Abenhall is a small hamlet and Church Farm is situated right opposite the Church, noted for its 15th century octagonal font, decorated with ancient free-miners’ carvings. In 2011 a new stained glass window was installed to commerate mining in the Forest. It is very colourful, showing miners working in cramped dangerous conditions. It is a fine memorial to those that worked the Forest mines. Nearby is a section of the exposed Dean Road. This is an ancient paved road of uncertain date; it is the subject of ongoing controversy as to who built it.
A mile down the road is Flaxley Abbey, built in the 18th century and set in a beautiful valley. Incorporated into it are the remains of the original Cistercian abbey ruins, which was founded in 1151 by Roger, Earl of Hereford. Just before the abbey comes into view from the road, you will pass Welshbury Wood, which includes a large iron-age hill fort. You will also see the very old iron-smelting Gun Mill, now in a state of serious disrepair, covered and awaiting renovation by English Heritage. Following the track past Gun Mill to St. Anthony’s Well, will bring you to a small area of ancient woodland with a quietly flowing stream and well.
Further a field
From all around this area you may see a large rounded hill some miles away with an intriguing clump of trees on the top. This is the 969 ft May Hill, and these trees were planted to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 1887 Jubilee. The view from the summit is breath-taking; on a fine day you can see the Brecon Beacons and the Cotswolds.
Church Farm is within walking distance of Mitcheldean, where all provisions can be bought. It is well worth a visit if only to see St. Michael’s Church. This 15th century church is of remarkable height and width, with a large nave and two wide aisles, all supported by timber felled from the Forest of Dean. Unusually, instead of a chancel arch, there is a 15th century painting of great rarity in oil on wood, depicting Christ in Majesty seated on a rainbow.
Forest of Dean
From Church Farm you can gain direct access to the forest, and once there you can ride or walk for what seems like forever. The forest in fact covers some 27,000 acres and is one of England’s largest areas of ancient woodland. Footpaths and trails criss-cross the forest, including many new tracks that were once railways or tramways. These are almost entirely flat and thus are suitable for any level of physical ability, whether on two or four feet!
The Forest of Dean is steeped in history; the Romans mined for iron and coal, kings hunted here; you may even come across a Free-miner (you are certain to come across a forest sheep, which have rights to wander almost anywhere!). If you have time, a visit to the excellent Dean Heritage Centre at Cinderford, or Clearwell Caves and Puzzle Wood at Coleford will prove most interesting. For railway buffs, there is the Dean Forest Railway Centre in Lydney.
Journey to Ross-on-Wye, a most beautiful little market town is always worthwhile; the city of Gloucester with its magnificent cathedral and docks is only a short car journey away, and now has a new shopping complex known as Gloucester Quays with factory outlets and cafes. Cheltenham, with its beautiful Georgian buildings, relaxed atmosphere and excellent shopping is also a short but rewarding car journey away.
Details of these and other local attractions are available in your welcome packs and of course we are here to advise and help.