The Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean. Photo by TomNatt, licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Forest of Dean is a historical region in the western part of Gloucestershire. The forest is roughly triangular and is bounded on all sides by the City of Gloucester to the east, River Severn to the south and the River Wye to the north and west. There are over 110 square kilometres of mixed woodland, and one of the largest surviving ancient woodlands of England.  Large areas were reserved for royal hunting.

There are a wealth of attractions in the Forest of Dean, and every age and style is catered for. There are many museums, historic buildings, and caves where the area’s fascinating history can be discovered.  A favourite family attraction is a ride on a steam train and the forest animals at close quarters. The villages and towns in the area are ideal for exploring and browsing the many arts and crafts outlets and shops.

As a destination for the outdoors enthusiast, the Forest of Dean is the perfect. There are a fantastic variety of leisure and adventure activities including, canoeing on the River Wye, cycling through the heart of the forest, hiking or for the more adventurous zip-wiring through the trees like Tarzan! Golf and fishing are widely catered for.  Climbing Symonds Yat Rock is a well-known activity and climbers are rewarded with one of the best views in the country. It is an excellent climbing venue and there are climbs for all abilities. Underneath the limestone of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley lay fantastic rock formations in a subterranean world that is open for exploration at various points.


The Royal Forest of Dean is famous for its large population of free roaming sheep of many breeds and include welsh mountain, speckled faced or cheviots with the occasional Kerry or ryeland.  These sheep graze courtesy of ancient rights given to residents of the area.

In Norman times, the Forest was a game reserve where red, roe and fallow deer as well as wild boar were hunted. All these species were gone by the 14th century along with their natural predator the wolf.  Today, only fallow deer and occasional roe deer is spotted. Wild boars were illegally released in recent times to the Forest and number a population of around one hundred. Conservationists claim it is the rightful habitat for the wild boar while others think them a pest. Their fate is as yet undecided!

Badgers and other native wildlife inhabit the forest and it would be usual to find squirrels, dormice, foxes, voles, hedgehogs, and rabbits. There are several types of protected bats within the Forest of Dean including pipistrelle, noctule, and long-eared bat most commonly.

The Forest of Dean contains a typical mix of nesting birds, associated with woodland of this type. There are some more unusual sightings such as pairs of ravens, dippers and the pied flycatcher. Mandarin ducks migrate between different lakes in the Forest and most unusually for ducks, nest in trees.

Springtime is a perfect time to visit the Forest of Dean, when the new beech is brilliant green and the blues and yellows of bluebells and daffodils make a spectacular show.  The orchards are pink and white with pear, apple, and plum blossom and there is a fresh smell in the air and a hint of warmer days to come. Natural wildflowers to look out for are celandine, primrose, violet, wood anemone, and dog’s mercury.

The Forest of Dean and surrounding areas hold many surprises and opportunities to take part in some unusual past times in these ancient woodlands, which are full of surprises waiting to be discovered.

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