family and friends to cheer him on. The fundraising has gone really well and is now well over his target of £2,000.” The funds raised will be spent on a piece of gym equipment to help others in a similar position.

Image Credit: Uncle Saiful (Visualhunt)

Welcoming back the Wyedean Rally to the Forest of Dean!

Posted on 02nd November 2016

November will be a big month for motorsports lovers in the Forest of Dean, as the Wyedean Rally returns to the area with exciting new offerings. After many years of being hosted at Chepstow Racecourse, the brand new Wyedean Rally will now be held exclusively in the Forest, with the start and finish line located at the Vantage Point business village in Mitcheldean.

Rally car

The event is set to be a significant one, featuring six specialist stages, 40 miles of the finest gravel roads in the UK, and up to 120 cars taking part. In addition, this year’s rally sees a new date on the calendar. The event will be called the ‘Winner Garage Skoda Wyedean Stages Rally’, taking place on November 12th 

According to the Wyedean Stages Rally website, Winner Garage Skoda are this year’s sponsors for the new event, which forms part of the qualifiers for numerous contests including the Welsh Forest Rally Championships, Welsh Clubmans Forest Rally, the Mixed Surface Rally Championship, the Loose Stage Rally Championship, the Forest Stage Championship and the Gwynne Speed Rally Challenge. The rally offers the opportunity to “scrutineer” on the Friday night, with three stages run twice and eight championships occurring over the course of the rally.

After losing its place in the national rally championships last year, after 32 seasons, the Forest of Dean Motor Club have moved the occasion back to its traditional November date, and retained its status in the Welsh championships. The exciting event has been open to all for competitor applications, and features drivers from locations ranging from the Forest of Dean Motor Club itself to Redditch District Car Club and Hereford Motor Club.

As The Forest Review reports, Paul Loveridge of the Welsh Association of Motor Clubs, has said the event is “attracting a lot of attention”. He explains, “The Forest tracks are in the best condition they have been for years and people are supporting the event”.

Ross Walking Festival gives visitors a great way to enjoy Forest of Dean

Posted on 07th September 2016

For three days starting from 23 September, the Ross Walking Festival will celebrate the natural beauty of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley with a series of walking programmes. Offering a variety of challenges, the festival includes 15 different opportunities for guided walks through the countryside.

Wye Valley

Supported by a number of local businesses, visitors and locals alike can enjoy walking through this amazing region. The festival lasts three days – 23-25 September – and has a number of routes of varying difficulties. The entire weekend offers you some great ways to enjoy a cottage holiday in the Forest of Dean.

The first walk on Friday is the John Kyrle Walk – a 3.5 mile journey along the River Wye. It passes through St Mary’s church and the Prospect Gardens. Also on Friday, there is the Backney Bridge walk. A 5-mile challenge, it offers great views of the Wye Valley and the village of Brampton Abbotts.

One highlight of the event is the Wye Walk and Lunch Cruise on Saturday. Starting in the morning, walkers will cross the Wye using an ancient rope ferry. At Symonds Yat, the adventure culminates in a 40-minute cruise and picnic lunch.

Sunday morning offers another great walk with an 8-mile moderately difficult walk that covers the area of Rolling Hills to Yatton Chapel. The highlight of the walk is the medieval chapel and grounds.

For most of the walks, ticket prices apply and there are some charges. To get more information or to purchase tickets, please visit the Ross Walking Festival website.

Image Credit: David Evans (flickr.com)