The Royal Forest of Dean is a great day out from Gloucester.
It is an area of more than 110 square kilometres of mixed woodland and is one of the surviving ancient woodlands in England. A large area of The Forest of Dean was reserved for royal hunting before 1066.
We visited The Forest of Dean in winter – probably not the best time – but, despite the cold, misty weather, it was a beautiful place for a walk. The fog actually added an eerie atmosphere to the forest which just added to its character and beauty. We found the best place to play Poohsticks. So, of course, we did.
Taking a trip up to Abergavenny
Hoping the weather is fine
If you should see a red dog running free
Well, you know he’s mine Marty Wilde
The lyrics to this song inspired my husband to take us on a trip … to Abergavenny, naturally. What a wonderful name for a place.
Sadly, I can’t remember a lot about Abergavenny. It is a market town and, true to form, we found ourselves in the midst of a cattle auction. Being city folk this was curiously intriguing. We could, however, tick it off our list of places to visit that had been inspired by a song. In 2012 we did the same in Winslow, Arizona – made famous by an Eagles song. Winslow was considerably less interesting than Abergavenny.
“Ross-on-Wye was the birthplace of the British tourist industry. In 1745, the rector, Dr John Egerton, started taking friends on boat trips down the valley from his rectory at Ross. The Wye Valley’s particular attraction was its river scenery, its precipitous landscapes, and its castles and abbeys, which were accessible to fashionable seekers of the “Picturesque”. In 1782, William Gilpin’s book “Observations on the River Wye” was published, the first illustrated tour guide to be published in Britain. Once it was published, demand grew so much that by 1808 there were eight boats making regular excursions down the Wye, most of them hired from inns in Ross and Monmouth. By 1850 more than 20 visitors had published their own accounts of the Wye Tour, and the area was established as a tourist area.” Wikipedia
I can vouch for the fact that it is a truly picturesque spot. We have stopped for lunch at a pub overlooking the River Wye on a couple of occasions because it is just such a lovely spot. One day I plan to kayak on the river here.
We went to Hereford to visit the cathedral! Not for the cathedral per se but for an ancient map that was housed there. The cathedral itself, dating from 1079, was quite interesting. When you consider that the Norman Conquest was in 1066, this is one very old cathedral. It was also constructed from an unusual pinkish stone giving it a very different look to your average cathedral. If you love books, maps and history then this is the place to go.
The most famous treasure of Hereford Cathedral is the Mappa Mundi, a world map dating from around 1285. It is drawn on a single sheet of vellum, measuring 158 cm by 133 cm and is the largest medieval map known to still exist. Jerusalem is drawn at the centre of the map with the Garden of Eden in a circle at the edge of the world. Great Britain is drawn at the north-western border. It also depicts Biblical events, animals and plants, people, and scenes from classical mythology.
Hereford Cathedral Library is also well-known for its chained books as it is the only library of this type to survive with all of the chains, rods and locks still intact. It is a working theological and lending library. The oldest volume in the library, the Hereford Gospels in Anglo-Saxon characters, dates to around the year 800 AD.
In 1978 Warwick castle was sold to the Tussauds Group (think Madame Tussauds and waxworks) and since then has become a huge tourist business. I wouldn’t normally recommend visiting somewhere so blatantly marketed to mass tourism however, on the whole, Warwick Castle must be an exception. The commercialisation of the Castle has both its upsides and downsides. It is definitely making history more interesting and accessible for the young and for the masses, which I suppose is a good thing. Unfortunately both our visits have been in mid-winter so we have not experienced all that Warwick Castle has to offer.
Warwick Castle, located obviously enough, in the town of Warwick is a mediaeval castle developed from the original built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It has a long and interesting history which is best read elsewhere. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warwick_Castle
The views from the ramparts are stunning and the grounds magnificent.
On our first visit, in 1996, we found the Castle dungeons to be especially interesting, replete as they were with an oubliette and gruesome instruments of torture. In 2011, though, the dungeon access had been restricted and replaced with a ‘live actor’ experience of which they are very proud. We found this to be superficial and embarrassing – not our cup of tea.
The wax models, however, are superb. On our first trip it took us a long time to decide whether these were models or just very still actors.
Visiting in winter we haven’t had a chance to see the trebuchet in action, which is something that saddens me. I am very partial to trebuchets after having played Age of Empires II with my son! The trebuchet is 18 metres tall, weighs 11 tonnes and takes 8 men half an hour to load and release. In 2006 this trebuchet claimed the record for the most powerful catapult of its type, releasing its projectile at a speed of 260 km/hour!