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Whitemead Forest Park
You don’t have to be an award-winning author to be inspired by the Forest of Dean, a corrugated blanket of green and brown merging into the slopes of the Wye Valley. Certainly J.K. Rowling’s childhood walks among the trees influenced the magical landscapes of Harry Potter, while J.R.R. Tolkien famously shaped the fabled forests of middle earth around his visits to the ancient woodland. But this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty captivates all who care to visit and its riches are the well-spring of a turbulent history. A cherished royal hunting ground for flamboyant Tudor kings, it was enclosed for preservation in 1801 spurring violent uprisings from foresters and hunters thirsty for its plunder. Today we can all be grateful for the swathes of fauna filled woodland that remain; a remarkably beautiful forest that cries out to would-be campers.
Such cries are answered by Whitemead Forest Park, an expansive campsite with a mix of grassy tent pitches, caravan hard standings and luxury glamping pods. Five miles from the Severn Estuary to the east and the Welsh Border to the west, Whitemead lies in the heart of the Forest of Dean in one truly spectacular location. Ok, so this may be a pretty commercial site that falls more into the holiday park category. But this location trumps such minor details and even the staunchest of old-school campers can't fail to be won over by the facilities on offer. With a heated indoor swimming pool and sauna, fully-equipped gym, health and beauty spa, games room, restaurant, two bars and well-stocked shop, such a cornucopia of facilities are not something to complain about, particularly when they’re this immaculately clean and well maintained.
Pitch-wise, while the caravans are in the majority, secluded camping spots lie nicely separated, tucked away in ‘The Hollow’, a grassy area with a path leading into the woods. The result is a site bursting with activities but still offering a quiet corner to relax in the sun.
If the endless onsite options are not your cup of tea, then escape the bustle via a short walk across the campsite and over a pond to the village of Parkend, a peaceful backwater with delightful local pubs. Here you’ll also find Nagshead Nature Reserve, home to the diverse birdlife that the Forest of Dean is so famous for. Parkend is crossed by a number of good footpaths and for both cycling and walking this is an ideal destination; a paradise of paths weaving through the forest and descending into the Wye Valley. For the most commanding views of the landscape head north to Goodrich Castle and climb the battlements of the Norman Keep, or, at the other end of the spectrum, delve into nearby Clearwell Caves where tours of an intricate cave and mine system can reach up to 200ft beneath the ground!
Whitemead Forest Park is a campsite of opportunities – a wealth of onsite fun combined with a host of attractions right on the doorstep. A welcoming place to pitch the tent or pull up a caravan with facilities to occupy the kids, while you map out your morning bike trip. In the evenings you can retire to the repose of your pitch, relax in the jacuzzi or head to the bar for a chilled glass of vino. In short, an ideal, affordable family-friendly retreat in one of England's great ancient woodlands.
All caravan pitches have 16 amp electrical hook-ups. There are on-site showers, a family bathroom, laundry rooms and washing up points. Guests have use of a wide range of facilities including a heated indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, fully equipped gym and indoor and outdoor play areas. Onsite there is a family-friendly restaurant, health and beauty spa, games room, bar and a shop. There is also a programme of daytime activities and night time entertainment on offer, plus free Wi-Fi in the restaurant and bar.
Everyone! Tents, caravans, motorhomes, families, groups, dogs all welcome.
With a relatively central spot in the Forest of Dean, the campsite is in a prime location for cycling and walking. The Gloucestershire Way passes very close to the site, while The Offa's Dyke Path, follows the Welsh border, offering a slightly more varied route. Family cyclists will enjoy a multitude of circular trails mainly on former railway lines, easily connecting villages and picnic sites. A 20 minute drive north takes you to Goodrich Castle (01600 890538) with exceptional views of the River Wye and the valley of Symonds Yat. Goodrich also boasts one of the most complete sets of medieval buildings surviving in any English castle. Cross the border to the historic market town of Monmouth or stop short at the river Wye, where you can hire canoes (01600 891100) or trek (01600 891515) among the surrounding streams and gorges. Clearwell Caves (01594 832535) is a fascinating site where natural caves are joined together with man-made mines. A range of different tours are available if you don't fancy delving to the full 200ft depth. On a rainy day head to The Dean Heritage Centre (01594 822170), a great family attraction in a picturesque location. Five separate spaces explore the history of the forest from the Ice Age to the present day, accompanied by animals, a reconstructed Victorian cottage and daily chainsaw carving demonstrations.
Food & Drink
An onsite shop sells groceries, while you can also pre-book a hamper so essential supplies are waiting when you arrive. The onsite Foresters family restaurant serves food all day including a Sunday carvery and Wednesday curry night. There are also two bars – Foresters and The Venue – offering entertainment. Both bars are family-friendly with accompanied children welcome. A 5 minute walk into Parkend will bring you to either The Woodman Inn (01594 563273) or, the more recommended, Fountain Inn (01594 562189) which serve pub grub and real ales.
110 pitches altogether, a mix of grassy tent pitches and hard standings, along with some glamping pods. All caravan pitches have 16 amp electrical hook-ups.
No availability showing at Whitemead Forest Park.
Heading north on the M25: Turn off at J15 (signposted M4 West: South Wales and Chepstow), take J21 (signposted M48 Chepstow), over toll bridge, take J2 (signposted Chepstow). Then take the A48 to Lydney. In Lydney town follow road down the hill, over the railway crossing and take the first left onto B4234 to Parkend. Here take the first turning on the left to the end of the road and turn left, Whitemead Forest Park will be on your left.
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Rated ★★★★★ over 1 reviews
We had a relaxing two night stay. Although a largish park, plenty of showers and hot water in a very clean shower block. Friendly and helpful staff. Lovely setting