Calling all stifled city dwellers — it’s time to shake off the week and swap that concrete jungle for a real forest, that heaving sidewalk for a piece of blazing off-road trail. Are you and your mates looking for a bit of excitement to really give you that Friday feeling? Well you know that little place called the Forest of Dean? It’s got a heck of a lot going on and it’s calling for you.
Yes, the Forest of Dean may be an ancient woodland, but it’s got loads on offer and is the perfect getaway for a bit of weekend excitement. Situated just three hours from London, 1hr 50mins from Birmingham and 1hr from Bristol, it’s easily commutable for you and a car full of adventurous mates. And don’t worry, there’s something for everyone — even if you’re not that big a fan of mud!
Having recently had an awesome time experiencing some of the activities run by the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Association, I’ve pulled together my top choices for a weekend away with your adventure crew.
For a relaxing girls getaway
Saturday — Leave the work stress behind and unwind with a canoe trip down the River Wye. Carving its way through the heart of the forest, this spectacular river is the perfect way to see the area, get a bit of exercise and enjoy some quality girl time (if you’re lucky you may even arrive back dry!) The river is gentle and safe, and if you’re feeling up to it, you can hire boats and make your way unguided down the river. Hire centres offer a pick up and drop of service, meaning all you have to worry about is having a good time. However, guided trips are also available and the companies can tailor the length and time to suit you and your friends. Check out Inspire2Adventure for hire and guide information.
Sunday — After a good day on the river you’ll want to rest and relax on the Sunday, and the gorgeous woods of Puzzlewood are a perfect way to do this. Enjoy exploring the ancient paths of this magical woodland as you follow trails that meander over twisted roots and moss covered rocks. If you’re a fan of film and TV, then keep your eyes peeled and try spot the locations used in films such as The Huntsman, Star Wars and Dr Who.
For the ‘I’ll give it go’ gang
Saturday — So you’re up for some adventure, but you don’t want to push it too much — you still want to enjoy yourself right? Start the weekend with a spot of 4×4 driving at Whitecliff Off-Road Driving Centre. Situated in a purpose-built course in a 40-acre quarry, this is a great way to get a bit of an adrenaline rush from the safety of a nice Land Rover Discovery. The instructors sit alongside you as you negotiate the course, meaning you never feel out of control. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security — the course is challenging and will take you through deep water and over steep banks. Whether you’re a beginner or a little more ambitious, there are courses to suit every level, plus the owner is a woman and she drives hard-core, which is awesome!
Sunday — To get your high-octane fix before heading back to the city, go and spend some time at the high ropes course at Forest of Dean Adventures. Unlike Go Ape this isn’t a set course, but a series of games that are guaranteed to get your heart going, as well as the giggles. Challenges include working your way across a tightrope 25ft above the ground with just the aid of some large red balls! Jump for a trapeze bar — sounds easy until you realise the bar is suspended 30ft in the air. And finally take the zip wire challenge — will you do it head on, backwards or upside down? The instructors here are super friendly and can bring a smile to even the most nervous of your squad.
For the full-blown thrill seekers
Saturday — Start the weekend as you mean to go on with some blazing mountain biking. The guys at Pedalabikeaway Cycle Centre can set you up with hire bikes before unleashing you on a network of great single track riding through the forest. Similar to other areas, the trails follow the standard blue, red and black grading and are suited to all abilities. Start off on the 11km blue called Verderer’s Trail, before upping your game on the red Freeminer Trail. And if you dare, there are also jumps to test on the freeride and downhill tracks.
Sunday — Don’t even bother washing the mud off from your bike ride, before heading down the awesome caves at Clearwell — there really won’t be any point. The guys at Clearwell Caves offer guided trips that go beyond the public pathways and into the labyrinthine workings. Don’t worry, you’ll be dressed up for the role in gorgeous boiler suits and caving lamps. But get ready to navigate some pretty tight spaces including the ‘Rabbit Hole’ and the ‘Mouse Hole’ (small breakfast advised). The guides here know the caves inside out and your experience is made even better with the addition of amazing history, geology facts and the odd ghost story!
This is literally just scratching the surface of what’s on offer here. For full details head over to the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Association to start your adventure. One vital element is missing from this blog though. I mean what would an awesome weekend be without some good food? Keep an eye out for our next blog Foraging in the Forest for some mouth-watering recommendations.
Note: I was a guest of the Wye Valley Tourism Association. All views are my own.