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Cycle Gloucestershire
Cycling in Gloucestershire

Cycling in Gloucestershire

The Welsh Borders, or Marches, part of Gloucestershire could loosely be described as lying between the River Severn to the east and Wales to the west,  so that is what we are covering here.

The Forest of Dean

River Wye at Symonds YatThe Royal Forest of Dean (to give it its full name) is one of the best old forests in England, comprising some 42 square miles of mixed woodland sitting between the rivers Severn and Wye, to the south of Ross-on-Wye.

Today we see it as a tourist pleasure land, but in the past it was a hive of industry. Due to huge iron ore reserves and abundance of timber, the forest was an important area of iron production for hundreds of years.

The idea of the 'picturesque' began here. During the Napoleonic Wars the rich could no longer take their Grand Tour on the continent, so they came here instead. William Gilpin wrote about boats full of rich tourists floating down river from Ross-on-Wye, calling at Goodrich Castle for a tipple, and ending at Symond's Yat where the gentry could admire sweaty working-class men stripped to the waist toiling in the blast furaces that lined the east bank of River Wye. The whole valley glowed red with fire.

One of our favourite rides takes in the lane from Staunton to Newland for lunch at The Ostrich Inn. Newland's huge church is known as the 'Cathedral of the Forest' containing the 'Miners Brass' depicting a mediaeval Freeminer with a candlestick in his mouth - miners had to provide their own lighting, possibly whilst hewing coal lying on their sides! Free Mining is unique to the Forest of Dean - to become a Freeminer you have to be born and live within the Hundred of St Briavels.

If you're into some big climbs, try the lane up from Upper Lydbrook, via Joy's Green, to The Pludds - it keeps going up and up and up around every bend!

Symond's Yat

Symond's Yat, in the Forest of Dean, is divided by the River Wye into Symond's Yat East and Symond's Yat West, connected by two passenger ferries (run by The Saracens Head and Ye Old Ferrie Inn), a footbridge (very narrow, with steps either side) about 1 mile downriver at The Biblins, and a road bridge about a mile to the north. This is the busiest tourist spot for miles around, but still worth visiting if you can choose your day.

Symonds Yat, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Photo credit: Symonds Yat by Royal Forest of Dean Info

Symond's Yat may (or may not) have got its name from a route used by seamen travelling from further north through the steep-sided gorge on their way to the coast. 'Yat' meaning 'gate', so Symond's Yat would be the Seamens' Gateway

Footbride, Symonds Yat, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Photo: Bibblins footbridge over River Wye at Symonds Yat

Old Kempley Church

This gem of a small church (now redundant; in the care of The Friends of Friendless Churches) is a Norman version of Byzantium. Inside are some wonderful frescoes (c. 1130) on the walls and in particular on the barrelled ceiling of the chancel.

The timber-frame porch and Norman doorway arch are also rather fine.

Kempley church

Photo: ceiling painting of The Apostles in chancel

Kempley church

Photo: window in chancel of Old Kempley church

Location: about one mile north of the village of Kempley (not the newer church in Kempley itself, also rather interesting in an Arts and Crafts way).

The Dymock Poets

The Dymock, famous for their anti-war poems, lived around the village of Dymock between 1911 and the out-break of war in 1914. The group comprised Robert Frost, Rupert Brooke, Lascelles Abercrombie, Edward Thomas, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, and John Drinkwater. A small exhibition of their poems is in Dymock church.

May Hill

May Hill, Gloucestershire

This distinctive hill can been seen for miles because of its rounded shape with a clump of trees on top. The highest point around here, at 969 feet (275 metres), you can see 12 other counties from the top on a clear day.

A little challenge for hill climbers is the lane over the northern end of the hill (cycle from west to east and enjoy a pint at The Yew Tree Inn at Clifford's Mesne). The lane along the western side of the hill and over the southern end is less challenging and takes you to The Glass House Inn.

The Bee Shelter

There is an amazing restored bee shelter in the back of Hartpury churchyard. Measuring 24 feet long by 14 feet high, this unique structure could accommodate about 840,000 bees in 28 'skeps' (coiled straw or wicker baskets placed open-end-down). Before beekeepers started using the modern hive, they kept their bees in 'skeps'. The honey was harvested by burning the skep. Full details are on a display board.

Bee shelter at Hartpury church

Photo credit: Hartpury Heritage Trust

Location: near Highleadon on lane west from Hartpury village; map ref: SO 780 236.

There is a lovely Tithe Barn opposite Hartpury church, but it is private. However the National Trust's 15th century Tithe Barn at Ashleworth is open every day - just a couple of miles to the east (map ref: SO 817 252). And lunch could be at the Boat Inn on the west bank of the River Severn?

Cycling Maps

Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Cycling GuideForest of Dean and Wye Valley Cycling Guide

Cycling map of HerefordshireHerefordshire, Worcestershire & North Gloucestershire Cycle Map - shows on-road and traffic-free cycle paths, height contours, town centre maps, recommended linking routes connecting the National Cycling Network with quiet roads. Published by Sustrans. 1:110,000 scale. About £6.

Or buy the ordinary Ordnance Survey Landranger map Number 162 "Gloucester & Forest of Dean" from; scale 1:50 000 (1.25 in to 1 mile), about £7-9.

We take no responsibility and give no guarantees or warranties, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of any linked sites above.

Cycle deeper into the Welsh Borders...

Cycling info for Gloucestershire

Lost Lanes Wales: 36 glorious bike rides in Wales and the Welsh Borders
from Amazon
from Waterstones

Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Cycling Guide