Wildlife and Nature
From the 20 million trees in the Forest of Dean to the 58 mile long Wye Valley AONB, our natural beauty, dramatic landscapes and plethora of flora and fauna are what make our area so unique. You can walk for miles along glorious paths and see a wide range of local plants, trees and animals. You can spot unusual birds in a number of reserves, hear the most divine dawn chorus, see deer and boar if you're lucky, and in fact you may even see some of our resident wildlife from your holiday accommodation. Nature is at the heart of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley and in these pages we hope you will learn a little more about what makes this area so special.
History of the Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean was recorded as The Forest in the 'Domesday Book' (1086) and as Dene or Dean after the Old English Denu for valley. In medieval times it was a royal hunting forest, before becoming a source of timber for the navy's Tudor warships. By Victorian times it was a major site of industry, with coal mining and tramways punctuating the landscape. In 1924 it was transferred to the Forestry Commission and in 1938 it was designated as the first National Forest Park in England. Today, it is still a working forest and Forestry England manages it sympathetically and sensitively while liaising on conservation matters with the main conservation bodies.
The forest is bound by the rivers Wye to the north and west, and the Severn to the south. Around the forest are many interesting villages, rolling hills, farms and vineyards. These ancient woodlands and its variety of wildlife hold many surprises just waiting to be discovered.
History of the Wye Valley
The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an internationally important protected landscape and straddles the border between England and Wales, from Hereford in the north to Chepstow in the South where the Wye meets the Severn. It is one of the most dramatic and scenic landscapes in Britain. The River Wye is the fifth-longest river in the UK at 134 miles but the area designated as an AONB covers 126 sq milies. The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was first designated in 1971. Having the same level of protection as a National Park, the purpose of the AONB is to conserve and enhance the outstanding landscape of the Wye Valley, so that we, and future generations, can enjoy it. The Wye Valley offers a varied and contrasting geographical landscape, from the flatter Herefordshire valley with a winding river, to dramatic limestone cliffs with nesting peregrine falcons.
Some of the seasonal delights of the area include:
The Joys of Spring
Springtime is a favourite season to visit the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley, with the brilliant green of the new beech, and the spectacular colours of the bluebells and daffodils. The orchards turn pink and white with apple, pear and plum blossom, and you can smell a hint of blackthorn and elder from the hedges. Along the Severnside and among the Forest villages there are many old orchards with rare and local fruit trees including the Blakeney pear, Blaisdon red plum and Severn bank apple.
Delightful spring flowers in the Forest include wood anemone, celandine, dogs mercury, primrose and violet which bloom before the overhead foliage thickens. Plus of course the carpets of bluebells and wild garlic which fill the woods with the scents of spring. We have one of the best displays of bluebells in the UK and April and May are wonderful times to visit and see this glorious sight.
The dawn chorus is a springtime joy too, with a huge range of birds singing in a cacophony. Swallows fill the skies, nests are built high in the trees and baby boar (humbugs) as well as deer (fawns) can be seen deep in the woods.
Summer is when the trees are full of leaves and the area comes to life with colour and vitality. On hot days the forest canopy provides respite from the heat as it is always a few degrees cooler in the woods due to the number of trees. The days are long and you spend your days outside exploring and adventuring, canoe down the Wye, cycle through the forest or light a bbq and watch the sun go down over the hills.
Dark skies in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley are absolutely stunning too. With so much wide open space, deep forest and expansive countryside it's not hard to find a view of the night sky where it is so dark you can see the Milky Way crisp and clear.
Autumn is a spectacular time of year in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley when the trees display an array of reds, golds and yellows. Despite the importance of the conifers, almost half the trees in the Forest of Dean are deciduous including oak, beech, sweet chestnut and others. Larch - the only coniferous tree to lose its needles, also turns a magnificent russet-gold in October. This magnificent autumn foliage is the highlight of the season and can often be at its best at the end of October to the beginning of November.
Find out more in our guide to Leaf Peeping including our top ten spots for the best autumn colour and a driving route to see them all.
Winter is the most wonderful time of the year for a woodland walk. The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle and reset with some time in nature. As winter settles over the land, the sight of frosty leaves and crisp sunshine creeping through the canopies might be just what Santa ordered. The woods are peaceful and serene, no crowds, loads of space and an ideal location if you really like some time away from everyday life. The changing forest is still full of life, with mistletoe and holly with its bright red berries in the trees, the birds and wildlife so much more visible and the low sun glowing through the woods. Don't let anyone tell you winter is a boring season, there is so much beauty out there.