Forest of Dean family cycle trail
Today's guest blogger is dad of 3 Charlie, who lives in Gloucestershire. He tells us how he got on when he decided to go for a cycle ride in the Forest of Dean with his eldest two children.
Having lived on the edge of the Forest of Dean since 2004, and with 3 children aged 5, 9 and 11, I thought it was time we finally took on the 17 km Forest of Dean family cycle trail. On this occasion the youngest could not join us, so it was just three bikes which I had to transport on my as yet unused rear mounted bike rack. Many thoughts strike me about this part of the experience, but I shall skim over them - suffice it to say, I kept one eye in the mirror for the entire car journey!
The website for the bike hire centre was of great use. A printed map of the route satisfied the map nerd in me, as did their recommendation to cycle the route clockwise.
The cycle centre car park costs £3.50 per day (£3 in the winter), and luckily we had only got 500 metres along the trail when my daughter, Ella remarked, "wasn't it a pay and display car park?", (that was an extra 1km dash before we'd even started!)
Forest of Dean family cycle trail
At the head of the trail is a 'Skills Loop', to get us used to the feeling of off-road cycling, a great idea, on which Ella and Patrick spent about half of their energy.
The route then followed old industrial railway lines along straight stretches, on an embankment flanked on either side by a sea of bluebells, euphorbias and young pale green ferns.
The gradual uphill climb for the first 4 miles or so made Ella rapidly regret her earlier enthusiasm on the skills loop.
I repeatedly assured her that 'what goes up must come down', and fortunately I was right, as from that point the Forest of Dean family cycle trail turned into a joyfull gradual downhill amble. Points throughout the route named the disappeared train stations of the Forest and also gave an altitude, from which I deduced we climbed about 100 metres in the first third.
Gaining confidence at about 12km we decided to make a 3km detour to Mallards Pike - an attractive lake in the forest valley - for our picnic lunch. Sadly the mobile snack shack had been towed away, so no coffee for me.
Back on the main Forest of Dean family cycle trail we were soon treated to a spectacular descent, quickly using up all those metres gained in the first section, screaming with joy and free wheeling for what felt like a couple of kilometres.
A short distance later and we were back at the cycle centre, pleased to find refreshment and a friendly face at the cafe. We had all had a fantastic time, to the point where Ella and Pat started eyeing up the more demanding routes on the opposite hillside!
Forest of Dean family cycle trail - our verdict
The Forest of Dean family cycle trail was well maintained with wide firm stone paths, regular clear way markers, and historic signs, and the cycle centre was clean and modern, with cafe, toilets, showers, information boards, repair shop and bicycle hire for all ages.
It's taken years, but I've finally discovered that I'm not actually weird, I've just been living in the wrong place!
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