When it comes to hiking, the Forest of Dean is probably not the first place that comes to mind. I mean, it's not the mountains of Wales, the coastal paths of the South West or Pembrokeshire, the Pennines or the Lake District; there are no real rugged steep trails and peaks to bag. I get it. I'm a hiker. I've walked in all of these challenging places. However, owing to the history, the great scenery and the uniqueness, both in wildlife and cross post-industrial/rural nature of the area, there are some fantastic walks to be had; walks that could make even a seasoned hiker consider the area as an unusual alternative.
A great place to start with these is a regular little walk I like to do that goes directly from the Lodge at Hilltop Cottage. Although the Lodge is only a two minute drive from Lydbrook, a five minute drive from Coleford and Ten minute drive from Cinderford, its tucked away position in a country lane, adjacent to woods at Edge End and opposite open rolling countryside as you look to the Black Mountains or the Wye Valley gives the firm impression that it really is in the middle of nowhere, and its this local, rural delight that makes this walk so nice as well as a great pre-lunch appetite builder. It's about six miles or so in total and takes about an hour and a half to two hours.
As it is a circular walk, taking you from doorstep to doorstep, you can start by heading south through Berry Hill or north down Tump Lane. I prefer the Tump Lane option but the choice is yours.
At the bottom of Carterspiece take a left down Tump Lane heading west. This is a downward slope in that direction and makes for a gentle beginning. The road is generally quiet but do keep an eye out for local cars cutting through from English Bicknor or farm vehicles such as tractors. After about half a mile you will see what looks like a a small stately home or large manor house and beyond this a split in the road. This is where you can give yourself an optional excursion, depending on your energy. In either option take the right side of the split. For the excursion you will see, on your right at the top of the split, a country gate, a field with sheep in and a path beyond the gate. This is public access and if you walk the path to the end (a nice walk to do as along with sheep you are likely to see game birds from the manor house) you will come to another gate. This gate leads onto an airfield which is also public access and makes for a pleasant circular walk (don't worry, it is hardly used and walking around the outside is usually fine). Follow the path back down to the gate to complete the excursion. All told, this extra bit adds about a mile.
Back on the main walk, continue downhill on Tump Lane, passing a farm on your left and steady decline for about half a mile until you see a country track inlet on your left. Take this track (you'll know it as it makes an immediate dip across a stream) and after the crossing begin the climb up the hill towards English Bicknor.
When you reach the top of the climb you'll emerge onto the main road that runs through English BIcknor village. Fortunately there is a path to walk along adjacent to farmland and turning left after another half mile or so you will reach English Bicknor itself where you find a nice church and an usual red phone box which has been turned into a local book exchange. Carry on along the road through English Bicknor until you reach Dryslade Farm and turn left onto Bicknor Street, passing the Motocross tracks that you can see from the Lodge at Hilltop.
This is a lovely country lane with some great examples of local cottages. If you are in the mood for a drink or some food you can carry on down this lane until you reach the Dog and Muffler Inn. Either way, to continue the walk you will have to take the public path across the countryside (part of the Wysis Way) to the left from the English Bicknor side or right from the Dog and Muffler.
Here, you will walk along countryside, past a ruin of an old barn built from Forest stone. Continue until you reach the bottom of the slope where you will see a fork in the paths. Take the right fork across a style and continue on the path (a Tarmac road) until you reach the point where the path bends to the right. If you look straight on from here you will see and fence with a style and the countryside rise from here. Cross the style and follow the path up and short climb (usually sheep in this field) until you reach the style at the top by the Lower Carterspiece farm building.
After crossing the style turn right. From here you can short cut back to the Lodge at Hilltop by turning left about a hundred yards down and following the path but I prefer to continue down the path until it bends and climbs to the left. Follow this path (easy to follow) and it will take you through the woods behind the Lodge at Hilltop and back to Carterspiece for the end.