2013 – NeW yEaR’S rOaDTriP aROuNd tHe fOreST oF dEan

The london life .. very different to anything I’ve experienced before, the city never sleeps and is always at work. It is the largest city in Europe and the most visited city in the whole world and you can really tell.. Living and working in London takes up so much time of your life that it seems nothing else happens any more.. on top of that what ever you do it’s super expensive..

Having 2 weeks off around Christmas gave us the idea to take off, pick up Stella, who sleeps in the Cotswolds, and head into the country for some well deserved rest and some roadtrippin..

Regardless of the time of year, where temperatures sit around freezing level and most people are happy to sleep indoors, we were well up for a little winter adventure. I guess after the roadtrip through the Alps in wintertime made us well experienced and we know what to expect..

After a few days helping friend Chris welding up his slammed kombi, Lowie and Lucy came up to the Cotswold and we took off in Stella. We drove to Andoversford to visit some friends for New Years eve. Previously whilst helping out at Chris’s farm I noticed that local hunters brought back their “dead” trophy’s and this gave me the idea of cooking some birds at NY’s eve.. Lucky for us Ben’s dad takes part in the seasonal bird hunting as well and we drove off to their farm to collect some fresh birds and vegetables .. Proper free range huh πŸ™‚

Daughter Esme is about the same age as Lowie so the friendship between the young guns was growing quickly.. A lovely dinner, good times and a few bottles of Vino send us off to bed..

When Lucy got out of Stella on new years day morning she was surprised by a bunch of firefighters who were standing in front of the bus. Apparently a little fire in the school caused the road to be filled with 3 massive firetrucks..

After blocking Ben & Sarie’s drive way for 2 nights we set course to the forest of Dean, we’d been there before a few years back, only for half a day, and loved to explore the area a bit more.

The first day we arrived at Symonds Yat where we went for a walk.. Not really any clue as to where we were going to stay so ended up driving around for a bit until we came across a pub on little road with a car park opposite the road. We ordered some pub grob and asked the pub owner if we could stay in his carpark for the night. Fortunately he agreed which was perfect as we put Lowie to bed, and could have a few lagers whilst keeping an eye on Stella.

After a great night sleep we decided to cruise little further and have some breakfast, but Stella didn’t move because we kept the heater on for such a long time and drained the battery.. Luckily the road was going downhill and with a little push we were back moving again.

2013 took a great start weather wise.. it was dry! Opposite to previous weeks which blasted torential rain over the UK and left many area’s blank, several rivers and creeks had burst and filled streets and fields. We took Stella up to Symonds Yat rock to have breakfast, clean up and scooter fun.

After lunch in Coleford we decided to visit the Clearwell Caves, different to all caves I’ve seen before yet lots of fun for Lowie as there was a whole story about an ice bear as you continued to go along..

In the evening we found a very nice pub in Shortstanding, the pub owners and staff where very friendly and didn’t have a problem with us staying overnight on there carpark. They even suggested to order a takeaway as this was their only night they were not serving their great pub meals and didn’t mind us eating it inside.. We spent the evening having several pints whilst keeping an eye on Stella in the carpark.

The next morning we were woken up with a great view and a bright shining sunrise. Even tho the pub was closed the owners kindly suggested that if we needed to use the toilets we were more then welcome.. Wow we love people being so generous!! Definitely a place to remember!

Seeing as the sun was out today we decided to go for a bike ride in the forest. Cannop Pedalbikeaway lays in the heart of the forest. Upon arrival there’s professional bikers everywhere, geared up with helmets, protection, gloves, and fully customized downhill bikes. It seems to be a standard for many people here so I guess there must be some really nice tracks around.

We rented 2 bikes for half a day and did the very enjoyable 17km family trail. After the first 15 minutes we were both in agony as we haven’t done any sports recently but another 15 minutes later we were on it! πŸ˜‰ The track is easy and has a few little side tracks for fun. We stopped for lunch at one of the few amazing viewpoints, it was a proper challenge as the road to the viewpoint was quite steep and the last 20meters were at a 45˚ angle. It took us about 2,5hrs to complete the whole track and was well worth doing!

Seeing as we slept a few times in carparks now we were well up for sleeping in the forest, we noticed a sign of wild boars which reminded us of the trip we’d done in 2009 where we were woken up by a family wild boars.. With Stella we felt pretty safe but unfortunately all access paths to the forest have a barrier which closes at 5pm.. bugger! We ended up sleeping in another carpark. πŸ™‚

After a “fidgy” night of sleep we get woken up by a car driving past us and beeping loudly. Not a very nice wake up call and so I got behind the wheel and decided to head to the south of the forest of Dean.. After a nice breakfast we decide to visit Chepstow as we heard from many people it’s a nice little town. Once there we parked up at the very impressive castle and head in town for a little wander around. Chepstow is very nice and I recommend visiting if you’re around. After lunch we drive up to st Briavels to visit another castle.

So far Stella has not let us down at any time and it is remarkable that I never really check anything regarding the engine. She can be used whenever you want and wherever you want!! However, there’s a little bit of backfiring going on at lower rev’s just as you start accelerating and I thought this was due to crap in the carbs but after talking to my buddy Leslie this should be adressed as a spring issue in the distributor.. hmmm improving you engine means update technology means more stuff to worry about.. But it isn’t really as she drives perfect but you know we all like to be a little anal some times πŸ˜‰

On our way we pass Tintern, an amazing building appears on the side of the road.. the Tintern Abbey in all it’s glory! It is simply stunning. Wow.. You don’t get to see an amazing historical building out in the country that often!!

After some hill climbing on very narrow roads we get to St Briavels.. Only to find out that the Castle looks more like a medieval detached house .. LOL Β The village looks rather lovely tho. We cruise around in the area and go from one endless narrow road into another until we have no idea where we are. πŸ˜€ We drive into a sand path that takes us into the middle of another forest and decide to go for a little walk. We stumble into a few wild horses which is a pleasant experience for Lowie. A little while later we drive out of the forest and nearly get stuck in the mud, with a little luck I manage to get out of it and we drive back to Chepstow. We saw quite a few nice places to stay for the night but parking at the castle looked the most obvious as there are a few pubs so we could have a few beers whilst Lowie is in bed and still keep an eye on the bus.

After a great night we wake up fairly late and have a nice breakfast with a great view on the castle, we visit the local pool for a nice swim and Lowie manages his first go in the water without a support. πŸ™‚
After breakfast we decide to give a Stella a clean and head back home we’ve seen most if the area..

New Years eve on the drive at Ben and Sarie’s place.

Wild pheasant “a la spruyt” πŸ˜‰

Going up a bird’s bum..

Waking up in Symonds Yat at the Wye Knot inn.

Burst river banks.

And flooded roads were common in this area.

Releasing some energy after breakfast.

Wish I had a scooter like this when I was a kid, they’re brilliant!!

He’s getting good with his little truck.

You can hide but you..

Parked at the Clearwell Caves.

Don’t we all have to .. from time to time.. πŸ˜‰

OOoh what a relief!!

Clean bum!! πŸ™‚

The Caves were nicely decorated.

Slightly different to the “normal” caves and not really and stalagmites/stalactites visible.

Stayed the night at the New Inn in Shortstanding.

A great view!

Lovely sunrise in the morning!

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