It’s all about woodland walks, steam trains and real-ale pubs in this picturesque part of the Wye Valley
The idyllic Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, used as a royal hunting ground even before William the Conqueror and his forces arrived in 1066, is a rare survivor of an ancient forest and a glorious place to spot bluebells each spring.
Driving through picture-perfect winding roads and rolling hillside, we arrived at the beautifully quaint village of Clearwell and Tudor Farmhouse, which would be our home for the weekend.
The 14-acre site fuses old and new magnificently, with recently built abodes sitting alongside original features, many of which date back to the 16th century. It boasts 20 luxurious bedrooms, which sit amid a large meadow, small farm and outside seating – all of which are available for guests to use and explore.
On arrival, we were greeted by attentive and friendly staff and showed to our room, The Nest, which boasts not only a beautiful wooden-beamed roof with skylight in the bedroom, but a separate living room and bathroom with huge walk-in shower and free-standing bath. Little touches add to the sense of luxury, including homemade biscuits and gorgeous toiletries that are exclusive to the farmhouse.
As tempting as it was to relax in the room, we set out to explore the area. With the help of staff and the numerous brochures at reception detailing local attractions, such as Clearwell Caves and Tintern Abbey (across the Welsh border), we settled on a trip to nearby Puzzlewood.
Puzzlewood is said to have inspired JRR Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings. The woods are enchanting and unspoiled – pick your way through the maze of evergreen trees, crossing rickety bridges and passing mossy rocks en route.
A short walk back, via a quick drink in lovely neighbouring pub The Butcher’s Arms, allowed us some time to enjoy the room before dinner in the Farmhouse’s two AA Rosette restaurant. Head chef Rob Cox prides himself on using produce sourced in a 20-mile radius as well as ingredients grown on the farmhouse’s grounds, and it shows.
The food is divine with dishes such as Severn and Wye smokery smoked eel, cucumber, Cornish new potatoes and burnt leek, mayonnaise and bronze fennel to start. For main, we couldn’t resist the Cotswold lamb, and the pan fried stone bass. Dessert came in the delicious form of lemon posset with strawberries, Tintern Parva Bacchus and basil.
After a nightcap in the cosy lounge, we retired to our room and had a wonderfully peaceful sleep. The next morning, we enjoyed a hearty full English breakfast and set off to see more of our surroundings.
We chose a five-mile walk taking us through the village of Clearwell, passing the very grand Clearwell Castle and up in the fields towards Newland and Redbrook. Crisp fresh air, bright sunshine and peace and quiet made it a perfect walk, aided by the beautiful views greeting us as we walked through the farmers’ fields.
After a pit stop back in the room (and a well-earned cup of tea and a biscuit), we headed to the Wye Valley to explore the River Wye by water. We hired canoes from Wye Canoes choosing the 90-minute experience. The trip showcased the stunning scenery and wildlife – we saw swans, kingfishers and herons – and it also gave us the chance to learn more about the area, especially its salmon fishing kudos.