FoD Plod

After my planned Saturday excursion to the Forest of Dean got sacked off, eventually, after a later than planned get away yesterday I got on the road and banged out a tough 65km around the Dean.

Friday night was sold to us as a ‘quiet’, pre-dinner drink with the neighbours when in-fact we were ambushed into a gin n tonic drinking frenzy and shared dinner listening to some vinyl. A few hours later we emerged and went to bed which mortally wounded the chances of me getting up early doors to drive. On top of that I was on the clock anyway as Dan was leaving to go to Spain for a week on a school trip so I wanted to see him too. The result was a postponement of the Dean ride until the following day (supposed to better weather anyway!) and riding over to see Dan before he embarked on his 18hr coach trip.

Back to yesterday. I got up at 7am and pottered around getting ready quietly when I saw a text from my boss who had booked a flight to Miami with Sally for his lad but there was an issue. Could she help? I woke her up and she jumped on it and made some calls so I stayed to see the outcome which made me late. I got away about 9am in the end and rolled into the Pedalabikeaway Cycle Centre around 10.20am. The car park was rammed so I had to use the overspill and luckily found a spot notwithstanding the idiots in their wankpanzers unable to park properly. It seems they need a car width of space between them and the next car. As I got ready it, firstly, immediately struck me how busy the place was. I hadn’t been there for probably 25 years or so. Secondly, every bike was a full suspension MTB or eMTB. Not a gravel bike or lycra-clad lout like me in site. I heard one guy actually explaining what my bike was to his kids FFS

The parking was a little expensive. £7.36 on the app but I don’t begrudge paying it as my parking charge research beforehand confirmed the money is invested locally by Foresty England. And if I was local or a regular a £40 a year membership of Forestry England gets you free parking anyway, so it can be cheap if you want it to be.

I didn’t hang around and immediately went the wrong way. The old route to the family trail across the road used to be by crossing said road but now there is a bridge which I missed. Instead I trudged up the disused, old path amongst big long brambles to a sign post and I was on the family trail, a disused railway line. My Garmin was having a wobble, probably because of the tree cover and wouldn’t actually start recording until about a mile in. I started on a wide, quite bumpy forest trail before flicking left and climbing a long, soggy path which was quite gloopy and slippy. I wasn’t impressed if this was how it was going to be. Over the top I picked up the family trail again which was a really fast, straight path into a nice area with a lake and Go Ape. Nobody about either so I could open the taps a bit.

the superfast gravel highway

I briefly got lost in the car park before finding the exit road and then started a long climb that seemed to meander around the contours of the land. I passed a rider on an eMTB which reminded me how hard I was trying. This was when the rain started and came down quite hard for a little too long. For the second day I had left my rain cape as I’d left in warm sunshine with no forecast for anything too bad. I was wrong. I got wet and quite cold and questioned continuing at one point as my cold, wet hands were sliming around on my hoods and levers making braking fun on some steep descents.

A log pile pic is the law!

A big chunk of the first part of the route was exclusively offroad. It was about 10 miles before I had some tarmac to ride on rather than cross. I descended into Ruspidge then began an arse of a steep road climb which saw first gear for the first time. About half way up, the route took me down a little path between the houses and cross a road and back offroad again up a narrow, bumpy track passing some walkers. Over the top and the descent was quiet on open trails and dropped down to a really quiet lane in a deep valley which I crossed and then began a climb back up the other side in the woods. Again very few people out beyond the car park.

I eventually reached the village of Littledean and then began another long road climb up onto a ridge which offered some awesome views over the River Severn as it meandered down towards the estuary.


Given how much rain there had been over the past couple of days the trails were pretty dry overall with some puddles and gloopy sections to contend with which made me slip and slide a bit.

After about halfway the amount of tarmac picked up which was nice to be honest. The major difference between fire roads in the Forest of Dean vs Scotland was that these trails were quite hard, rocky and bumpy. I probably could have let a bit of air out my tyres but I couldn’t be arsed to stop and do it to be honest telling myself the harder tyres are better on the road.

Eventually I reached the A40 and did a mile or so on that just east of Ross-on-Wye before turning left and climbing into the woods that sit above the town. Nice views from here back towards The Malverns.

Ross-on-Wye is to the left

Weirdly you enter a gated section of the route which warns you it’s a military firing range. No sign of anything military though and it’s only a few hundred metres long too. I concluded it must be historical rather than live.

red means danger

I did some digging on the history of the firing range and found some information in a rare archaeology report of a former Victorian rifle range on Bromyard Downs. It appears to be one of a few Victorian ranges dotted around the Herefordshire county. There were similar in Ledbury, Leominster, Kington and Goodrich. Ross-on-Wye is the only one that still exists today and common sense would dictate it is where it is so any stray bullets are taken by the steep hillside at the end of it where the track is. So I guess on live shooting days the portion of trail in the firing line gets closed

Ross-on-Wye’s rifle range in blue. Trail in red.

As I meandered around the contours of the hill again I saw a couple of mountain bikers pop out onto the trail from what seemed like ‘secret’ trails. Further down you could see the berms that had been created amongst the trees. Too steep, narrow and dangerous for me. Sorry.

Leaving the trail was a bit weird. The track filtered out onto a sandy edge of a field and tracked that around a 90 degree bend at the corner. It dived behind a hedge onto a broken, gravel section of track and then popped out onto someone’s smooth as carpet driveway for a couple of hundred metres (big posh house = long driveway!)

I was back in the lanes again and took a sharp left and began the longest road climb of the day which made my legs smart. It was pretty steep and relentless before an earned rest dropping down into the village of Drybrook and the last big climb of the day back up over Ruardean Hill which was another super steep beast which topped out onto a plateau with a ring of stones, a beacon and a flag pole. A couple were sat having a drink admiring the view.

Back on the road briefly the route took me down an overgrown path. I stopped because my Garmin had another wobble and a walker thanked me and said sorry for stopping my fun. I think she though I’d stopped to give way lol. As my Garmin complained about being off route, I dropped down quite a soggy path before I was back on the route again.

The last section was fast gravel roads again devoid of anyone until I got onto the Family Cycle trail again which was 2km blast downhill to the finish over the bridge into the cycle centre.

I fancied a coffee but I was parked so far away I couldn’t be bothered. I got back to the car, got changed and came home.

In all, a great ride around the Forest of Dean. 65km, 3.5 hours and plenty of climbing. If you come bring your climbing legs and I reckon 650b wheels and a fatter tyre might be a better option next time. An excuse to buy more wheels!


4 thoughts on “FoD Plod

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