7 ways to experience the Forest of Dean's natural beauty this autumn

From crisp woodland walks and bike rides to really immersing yourself in nature, there are so many ways to get outdoors and experience autumn in the Forest of Dean - with SoGlos sharing 7 ways to soak up the season.

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
Exploring the Forest of Dean on two wheels is just one of the ways to experience its breath-taking natural beauty this autumn.
Exploring the Forest of Dean on two wheels is just one of the ways to experience its breath-taking natural beauty this autumn.

One of Britain's most striking landscapes — and the best place to go 'leaf peeping' — the Forest of Dean is packed with scenic hotspots to explore in the autumn, with its collage of evergreen and deciduous trees looking extra spectacular at this time of year.

Woodland walking is just one way to experience the area's natural beauty, though — with SoGlos rounding up 7 ways for people to enjoy the last few weeks of autumn in the Forest of Dean, from engaging mindful activities like forest bathing and nature photography, to renting a bike to whizz through the trees.

Cycling in the Forest of Dean

Whether you fancy a leisurely pedal or jumps and drops over bumpy terrain, the Forest of Dean has fantastic cycle routes for riders of all ages and abilities, taking in some of its prettiest beauty spots.

As well as being a great starting point for the accessible Family Cycle Trail, the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre offers more adventurous cross-country trails and even a number of advanced downhill tracks for the adrenaline junkies out there — with bikes available to hire from the on-site Pedalabikeaway or Wye-Bikes, Dean Forest Cycles and Symonds Yat Bike Hire, which are all just a short ride away.

Steam train rides in the Forest of Dean

Soak up the Forest's stunning scenery in comfort by hopping on a steam train and riding the Dean Forest Railway, taking in nine miles of beautiful woodland and countryside.

Boarding and terminating at its central Norchard station, where there's also a locomotive museum, passengers will pass through stations at Lydney, Whitecroft and Parkend, with regular opportunities to enjoy everything from fish and chips to murder mysteries on board, too.

For young families, Perrygrove Railway offers heritage steam train rides around its circular route, stopping off at four unique stations where children can let loose on the adventure playgrounds and enjoy woodland walks.

Photography in the Forest of Dean

Shutterbugs can up their Instagram game with lessons in photography from Forest of Dean and Wye Valley School of Photography, offering group courses, photowalking experiences and bespoke one-to-one sessions to get people out and up close with nature.

When you've honed your technique, head to local viewpoints like Symonds Yat Rock and New Fancy to capture the kaleidoscope of autumn colour, or zoom in on the diverse flora and fauna that calls the Forest of Dean home.

Water sports in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley

Take to the River Wye to experience the natural beauty of the region from the water, with opportunities to jump in a kayak, canoe or test your balance on a stand-up paddleboard.

While the river offers gentle waters for beginners to bob along, water sports enthusiasts can also navigate the fast-running rapids at Symonds Yat — with local companies like Wye Adventures offering equipment hire and even running trips. Those keen to have a go can also try canoeing at Mallards Pike, with permission from Forestry England.

Forest bathing in the Forest of Dean

A wonderful sensory experience that's proven to lower blood pressure and soothe anxiety, forest bathing is a therapeutic activity based on the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, which encourages people to tune into their surroundings and immerse their senses in nature. 

Much like unwinding in the bath, participants are invited to soak in the forest's atmosphere by slowly walking, sitting or even falling asleep in the woods — with local sessions from Forest Bathe taking place at hand-picked sites in the Forest of Dean.

Wildlife safaris in the Forest of Dean

Nature lovers have a chance of spotting the Forest of Dean's elusive boar or hearing its special bird population sing on a wildlife safari with local naturalist, Ed Drewitt.

Guiding people through the Forest's patchwork environment, Drewitt can offer an expert insight into its diverse landscape and population of flora and fauna — with autumn being one of his favourite times to explore and admire the vibrant colours, as the area's chief leaf peeper.

Foraging in the Forest of Dean

Foraging is popular all year round in the Forest of Dean, but autumn is a particularly special time to hunt for ingredients among the trees, with crops of edible mushrooms springing up on the forest floor.

Harts Barn Cookery School hosts seasonal 'forage and feast' workshops, giving foragers the chance to cook up a storm with the ingredients they've collected; while Tudor Farmhouse runs regular foraging trips for guests and visitors, led by a number of fungi experts and wild food enthusiasts, and private experiences are available to book, too.

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