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Camping and Riding in the Forest of Dean - May 2018

After hiking to the summit of Mount Snowdon, I left the North-West of Wales late that afternoon, to make my way to the diagonally opposite side of the country, the Forest of Dean, near Monmouth South-East Wales. It was the Sunday of a Public Holiday weekend hence the roads were very busy. When it began to get dark I started to worry whether I’d be able to get a pitch at my campsite of choice. I couldn’t reach them on the phone to book-in either. I kept dithering as to whether I should find another site on the way, but I wanted to keep driving, and finally arrived at my campsite, in Coleford, after dark, just after 10pm.

There were no lights on in the office, and I hadn’t booked, so I drove straight in and was shocked that the three fields were rammed! I found a spot in the far corner and pitched up. With a head-torch, setting up camp in the dark was so much easier than I thought it would be, and the site has an open-door shower and toilet block, so I could get washed. All turned out well after my worrying, paying for my pitch the next morning.

I’d woken early, so enjoyed the peace and early morning sunshine. When the twenty or so kids arose, I went back to my tent for a kip. On waking I was pleased to find nearly all the other campers were packing-up or had gone already. Result, by lunchtime there was only four other tents there!

I had a totally chilled day, it was beautifully sunny, I took a few strolls over the meadows surrounding the campsite. It was bliss not to have to do anything, as the two previous days I had been busy mountain biking and hiking.

You can hire a fire-pit from the campsite, so I had a fire that night and cooked some baked potatoes, that I’d specifically bought from the local Co-op in Coleford town, hiking over the fields to reach it. The potatoes were gorgeous! And it made a change from the Super Noodles or Macaroni that I usually cook. I’d also bought some Avocados, and had them squashed on toast the next morning.

During the night I woke at around 1am, so got up and made a cuppa. The night sky was beautiful, I could see more of the Milkyway than I'd ever seen in the UK before. And there was quite a few shooting stars. It was a quality time.

I had another lazy morning on the Tuesday, the mist was very heavy that day, with the sun struggling to get through, eventually succeeding around 10am. I enjoyed just listening to the birdsong, watching the lambs in the meadow behind my pitch, and watching three squirrels scurrying about the campsite, like naughty little kids.

I had planned to ride my mountain bike in the Forest of Dean that day, but was so happy to just sit and chill. I slowly started to get my mountain biking gear on, which took around two hours, as I just couldn’t be arsed! Eventually leaving the campsite for the Cannop Mountain Bike trail centre in the forest at around 1pm.

I unloaded my bike, got all ready to ride, then realised I’d brought no food with me and that I’d forgotten my GoPro. So, I had to load Desmond, my downhill bike, back into the car and drive back to the campsite to get them. Still I had no time frame to work to, the car park doesn’t close until 9pm, so wasn’t stressed by it.

On finally getting back and onto my bike I realised I’d left my gloves back at the campsite, damn it! I wasn’t going to go back again, so decided to ride with some mechanics gloves I kept in the car. I decided then to just pootle about as I’d cut both my hands, my left little finger on a knife, that was quite deep and gaping, that kept bleeding, and on the palm on my right hand, done whilst collecting kindling for the camp fire unfortunately positioned right where you hold the handle bars.

If I was going to pootle there was no need for my protective gear, so took off, it was too hot for it anyway. Being on the downhill bike I was going to ride the downhill trails, there was no uplift that day, and I couldn’t afford it even if there was, which meant I’d be pushing-up to the top of the hill. I know where the push-up trail is, but still, I got lost and ended up high up on the other side of the forest.

It had clouded over a little by mid afternoon, with a shower at one point, which made it a nicer push-up, as it's hot work pushing a bike uphill. I had three runs on the easiest one dot downhill trails; Countdown and Launch Pad. I’m still a bit wobbly and lacking confidence on Desmond, so it was so good just to do something really easy.

I finished my day around 6pm and drove the 5kms back to the campsite. I had another lazy evening watching the sun go down. I’d saved two baked potatoes from the night before, so had them for my dinner.

The next morning, Wednesday, I started to prepare to leave the campsite. Where I was pitched was in the early morning shadows, so I packed up my car, and moved my tent into the sunshine to dry-out, having a few cups of coffee while I waited. Leaving for home at around 10am, arriving in Banbury around half past midday. It was a perfect drive home, no hold-ups at all.

And that was my five nights away camping done. I was sad to have to go home, but now I needed to knuckle-down and find a job!

It won’t be long until I’m back in the Welsh hills again that’s for sure!

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