On our bikes again today and back into Cheltenham. Rode to Pittville park which was a lot bigger than it first appeared. A big lake surrounded by stunning spring trees. The pittville pump house is here as well, a famous spa in its day, however for some reason it was closed today although we did get to peek in through the windows. All of the chandeliers were lit and they looked beautiful. Had our Sunday roast at “The Bank House” pub which not only was delicious but cheap as well. £7.49 each with a pint of beer included. Can’t fault that! Next we headed off to Sandford Park and along a bike path by a stream. Not sure how far we rode, my legs are telling me it was a reasonable distance. The weather today is quite cold with a sprinkle of rain, not much though. Back home for a well earned drink!
Another bike ride today up to St Bartholomew’s church which is about 5 miles (8kms) from our site at an altitude of 155 metres. We rode as far as one of the walk trails and then hiked the rest of the way. The scenery at the top was well worth the effort with views over Cheltenham. We also hiked to a bird sanctuary in the forest with even better views, this time looking over to Gloucester and because the weather was fine, we could see the cathedral. Stopped at the church and had our lunch before venturing back. We are sitting outside at the moment, however the weather appears to be changing again and it is getting quite cold. Time for some relaxing indoors I think although when the sun comes out it is lovely! Oh, what to do?
Drove into Tewkesbury today, first to the Motorhome Doctor for Matilda. Still a few minor things that needed sorting. They dropped us into town where we first went to the Tewkesbury Abbey. What a surprise that was, it was beautiful. The gardens are very well maintained and the inside of the abbey was stunning, with a beautiful coloured webbed ceiling along with some huge stained glass windows. We walked along the river Severn to the loch where the Severn meets the Avon, through the town which was very picturesque. Had lunch in another Wetherspoon pub, the Royal Hop Pole, again two meals and two drinks for £15. We were about to embark on another walk through some farmland when the motorhome place rang so we walked the 2 miles back. They did manage to fix a couple of things however parts need to be ordered and apparently it can take up to 2 months the get approval from the warranty company?? So we will call Elite motorhomes again tomorrow and see if they can hurry things up and get Matilda 100% fit so we can get into Europe.
Tidy up day today as we are on the move tomorrow, so while we have the facilities, I have gotten up to date with the washing, boring!!!!! Did some shopping as well so we are all set to go. Dave has spoken with Elite Motorhomes and while they can assist us, we will need to wait for warranty approval but hopefully not 2 months which the other company advised us of. We also need to contact Fiat directly to have two items attended to which Elite are unable to fix. Fingers crossed that this isn’t going to turn into a huge drama, time will tell.
We went for another walk this afternoon around the back streets near where we are staying. It still surprises me that you can walk on a public path that runs right through someones property! We found a nursery that also had a pet shop attached with some lovely birds, mainly finches with such pretty colours.
Had nice drive to Coleford which is just outside of the Forest of Dean, about four miles east of the Welsh border. It was nice to get back on the road. The CL site is lovely, on the side of a hill with sheep and lambs as far as the eye can see.
Once settled we walked on the public pathway (through fields) into Coleford town which was a lot bigger than expected. Having said that only two main streets but still bigger than we thought it would be. After a sandwich in the park we walked along the same path back but deviated to Newland, a little village on the other side of the hill. There is an old church here which we had a look inside and quite big for such a small village. A few of the homes here are being renovated and some of the others look very expensive. Beautiful gardens in some of the homes overlooking the valley below. The pub in Newland is called The Ostrich, doesn’t look much from the outside but is really old and quaint inside with two huge fireplaces. Hopefully when we come back, the fires will be lit!
Today we did a 10 mile (16 kms) round trip visiting the Clearwell caves and Puzzlewood. The Clearwell caves were previously mined for iron ore. They are still mined today but for ochre which is used mainly as a colouring for paint. There were lots of information boards throughout the caves explaining the lives of the miners dating back to the early 1800’s when child labour was in use with children as young as 6 years of age who used to cart the ore from the bottom of the mine to the top. They did this for 10 hours a day all for 1 shilling per day! Puzzlewood is a woodland in the Forest of Dean which was rumoured to be the inspiration for JR Tolkein’s forests of Middle Earth in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is a magical place with meandering pathways taking you through deep ravines of moss covered rocks, over wooden bridges and through fantastic tree and rock formations. It also houses a small animal farm, a maze for the kids, picnic grounds and of course a strategically placed gift shop!
Drove to Symonds Yat today which is about 6 miles from our campsite, in the Forest of Dean next to the Wye River. Symonds Yat is like a gorge that overlooks the river Wye. The view from the lookout was stunning with peregrine falcons gliding below in the valley. From here we walked down a very steep path to the river Wye where we caught a hand ferry (literally pulled across the river by hand) to the other side where we commenced the main walk through the forest. Further along we crossed into Wales before crossing the river again over a suspension bridge. We stopped for lunch on the riverbank watching some canoes in the rapids before returning to the place where we initially caught the boat. What goes down must go up and the climb to the top again was very steep, along the same path we came down on although it seemed a lot steeper for some reason!
Today we drove to the Forestry headquarters car park in the Forest of Dean. We got the bikes down and rode the family bike path all the way around which was about 11 miles (17.6 kms) through some beautiful groves of trees with the forest floor covered in ferns and wild grasses. We did spot a deer, but it wasn’t real, just a statue. The path was reasonable most of the way around with only the occasional rough bit. There were many side tracks that were designed for mountain bikes, fortunately for me, our bikes weren’t designed for that type of riding, so we just kept on the family path. We also stopped at a place called Cannop Pond which was a large pond (who would have guessed) with lots of birdlife and a couple of guys fishing for carp. By the time we got back to Matilda the car park was overflowing with visitors, with today being a bank holiday. It seems that everyone had the same idea as us! Many were picnicking and we did comment on the absence of barbecues. The weather was perfect for bike riding although there is supposed to be heavy rain tonight, hopefully Matilda won’t get stuck again.
Left Coleford today and drove to Tintern in Wales to see the Tintern Abbey, built between 1269 and 1301. All that remains is the shell of the building and it is said that 400 Cistercian monks lived here. We didn’t go inside however you had a good view by walking around the perimeter. We walked over a bridge in the river Wye and the plan was to hike to the Devil’s Pulpit, a lookout high in the forest however the weather turned today and the path was not the best so decided against it.
Tintern is only a small village by the river but we have decided to wildcamp in the car park of the Anchor Inn hotel, facing the Abbey which is lit up at night. Parking overnight is free as long as you buy a drink or meal – so a pub meal tonight! We have spent a very rainy afternoon parked alongside the river using the Iboost to pickup free wifi. Off to Chepstow tomorrow.