HIKING TO THE DEVIL’S PULPIT | CICERONE WALKING GUIDES

posted in: Gifted, Outdoors, Review | 1

You know I love books of walks, and so when the postie brought me these two walking guides by Cicerone, I was very happy indeed. I have had the Cotswolds one since we moved to this area (a gift from friends as we left Lincolnshire), and it’s been very well used over the last four years. I’m very happy to add Walking in the Forest of Dean and Walking in the Wye Valley to my collection.

Splodz Blogz | Cicerone Walking Books

Keep reading to the end of this post to find out how you can win one of these books in my giveaway.

Cicerone Walking Guides

These two books were a gift from Cicerone, who publish a wide range of books like these designed to help people explore here in the UK and further afield. The “Walking in the” series are all about day walks, these two examples have 25-30 walks, each doable in anything from an hour to a day.

The great thing about books like this is they are always sat on the bookshelf waiting, so anytime I find myself with a day or half day available for walking, and want someone else to do the route planning, I can choose a ready-made walk. These books are also quite compact, meaning they are not too onerous to carry on the walk itself.

I noticed on the website when I was grabbing the links for my weekly blog, that you can also choose an e-book version if you prefer. This is a great idea if you’re travelling, or following a long-distance trail, and just want to access the instructions on your phone.

Splodz Blogz | View of the River Wye

Inspired to Hike

Just like receiving the Great British Wildlife and Environment Map inspired me to head to the nature reserve at Coombe Hill, I was inspired to climb a hill thanks to this gift from Cicerone.

The one hill that appears in both of these books, because it straddles both the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, is the Devil’s Pulpit. It’s been on my to-hike list since I went to Hidden Valley Yurts on a press trip back in 2018. We walked a loop from Tintern, but the weather was a bit too harsh to be heading up onto the summit. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get up there. I say that a lot.

It seemed liked the natural choice for a hill to christen my new books, and to share with you on here. The two books describe two different routes. I chose the walk from the Forest of Dean book, drove the hour or so over to Brockweir (just up river from Tintern), and used the Cicerone Walking Guide to find my way. The route was about five miles, following bits of the Offa’s Dyke National Trail plus a few farm tracks and other footpaths, and it was a lovely couple of hours.

To The Devil’s Pulpit

The route starts at Brockweir, where there’s an old iron bridge over the River Wye built in the early 1900s, and goes up hill almost immediately. The climb is steady to begin with, along a track passed a horse sanctuary, before heading directly up the hill cutting a corner and up onto Offa’s Dyke. It worked the legs and lungs well but is not a terrible ascent; the benefit is that it’s short and sharp meaning it’s over quickly. This is the way I prefer my hills!

Splodz Blogz | Footpath Sign

The route would follow the Offa’s Dyke Path path for a short distance later, but here crosses over it and continues up the hill, back to a more reasonable gradient here. The views were lovely – it wasn’t the clearest of days but I could make out Brockweir (and my car). I headed through a large meadow and up through a closed campsite before picking up a farm track with the most lovely name – Miss Grace’s Lane. This lane has been here a very long time; it used to take people from Brockweir to the River Severn.

One of the reasons books like these by Cicerone are great to own is they don’t only give you routes to follow, but they also give you information about what you can see along the way. As this lane entered woodland the book explained I would see a couple of well-concealed lime kilns on the right; if I hadn’t read that I would not have noticed them. Yes, I can create routes myself on OS Maps, but when someone else has taken the time to describe the route, you get all those little extras.

Splodz Blogz | Cicerone Walking in the Forest of Dean
Real life versus guide book!

Trig Bagging

It was as the Cicerone route took a right that I took a short detour to visit the trig pillar in The Park. I wish I’d started “collecting” trig pillars when I was a child but even without a trig bagging list I still like to hunt them out when I can. Cicerone print little snippets of OS Maps for each route which meant I could easily spot there was a trig pillar with easy access close by.

Splodz Blogz | Cicerone Walking in the Forest of Dean

This was the most lovely footpath. It felt like I was in a cross between woodland and moorland, and that I was a long way from anything. There was a sign on the gate saying there were Exmoor Ponies grazing, and there absolutely were – I came across three of them enjoying munching on the undergrowth by the trig pillar. Not a sight I was expecting in Gloucestershire on Sunday morning, but a real delight.

My extra bit only added a mile of there-and-back walking to my route, and the summit is a plateau so there was no additional climbing.

Splodz Blogz | Exmoor Pony

View of Tintern Abbey

Back on the lane, I picked up the described route once again and headed across four fields towards the cliff edge. This was the only section of the hike that was muddy, which isn’t bad for a walk in England in February, but it did make me grateful I’d chosen hiking boots rather than trainers.

The view from the Devil’s Pulpit over the River Wye to Tintern is stunning. The legend is that the this is where the devil stood to preach to the monks in the Abbey below, luring them away from their holy life.

Splodz Blogz | View from Devil's Pulpit
View from the Devil’s Pulpit

You really do only get a glimpse of the view through the thick woodland, which makes it even more beautiful in my opinion – this isn’t a massive hilltop with 360 views, it’s a framed picture of the valley below from a rocky outcrop.

Back to the Car

It’s here the route picked up Offa’s Dyke Path, an easy to follow track through woodland. But not for long; although you can follow this back down the hill, the route described took a left onto a stony track which would descent much faster.

Splodz Blogz | Woodland Path

I imagine the woodland here is covered in bluebells and garlic and other lovely smelling things at the right time of year, but in winter there’s the benefit of extra views down over the Wye Valley which would be closed off by thick tree cover in summer.

I particularly enjoyed the walk back from there to Brockweir, down on woodland tracks including a lovely narrow, steep and slightly bouldery path. I seemed to be the only person walking down this way rather than up, or maybe that was because I was completing my loop when most people were just starting theirs, it’s hard to tell.

Splodz Blogz | Woodland Path

My circle was completed by walking past the whitewashed Moravian chapel in Brockweir, which dates back to the 1820s.

This really was a genuinely lovely walk that I would happily repeat another time; after I’ve done some of the other walks in these books, that is. You’ll find it on page 52 of Walking in the Forest of Dean.

Giving Away Inspiration

These books make my weekend planning so easy. I’ve already earmarked a bunch of other walks in each of the two guides, and am looking forward to having time to explore more of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley over the coming weeks.

Splodz Blogz | Cicerone Walking in the Forest of Dean

And I’ve very happy to say that my friends at Cicerone have kindly given me one of these books to giveaway to one of you.

The winner can choose one of the Cicerone Walking Guides for this area of the country – either The Cotswolds, the Forest of Dean, or the Wye Valley. Perfect for anyone living around here, or who likes to visit here for holidays.

As with my Marvellous Maps giveaway, you need to head over to my Instagram feed to win.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CZ6tlK4rlVR/

If you don’t win, or you’re reading this after the giveaway has ended, you can buy your own copies of these Cicerone “Walking in” books directly from Cicerone. Each is a great addition to any walk-lover’s bookshelf.

What do you think? Comment below...