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Coleford’s first year

A year’s reflections and looking forward

Posted on behalf of Jack Sturgess (Secretary CWW)

Since its inception in August 2021, Coleford Welcomes Walkers (CWW) has been hard at work laying the foundations for important work to be carried out. A lot of time has been invested into this important stage in CWW’ history, and the full extent of this effort can be found within the Chair’s Annual Report

In short, there has been a large amount of networking taking place not only to gather the right permissions to undertake extensive work, but to promote collaboration between local groups to work together under a shared love of Coleford. The Annual report also contains CWW’s  reflections on the year’s actions and a vision for the following year; a summary of which is contained below.

Moving into the new year, CWW, having all the correct licenses and permissions important works can now be undertaken. To this end CWW has undertaken its first major project in 2023; a comprehensive clean-up of the main car park in Coleford. Take a peek at the news article here

This has long since been an action CWW has been keen to instigate and now, in collaboration with the Forest of Dean District Council, CWW have been able begin the cleaning of signs from grime and dirt, the clearing of parking bays from years of built-up mud, and hopefully inject a sense of pride into the surroundings of residents of Coleford. Ubico (The Forest of Dean District Council contractor) has helped in this endeavour through the disposal of collected material (to be recycled at a local allotment) and assistance with the busiest regions of the car park. They have also supported CWW’s work generally, through the cutting back of trees and vegetation beyond their ability to manage and have been very communicative in informing them of the work Ubico undertake both onsite and independently.

Thanks to a grant via the Build Back Better scheme, CWW has been able to purchase a small supply of equipment for its volunteers to use to keep paths clear and tidy, maintain prior work and assist in the efforts of CWW’s  ongoing projects (typically held every Sunday).

Coleford’s Public Rights of Way Officer, Jeff Wheeler, has been exceptional in his steadfast support of CWW’s actions and has maintained strong links with them   to ensure resources available to Coleford are used to the best benefit of the town. It is thanks to his efforts that Committee members and volunteers have had access to training courses on all things Public Rights of Way, and a further opportunity to receive training to use power tools on footpaths is in the pipeline.

CWW is eager to promote the many walking routes available in and around the town of Coleford, with the Walks and Resources section of the website containing written directions for a number of routes. The written walking routes are something that CWW are keen to expand upon this year, trying to facilitate people regardless of ability as CWW feels walking should be accessible to as many people as possible.

CWW continues to collaborate with other established groups to provide a series of walks throughout the year. Having already partnered with Forest of Dean Community Walks to provide a weekly community walk from the Coleford Clock Tower , see here.  This is something that continues to see great success and CWW are eager to emulate with other groups.

CWW are passionate about the many ways that walking can be applied to everyday life; be it netwalking your way through a business  meeting; going out on a walk with friends; or unlocking your poetic muse in the nature of Coleford; CWW are keen to expand walking to as many as possible in all its imaginative guises.

This also includes promoting walking to a wide range of people. CWW is committed to supplying a diverse, inclusive environment where all can enjoy walking equally. CWW have a strong diversity and inclusivity policy which should foster a safe environment for people to come together under a shared love of Coleford and a desire to walk.

CWW will continue to remain active in the coming year. Now that much of the preliminary work has been completed, CWW are able to begin work on many more projects and expand the scope of their activities. Be sure to keep an eye on their social media pages for updates – it is sure to be a busy year!

The Dever Valley Swing Riots

In the autumn of 1830, the Hampshire countryside erupted behind Captain Swing!

Whitchurch has a proud tradition of direct action from the Cow Riots of 1600 to the 19th century Election Riots and the Salvation Army riots that won the Right to Peaceful Protest for the country. Whitchurch was also caught up in the Swing Riots although, the focus for discontent in North Hampshire was centred along the Dever Valley villages just to the south.

A number of factors led to the Swing Riots, not least the effects of the Enclosure of the common land and the formation of the large private estates that now shape the landscape of the North Hampshire Downs; this had reduced the peasant population to a state of subservient destitution.

