The sound of silence
Deep in the ancient woodlands of the Forest of Dean as the mist lifted, I listened to the sound of silence. I could hear each leaf falling to the forest floor, the pattering footsteps of a tiny vole scurrying through tangled ivy on a nearby tree stump and the distinctive keening cry of a buzzard circling overhead. A friendly robin landed beside me. This is life at its best: close to nature and away from the noise and bustle of modern life.
I was sipping hot tea on the decking of the luxurious Golden Oak cabin where I was enjoying a September midweek break with my partner John in Forest Holidays’ Forest of Dean site. This collection of 121 self-catering cabins with hot tubs ranges from romantic Golden Oak Hideaways for 2 people up to Treehouse Cabins for 10. There are also pet-friendly cabins and wheelchair-accessible cabins with hoists to access the hot tub.
Check-in had been quick and efficient as I’d already filled in our details on-line, and we’d easily found our cabin with its designated parking space. Walking through the door, we’d been struck by the cabin’s light, airy feel provided by the floor to ceiling windows. It was also spotlessly clean and wonderfully warm. We’d arrived in misty drizzle and as night fell and temperatures outside dropped, the heating kept us warm and cosy. We reluctantly resisted our pyromaniac urges to light our log burning stove.
Our fully fitted kitchen contained everything necessary to prepare and serve meals – utensils, oven and hob, a microwave, dishwasher, fridge with small freezer compartment, and a Bosch Tassimo coffee machine. As well as bedding, towels, robes and slippers, one teacloth is supplied along with some plastic refuse sacks and a free kitchen pack with washing up liquid, sponges and dishwasher tablets.
Around us as night fell, gas barbecues on cabin decking provided a magnet for alpha males itching to burn chunks of meat to cinders, whilst sensible women folk slipped into steaming hot tubs balancing glasses of sparkling prosecco.
Although Forest Holidays has won awards for being the best self-catering travel company there is no need to actually be self-catering. The site’s Forest Retreat/Reception area contains a café, shop and bar open until around 8 pm. Here you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. You can also pre-order freshly baked bread and croissants to collect each morning and, if you want to stay in at night, order one of Forest Holidays’ night in deals to be delivered to your cabin from their Feast and Fodder menu. Options include a Curry Night Pack, Pizza Night or Burger Night with prices from £20. I rather fancied some lush nights in the hot tub under the stars with prosecco and pizza but John wanted to explore the local eateries and ales, and had already booked tables at the New Inn, the White Horse Inn, the Cinnamon Indian Restaurant and the Ng Thai. You can no doubt guess who’s the designated driver on our nights out!
Forest Holidays’ booklet and website describes many activities available in and around the site including cycle hire, forest survival skills, archery, kayaking, llama trekking, the local Go Ape treetops adventure, and in-cabin spa treatments. I was tempted by each and every one but I really wanted to explore the surrounding area with a lengthy circular walk to include Symonds Yat and the River Wye; a steam train adventure; a walk along the River Severn and a hop across the border into Wales. Travelling out of season and midweek meant we had many of the attractions virtually to ourselves, although we did have our steam carriage invaded by a crowd of very well-behaved school children dressed up as wartime evacuees!
With so much of my recent travel involving flights, I had forgotten the simple joys of a self-drive, self-catering staycation. What joy to travel at leisure with no anxiety over missing flights every time the traffic grinds to a halt. Instead of squeezing essentials into cases there’s the whole car to pack with everything I might need, including 7 pairs of shoes/boots/trainers/sandals (I wore them all!); full bottles of my favourite hair conditioner, shampoo and body lotion (no laborious decanting into 100 ml bottles) my portable radio, my entire set of camera equipment, and numerous types of clothing for every possible scenario! I can’t wait to visit their other sites in England, Wales and Scotland for more luxurious staycations.
Tip: I recommend bringing a basic cleaning kit of rubber gloves, kitchen/bathroom cleaning spray, kitchen roll, spare loo rolls plus basic food supplies of breakfast cereals, milk, bottled water, instant coffee, teabags, butter, cooking oil, salt and pepper.
Carole and John were guests of Forest Holidays, Forest of Dean site, staying in a 2-bedroom Golden Oak cabin.
Forest Holidays offer mid-week, weekend breaks and longer stays at their 11 forest cabin locations across Great Britain.
The Dean Forest Railway steam engine arrives to collect the carriages.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Forest Holidays.