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Speech House and the Forest of Dean

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Speech House and the Forest of Dean
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 08 Apr 2012 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean
Walk Type: Woodland
Speech House and the Forest of Dean
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 3 mile circular woodland walk through the Forest of Dean starting from Speech House. Speech House is now a hotel but has always been home to the Verderers’ Court Room which helps to manage the forest, game and mineral resources of the area. The Forest of Dean gives a wonderful setting for the walk with dense plantations of coniferous and deciduous trees with thick carpets of moss and woodland flowers below. When the sun beams fall through the trees onto the moss below the effect is really magical. At any moment you expect King Arthur to emerge through the trees and in fact the BBC’s drama series Merlin was filmed nearby.

The walk follows well made forest tracks and there are just a couple of very gradual ascents and descents. There are a few gates but no stiles. The forest is home to deer and also wild boar – whilst sightings of the latter are rare take care with dogs. Approximate time 1 to 1.5 hours.

The walk starts from the Cyril Hart Arboretum Forestry Commission car park. The car park is on the B4226, just 200 yards along from Speech House heading towards Cinderford. Approximate post code GL16 7EL.

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Walk Sections

Arboretum to Diagonal Crossroads
Arboretum to Diagonal Crossroads

Start point: 51.8076 lat, -2.5477 long
End point: 51.8046 lat, -2.5391 long

From the car park go through the gate into the Cyril Hart Arboretum. Go straight ahead and pass through a second gate to leave the small arboretum and enter the forest.

The Forest of Dean comprises more than 40 square miles of mixed woodland and is one of the surviving ancient woodlands in England. The forest floor is a carpet of moss, foxgloves and other wild flowers.

Continue straight ahead along the long straight track. At the crossroads go straight on and then follow the track as it bends to the left. Continue until you come to a diagonal crossroads.

Diagonal Crossroads to Trafalgar Avenue
Diagonal Crossroads to Trafalgar Avenue

Start point: 51.8046 lat, -2.5391 long
End point: 51.793 lat, -2.5439 long

Turn sharp right, marked with a green arrow. Along this section the forest is very dense and when sun beams fall through the trees onto the moss below the effect is really magical. At any moment you expect King Arthur to emerge through the trees and in fact the BBC’s drama series Merlin was filmed in the Forest of Dean.

You will come to a crossroads with Speech House Lake directly ahead. Turn left up the wide stone track heading up a short steady hill. In the springtime the blossom on the cherry trees lining this section of track is particularly beautiful.

The path levels off and at the next crossroads, with an M1 marker post on the right, turn right. Follow this path on a long steady descent and at the bottom it passes over a small woodland stream. Continue ahead as the path now steadily climbs.

The deer in the forest (which currently number around 300) are predominantly fallow deer and these have been present in the forest since the Second World War. The Forest of Dean is also home to wild boar; the exact number is currently unknown but exceeds 100. In medieval times boar from the Royal Forest were supplied for the King's table, but by about 1300 boar became extinct in Britain. In the 1970s farming wild boar became fashionable again. Boar became feral in the area after some escaped or were released from a farm near Ross on Wye in 1999. Debate is still underway as to the best way to manage the growing wild population.

The path climbs to reach a T-junction with Trafalgar Avenue.

Trafalgar Avenue to Spruce Ride
Trafalgar Avenue to Spruce Ride

Start point: 51.793 lat, -2.5439 long
End point: 51.802 lat, -2.5459 long

Turn right onto Trafalgar Avenue and continue ahead through the young plantation. Go straight on and the path becomes Nelson Grove, a section of more mature coniferous trees.

The references to Trafalgar and Admiral Lord Nelson are not a coincidence. Admiral Lord Nelson visited the Dean area in 1802 and later recommended to Parliament the re-planting of oak trees in the Forest in order to provide sufficient timber for building wooden warships for the future of the Royal Navy. Nelson was not to know that in less than a hundred years wood and sail would be superseded by steel and steam.

Go straight on, ignoring two minor paths off to the right and left, following the main path as it bends slightly to the right. After a short distance you will come to a major crossroads with the path known as Spruce Ride, with a M2 marker post ahead.

Spruce Ride to Arboretum
Spruce Ride to Arboretum

Start point: 51.802 lat, -2.5459 long
End point: 51.8068 lat, -2.5479 long

Turn left onto Spruce Ride. Spruce Ride was planted around 1850 and then replanted in 1920 and 2010 in commemoration of retired Forestry Commission staff who have dedicated part of their working lives to the ongoing management of the Forest of Dean.

Pass through a gate into a wooded car park and then after just a few paces turn right through another gate into the arboretum. Keep left on the path closest to the fence boundary on the left. This will give you great views of the back of Speech House.

Construction of Speech House was completed in 1682. Whilst it is now a hotel it is still where the Verderers’ Court meets, the oldest court in England. The Verderers were appointed as judicial officers who dealt with offences in the forest including the taking of venison, the illegal cutting of woodland and encroachment through unauthorised enclosures and buildings. Today, their role is preserved to maintain tradition but is more of a mediation role. Speech House is an important landmark for both local people and visitors alike. Lifelong inhabitant of the Forest of Dean, Mabel Beech, wrote a poem about Speech House which begins ‘In the heart of the woodlands The Speech House stands, Jewel in the crown of our forest lands.’

Keep ahead on this path and it will lead you straight back to the car park on your left.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2012 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 responses to "Speech House and the Forest of Dean"

Did this walk today on my trusted Tramper. Really enjoyed it. Just be aware there are 2 car parks called Cyril Hart Arboretum. We started at the wrong one which is referred to in the last section of the walk as "a wooded car park" so (in the manner of Eric Morcombe) we did all the right walk but not necessarily in the right order. The app is brilliant for this sort of event as it lets you know exactly where you should be and how to get back on track. The foxgloves were in full glory today. Very beautiful.

By Jules19 on 2014-06-21 17:35:32

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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