As I sit here in my office, listening to the rain lashing against the window, it is nice to sit in the warm and work on my photographs from last weekend (Sunday 19 January), when the weather was kinder and my wife and I spent a happy couple of hours wandering around the Sculpture Trail at Beechenhurst in the Forest of Dean.
The Sculpture Trail is maintained by the Forestry Commission, but the sculptures are commissioned through a registered charity: The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust. These works are dotted around the trail, some more obvious than others.
The trail is very accessible: the full circuit is only 7km (4.5miles) long. There is a bit of a steep path as you first leave Beechenhurst Lodge and climb up to the wonderful gigantic wooden chair called ‘Place’, but after that it’s pretty flat apart from a couple of gentle slopes, and it is all on well marked paths. If 7km is too much there are a couple of shortcuts marked on the route.
We have walked the Sculpture Trail a number of times, but since I was last here something new has popped up: a Sky Rainforest Rescue Discovery Trail. This means that dotted around the trail in the beautiful English countryside there are boards talking about the Amazon rainforest. This struck me as slightly odd and quite annoying, so I looked it up when I got home.
Apparently these trails have been launched across England by Sky and WWF in partnership with the Forestry Commission to “inspire you to get out into your local forest and learn why they and the Amazon rainforest are so special”. As you go around the trail you can “listen to amazing wildlife sounds or simply learn and compare what products come from the rainforest. Along the trail you will also be able to take a photo in an Amazon rainforest setting…”
Why would you want to do such a thing? I know that the Amazon is important, but this ‘educational’ opportunity seems forced and jarring – wouldn’t it be better to encourage people to understand our own woods and forests a little better and to describe the flora and fauna you might actually see on your walk? I didn’t think it was too likely that I would come across a macaw or jaguar on my visit.
Anyway, my Amazon moans notwithstanding, I heartily recommend a visit. Some of the sculptures are pretty well tucked away in the forest, so if you want to see them all I recommend you get a map from the Lodge before you leave, it only costs £1.
Some of the sculptures are better than others and some have been there quite a while – the earliest date from 1986 – so have suffered from the the ravages of the English weather, but they are worth seeking out.
Even without the sculptures the forest is very beautiful and it is an enjoyable walk, especially in the low winter sunshine. Here are just a few pictures from last weekend that I hope may inspire you to visit when the sun next makes an appearance.