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Explore the Forest for free!

The Royal Forest of Dean is home to a surprising array of free activities; more than enough to fill a short break and many within just a few miles of Parkend.

Below are some ideas for your stay. Access to all these sites is completely free, but a few do charge for car parking. In most cases it is possible to park nearby for free, or better still, why not walk or cycle to them!

Go cycling.

Cannop Cycle Centre (SO607126)

PedalabikeawayCannop Cycle Centre offers a range of cycling opportunities to suit all abilities. Behind the centre are downhill tracks and way-marked singletrack trails for experienced mountain bikers, while across the road is a well marked ‘family cycle trail’ which follows wide, and mainly level, forest tracks.

Use of the trails is completely free. There is a charge for car parking, but at just 3 miles from Parkend, it can be easily reached by bike, via a spur off the Family Cycle Trail.

And, of course, cycling is also the perfect way to explore the area. There are miles of gravelled fire-roads criss-crossing the Forest; so you can get almost anywhere by bike.

Go feed the ducks!

Cannop Ponds (SO610108)

Cannop PondsCannop Ponds is often described by visitors as one of the prettiest places in the Forest.

The two ponds are a haven for waterfowl, including a pair of nesting mute-swans - so remember to bring something to feed them with.

Parking here is free.

Explore the Forest’s industrial heritage.

Visitors to the Forest of Dean, two hundred years ago, would have been met by a very different scene to that of today. The area is home to both huge iron-ore and coal reserves, and although peaceful now, many of the villages here grew up around large mines or ironworks.

Parkend IronworksParkend Ironworks (SO617079)

Demolished in 1908, but its tall and majestic engine house has survived and remains one of the village’s most impressive structures.

Darkhill Ironworks (SO587085)

Just two miles to the west of Parkend you’ll also find the remains of Darkhill Ironworks. Built by David Mushet and now designated an ‘Industrial Archaeological Site of International Importance’. It was here that steel for the first steel railway lines was made, and where the first commercial steel alloys were produced. Parking here is free.

Go bird spotting.

Parkend has several areas of significant interest to bird-spotters, offering some of the best opportunities for localised bird watching in the Forest of Dean.

RSPB Nagshead (SO607085) RSPB Nagshead Reserve

A quiet and tranquil reserve, located on the western edge of the village. Facilities include a visitor centre (open from 10am to 5pm at weekends during the summer), two viewing hides and two way-marked walks. This is a lovely spot to visit even if you’re not a bird-spotter. Car parking and use of the hides is completely free.

As it passes through the village, Cannop Brook also offers several opportunities to spot the elusive ‘Dipper’. One of the best locations is the shaded section, running behind the Fountain Lodge, next to the Fountain Inn.

Have a picnic or barbeque.

Picturesque and purpose-built picnic sites are dotted all over the Forest. Sites within five miles of Parkend include;

Wenchford picnic site (SO654081)

Popular picnic and barbeque area. Attractive riverside location with onsite toilet facilities.

Mallards Pike Lake (SO 637093)

Scenic lake setting, with onsite toilet facilities. There is a charge for car parking here.

Cannop Ponds (SO610108)

Beautiful lake setting. No toilets.

New Fancy (SO628095)

Viewpoint with some impressive public art on display.

Beechenhurst Lodge  (SO614120)

Busy in summer, but adjoins an excellent children’s play area (free). There is a charge for car parking here.

Speculation (SO614135)

A secluded open grassland site.

Visit a viewpoint.

There are several viewpoints in the Forest that are definitely worth visiting.

New Fancy Viewpoint (SO628095)

Just outside of Parkend, New Fancy Viewpoint provides a dramatic indication of scale, with a 360° view of the Forest.

Symonds Yat Rock (SO564160)

On the northwestern edge of the Forest, Symonds Yat Rock gives stunning views of the River Wye and the Forest of Dean.

Blaize Bailey (SO 665102)

On the eastern side of the Forest, Blaize Bailey provides breath-taking views of the River Severn. 

Go for a Walk.

Sculpture TrailIf walking is your thing, the Forest of Dean is the place for you! Most of the above places can be reached by foot from Parkend, but we’ve also got many more way-marked walks to suit all abilities.

Popular walks, within five miles of the Fountain Inn, include;

The Sculpture Trail (SO614120)

Starts at Beechenhurst; a five mile walk linking over 20 world-class sculptures.

The Cannop Ponds Trail (SO608107)

Starts at Cannop Ponds; a 3 mile walk through some of the most picturesque woodland in the Forest of Dean.

The Cyril Hart Arboretum Path (SO623123)

Near Speech House; a short (0.6 mile) walk which winds its way through an arboretum of specially planted ‘feature trees’.

Special events.

Consider timing your visit to coincide with one of the great free festivals or events that we have here in the Forest. Parkend carnival is one of the biggest and best in the Forest of Dean, and falls on the last bank holiday Monday in August.

The Coleford Carnival of Transport attracts thousands of visitors from all over the country and is held on Easter Monday. Other free events in the Forest include the Wyedean Rally in February, the Dean Outdoors Festival in April, and Sled Dog racing at various times of the year.

Please check the Tourist Information website to confirm dates for all festivals.

Or, book your stay with us over New Year’s Eve and take advantage of our very own free celebrations. We also host an acoustic music festival in the summer – check with us for dates.

Even more free stuff.

Book your stay during the first three weeks in May and you can enjoy the spectacular display of Bluebells that appears in the Forest.

Or come and experience the Severn Bore  – described as ‘one of Britain's few truly spectacular natural phenomena’. There are normally 6 or 7 big bores each year; please check the Severn Bore website for dates.

If you have your own canoe, you can even ride the bore! You can also take advantage of free access onto the River Wye, at Lower Lydbrook.

Other scenic areas in the Forest, which you may like to visit, include Soudley Ponds are a pair of large ponds, which can be incorporated into a walk up to Blaize Bailey viewpoint. Woorgreens Lake is an isolated nature reserve, famed as a dragonfly site – of which seventeen species are recorded.

Several other sites of historical interest, with free public access, also exist in the Forest. Parkend steam railway station, just across the road from the Fountain Inn, is a beautifully preserved station built by the ‘Severn and Wye Railway Company’ in 1875. Whitecliff Ironworks, in Coleford, are the remains of an 18th century blast furnace. And Devil’s chapel, near Bream, is a breathtaking and almost unique example of Roman opencast iron-ore workings. Please note that, whilst open to the public, the site is notorious for its steep drops and loose rocks, making it unsuitable to visit with children.
The Fountain Inn & Lodge, Fountain Way, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Gloucestershire GL15 4JD. Tel: 01594 562 189 Email: welcome@fountaininnandlodge.co.uk Site by Andy Powell