Another cloudy weekend beckoned, with the sunlight diffused by clouds, forests and woodland can make good subject matter to photograph. Without diffused light there is too much contrast with the bright and dark areas. So this weekend decided to take my first trip to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.
It seems in England when you only have the weekends to get out into the great outdoors that the clouds set in around February for about 3 months rarely seeing any sunshine. As much as I love taking photographs I do love to walk in the sunshine too. From Pershore in Worcestershire its over 40 miles to the Forest of Dean but a large part of the drive is straight down the M50. You pass through the Wye Valley and Symonds Yat of which I also visited recently An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty(AONB).
As my guide I was using the Staunton and Forest of Dean walk out of the AAs 50 walks around Gloucestershire. For woodland the written descriptions in these AA walks often get you lost and can be very frustrating. In a forest, paths criss cross all over the place. Sometimes finding the parking space can be challenging. The AA guides give you a grid reference of the approximate location of the parking spot. Its essential you begin these walks from the correct starting point. You can use Grid Reference Finder to convert a grid reference into a post code to tap into your satnav.
I managed to find the parking apron as recommended by the AA only after a couple of drives up and down the A4136 and confirming I was at the right location on the map with a dog walker also just parking up. Setup my camera and began my walk through the Forest of Dean to the first waypoint being the Suck Stone.
Heading along the Wysis way was pretty straightforward along a well defined white gravel path. There were good views westward over the edge of the forest of Dean called Highmeadow woods and into Wales. On this walk through the Forest of Dean you are right on the border between England and Wales.
Heading up further along the Wysis Way I found the Suck Stone. Hard to miss with the Suck Stone being one of the biggest boulders in the land.
Near Hearkening Rock
So far so good. It was a steep ascent up the path pass the Suck Stone to the Near Hearkening Rock at the top of the hill.
Getting Lost in the Forest of Dean
Thats when things went wrong from a walking guide point of view. I could not find the path behind the Near Hearkening stone leading out to the next waypoint. This is when you have to use the map and maybe a compass to head in the general direction and hopefully get back on track. Its frustrating and you really feel like strangling the person who wrote the guide, but things change over the years especially in a forest.
I must have spent about an hour trying to correct myself but eventually found the path I should be on at the bottom of the valley. On the positive side its good exercise and hones your navigation and sense of direction skills.
There are suppose to be a rising population of wild Boars in the Forest of Dean but I not see any. I continued along the Highmeadow trail and past the long stone but not really make a good photo due to being beside a road.
Eventually I make it into the village of Staunton and have a pint in the lively and friendly White Horse Inn. I then continue the last leg of this walk through the forest of Dean up to the Buck Stone behind Staunton with great views over the west country.
It was very difficult to find a good angle and setup the tripod for taking a photo which included the buck stone and the view of the hills to the west. There were lots of distracting elements protruding into the frame from the bottom and sides mostly branches. With this type of shot it was also important to keep near and far objects in focus requiring a small aperture at F16 and a wide angle of around 18mm with an APS-C lens for a cropped sensor. Obviously the Buck stone has to be the focal point and in sharp focus.
For the last leg of my walk I then get lost again in the forest of dean, but following the sound of the road traffic managed to get back on track and back to the carpark. A good walk through the forest of Dean if you like big rocks. I really need to improve my navigation skills and not totally rely on these guides, it really can be a problem inside forests.