I’m always looking for good places to get One Hour Outside or more, and recently headed over to Beechenhurst for the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail.
Cathedral, Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
The trail is a unique collection of contemporary sculpture, both permanent and temporary, within the Forest of Dean.
Established in 1986, the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail was apparently one of the first to open in the UK. There are sculptures created by artists to interpret the environment and history of the Forest itself, artworks designed to sit amongst the trees to help tell the story of the area. It gives a walk in the forest a purpose, and while I do enjoy sculpture, I can say that you do not need to know anything about art to enjoy the pieces presented.
Iron Road, Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
While the trail is well marked with bold purple arrows, the sculptures have been installed to encourage you to make an effort seek them out; you need to leave the circular route to see most of them. There is a map available, either buy one from Beechenhurst Lodge café for £1, or download it before you arrive from this website.
There are 16 sculptures on the trail at the moment, each with a number that corresponds to a short description in the leaflet, but if you’re fortunate you might also spot one of 12 decommissioned pieces. My personal highlights were primarily sculptures that were big. I like big art! Cathedral is a 15ft high stained-glass window suspended from the tree canopy at the end of a line of trees that visitors can walk underneath; we stood and waited in the hope the sun might make a little appearance but alas we’d chosen a very dull and damp day for our visit. Iron Road is sat right on the disused railway and consists of twenty wooden sleepers carved with different images of the life of the Forest of Dean. Hanging Fire is a cast iron crown of individual flames that have rusted to a bright orange colour which matches the tree canopy perfectly, and were cast in Cannop itself.
Hanging Fire, Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
If you are doing the Sculpture Trail proper, it starts and ends at the Forestry Commission Beechenhurst picnic site, west of Speech House, just up the road from Coleford. The full trail as it stands at the moment is about 4.5 miles long and took us around 2.5 hours to complete at an amble. There are also a series of shorter loops, if you are looking for something a bit less time consuming, but I would recommend the full trail as being well worth the effort.
While some of the trail is on the disused railway – also a family cycle trail – which means it’s nice and flat and easy going, you will also find yourself on proper forest footpaths. Some sections are also reasonably steep up and down, and so this isn’t a walk in the park. The Forest is sat on the side of the Cannop Valley, after all. Walking shoes (or boots in the winter) are therefore an excellent idea.
And when you’ve finished the trail, I recommend the food in the Beechenhurst Café, a Forestry Commission Visitor Centre. Although a bit like Dalby Forest, they haven’t quite got with the times on ditching the plastic yet.
Open from dawn to dusk daily, every day of the year, entry is free but the main car park is a pay and display one, and cost us £5 for the whole day on a Saturday. This money is collected by the Forestry Commission to help maintain the footpaths and run the forest, something which I don’t mind putting some of my pennies towards.
Before you head to the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, head to their website for the most up to date information.