Royal forest of Dean (Night ride)

We decided to do a night ride in the Forest of Dean; one, because we haven’t done a ride in the pitch black before and two, we hoped it would allow us to see more wildlife. We have done this ride before, but in daylight. During that ride we did see a wild boar run in front of us (the adult boars are absolutely massive), and a deer that went so fast past us, we barely saw it. To add to the novelty; it was near Christmas and we were travelling some of the journey on the Royal Dean Forest railway.

Lydney junction signal box We travelled from Newport to Lydney station on the train, one hundred yards from here is the Northern end of the Dean Forest railway; Lydney Junction. Here, their rails join the mainline, but it’s also their main storage refurbishment area. There are stacks of diesel locos ready to be refurbished and a signal box already restored. Today the trains weren’t running this far so we had to ride to Norchard.

Norchard is their main station and the home of a museum, shop, and a new cafe. It’s also their locomotive restoration area, they are happy to show people around their workshops, though only with prior arrangement. The museum specialises in Forest of Dean and Severn & Wye joint railway artefacts. The tickets were a bit pricey for the Santa special (since we were only going one way on Saturday and the return journey on Sunday, effectively one trip), we had to pay for two return tickets each day. As part of this deal adults would get a miniature bottle of whiskey or rum. They do take bikes on board, but today the guard's van was to be Santa’s grotto, so after some tough negotiation prior to buying tickets the cycles were allowed on board.

Lydney junction signal box Willbert the saddle tank engine steamed into the station and my chum and I were just as excited as the kids. The old carriages, if I have to be honest; were a bit grubby and the windows were steamed up, but this didn’t stop us having a good crack and what Santa special would be complete without sitting on Father Christmas’s lap. It’s a short journey, but interesting, finishing at Parkend station, but we hadn’t had our miniatures. Luckily the place where our bikes were stored was where the alcohol was. We asked a lady dressed as Santa’s little helper if we can have our miniatures, she replied, “have as many as you like, love, I’m sick of handing them out.” Which, needless to say, brought a smile to our face's, we had a few, but didn’t take the Mick (and I hope we haven’t got anybody into trouble).

We left the train and stood and watched a brass band play carols. The sun was still out, but as with a lot of our rides; it was bloody freezing. The whole idea of this ride, was to do it at night, so we had to kill a few hours in the Woodman’s Inn. A nice warm pub with real ale and a real log fire. The hours passed and we scared ourselves silly with the thought of a wild boar hitting us, springing out from the bushes. It started to become dark, so off we went. The Garmin has a night time feature allowing us to follow the route belonging to the former Severn and Wye Railway which ran from Lydney to Cinderford. The sun was just going down when we reached Cannop brook pond. It was around four thirty and was getting colder. I believed we were going to be alone in the forest at night, a natural assumption, but two other cyclists, one runner, and an army troop passed us. We didn't see any wildlife, none, except for some sheep which scared the crap out of my cycling buddy.

Speech house hotel We did a long loop and reached the Speech house hotel, just before the sleet came down. Built in 1676 as a hunting lodge for King Charles II, and later changed to the Speech House Hotel. The hotel host’s the ‘Court of the Speech’, a sort of parliament for the Verderers and Free Miners managing the forest, game, and mineral resources of the area. It still holds court every quarter. The food was fantastic and after several beers (and several miniature brandy’s, rums, and whiskeys), we’d had it.

In the morning we rode back to Parkend station to complete the return journey to Norchard, on the return leg we were towed by a diesel locomotive. We left Norchard and rode on to Lydney. I messed up the times of our return mainline train to Newport, so after a short discussion, we decided to ride all the way back home some 30 miles, and I wished I hadn’t over indulged in the buffet breakfast.

A very enjoyable weekend. The night photos were taken with a flash and in fairness, are substandard, but it wasn’t until I transferred them to my computer that they revealed a mist, there was visible mist at the time.

  • Gallery

    Gallery page Why not have a look at the gallery relating to this ride. Click the image or the title.

  • The original seven bridge

    The original seven bridge Before the second seven bridge was built (1992), before the old seven bridge was built (1966), and predating the seven railway tunnel (1886), Lydney had the first significant railway bridge that spanned the River Seven, but in 1960, in thick fog and a strong tide, two barges overshot Sharpness Dock entrance and collided with one of the columns of the bridge. Two spans of the steel and cast iron bridge collapsed into the river, but by this time the seven tunnel was the favoured rail crossing, the bridge was never repaired.

  • Thomas the tank engine

    Wilbert the forest engine Wilbert, was formerly "G. B. Keeling", and is a saddletank locomotive named after the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, who was at one time president of the Dean Forest Railway and the creator of the famous children’s character; Thomas the tank engine. Wilbert featured in the series as the forest engine.

  • Forest of Dean wild boar

    wild boar "Feral wild boar can be large and unpredictable animals..... when disturbed by people and domestic dogs the wild boar do not necessarily retreat and hide, they stand their ground accompanied by snorting..... The defending sow may well be provoked into a mock charge at the intruding people, particularly if that group continue to approach for a better look..... There have also been reports of people being chased by the boar, which may or may not have been mock charges....." ( Oh dear!

  • Pipe smoking ghost

    pipe smoking The speech House hotel is reputed to be haunted; a ghost has been seen on occasions in room 15 around midnight. Strangely enough only guests have seen him, he wakes them up with the smell of tobacco, the ghost smokes his pipe and then disappears.

  • Bibliography,. 'Feral Wild Boar In The Forest Of Dean (England)'. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2014.

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