Four Days of Fun Exploring the Forest of Dean
Our week at Bracelands Campsite in the Forest of Dean has to go down as one of our favourite camping memories here at Piggl. This holiday evokes memories of gorgeous weather, happy camping, beautiful surroundings to explore and the last summer that our daughter felt like a toddler before she started primary school the following September.
The Forest of Dean was an area previously unknown to us, but one we had read and heard fantastic things about - and it didn’t disappoint.
Our campervan home for the week was Bracelands Campsite, part of the Camping in the Forest group, located on the edge of the Forest of Dean in Coleford with direct access into the forest from the campsite itself. You can read our review of this campsite here.
We found a grass non-electric pitch along the fenced edge of the field which looked right into the Forest of Dean. If you are lucky you might just see wild boar running around or hear them at night time - don't worry the fences around the camping field are robust so you won’t get any unexpected visitors! The camping fields are on a slight slope but along the fence was fairly flat and nothing some levelling chocks under our campervan tyres couldn’t level out. We set up our campervan and our funky 70’s canvas tent that we use mainly for storage and set out to explore the region.
On our first full day we followed one the ‘Wye Valley Walk’ walking path directly from our campsite and through the forest, collecting fallen pine cones and ferns.
After an hour or so the forest emerged onto the edge of the River Wye. We walked along the well maintained footpath following the river's edge to the nearest village where we stopped for a riverside pub lunch at The Saracens Head Inn at Symonds Yat East (NOTE: You can also drive here and park in the little pay and display car park but it can get very busy). After lunch we decided to cross over the river on the charming little hand ferry that the pub runs daily. We paid our £2 each to get the hand ferry over to the other side of the river and walked back the opposite way.
To cross back over the river you can walk over the impressive Bilbin’s Bridge and then return back to the campsite through the forest. In total our circular walk was an 11 kilometer circuit (our little 3 year old managed it with a little encouragement and plenty of stops for drinks and ice cream of course!), but you could easily shorten the walk by driving and parking at the pub as described.
The next day we set out in our van for the famous Symonds Yat Rock viewing point. Only a two mile drive from Bracelands Campsite, the pay and display parking wasn’t very busy (but we hear it is at peak times) and cost around £3 for two hours. There is a little visitor centre at the car park with toilets and a kiosk selling drinks and snacks. The walk up to the viewpoint is easy and mainly on a purpose built wooden walkway leading to the raised viewing point. The views are spectacular and well worth the short walk. If you fancy a longer walk there are many waymarked trails through the forest from the same car park that can be done on bike or on foot.
The next day we decided to have a low key day and set out on a Gruffalo hunt. We drove our VW Transporter and paid to park (£7 all day) at Beechenhurst, A Forestry England Centre. This wonderful venue has a cafe, toilets, event space, playground and large field for picnics. From the centre you can walk into the forest and follow the family-friendly Cycle Trail, the Go Ape Treetop Adventure or the popular Gruffalo Trail. If that doesn’t appeal to you then there is also a 4.5 mile long Sculpture Trail that was well worth taking the time to see. The sculptures on this trail are inspired by the forest - its trees, wildlife and industrial past. and features pieces by some famous artists.
On our last day we set out to explore the nearby attraction of Puzzlewood. Many people believe that Puzzlewood was the inspiration for JRR Tolkein’s forests of Middle Earth in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The wood itself is a green moss covered maze of paths, rocks, caves and hidden dead ends that children will love to explore. The wood has also been used as a filming location for Doctor Who, Arthur and Merlin such is its magical appearance. We loved uncovering the paths, hidden caves and surprises that Puzzlewood has created through the woods. This is a lovely day out and there is even a little cafe and gift shop.
At the end of our journey we were truly sorry to leave. Four days simply isn’t enough to fully explore this beautiful region. We have vowed to come back again to uncover more gems in this fantastic forest, but for now this short stay will go down as one of our all time favourites here at Piggl.
We have been travelling in campervans for over 15 years, taking in the best that the UK and Europe has to offer. By sharing our adventures, insights, recommendations and reviews we hope to inspire you to explore more!
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