Short contracts of work were the consequence of a series of poor harvests, wages were at an all-time low, the price of bread had rocketed, and the hated threshing machines were robbing labourers of winter work; facing the prospect of starvation over winter, an unsettled, disgruntled workforce began to emerge.

In the autumn of 1830, desperate villagers drew up a petition to the King. Signed by 177 men of the parishes of Wonston, Barton Stacey and Bullington, the petition described in graphic detail their state of misery with ‘not that sufficient to satisfy our hunger ….. we have not clothes to hide the nakedness of ourselves ….. nor fuel with which to warm us’.

The responsibility fell to Joseph Mason to walk the long 60-mile trail across the Downs to Brighton to deliver the petition to the King. He arrived but was sent away. The petition eventually found its way to William Cobbett a reforming campaigner and pamphleteer, who had reported on the plight of the agricultural labourers in his ‘Rural Rides’ and was agitating for direct action.

In November 1830, a crowd of 800 gathered in Sutton Scotney seeking donations of food, increased wages, and the destruction of threshing machines; some farmers received advance warning signed by the infamous figurehead known as ‘Captain Swing’ and negotiations were attempted, the protestors believing that in this way their grievances would be recognised.

The Duke of Wellington, the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire however, was determined that any riots should be crushed and the severest penalties handed down to village leaders. The Mason brothers and other leaders were transported, but popular radicalism in the countryside continued and just four years later farm workers in a village in West Dorset formed a trade union; these men would become known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

This Spring, Whitchurch WaW will launch a new trail out to the Dever Valley villages; The Test & Dever Way (Rivers, Railway and Riots) passes by the Coach & Horses Inn in Sutton Scotney which proudly displays a commemorative plaque recording the names of the villagers who signed the petition to the King, ‘they challenged injustice in defence of their rights and they should not be forgotten’. See Whitchurch, Hampshire – What to do


Fells, Friendship, and Nature Connection

On a circular walk from Murton along High Cup Gill to High Cup Nick, everything aligned in a way that is hard to fully capture in words. The peacefulness of the water flowing beside us, the November sun lighting up the sides of the U-shaped valley, the beck-side brew that always tastes better than any cup of tea made indoors. And a memorable encounter with a fellow walker, quick to share his love of the area, pointing out the spot where he takes a seat every time, in all weathers and seasons.

“We’re just wondering whether to go up Murton Pike on the way back,” I said.

“You should. The fell would want you to,” he replied.

We said goodbye and I quickly scrawled the exchange into my phone’s notes so as not to mis-remember his words. As we turned off the path, I gave him a wave so he was sure we were going up.

They were only a few words but full of meaning, as I felt he had acknowledged the fell as capable of feeling, of being communicative. When I’m outside, there’s a lot I often silently communicate to my surroundings, and the notion that nature may be doing the same was beautiful to me. I felt it symbolised a friendship between him and the fell, built up over the years, and with us as first-time visitors. It removed a separation between walker and landscape, between person and nature, and embodied a shared experience, that our enjoyment would be the fell’s enjoyment and vice versa.

This exchange particularly resonated with me as my PhD explored how adventure experiences can be transformational for an individual’s sense of self and their attitudes and behaviours towards nature. Nature connectedness was my bridge between these two areas, as a close relationship with nature enables benefits for the wellbeing of both humans and nature.

Research  shows that it is not about the amount of time spent in nature objectively, but that moments of active engagement are what develop greater nature connection and wellbeing benefits. Slowing down, noticing, engaging the senses, and exploring the meaning behind experiences is key to going beyond just physically being in contact with nature, to developing an emotional connection and closer relationship. Recognising not just what these experiences provide to us, but how this can inspire us to take positive action for nature.

Whilst some narratives centre around guilt and responsibility regarding sustainable or pro-environmental behaviours, this sense of love, connection, and compassion provides a more hopeful and ‘natural’ motivation that can be transformative.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” — John Muir.

Going into ourselves and finding belonging, inspiration, comfort, but also going into nature and realising this re-connection, not just whilst on footpaths but walking it back into our lives.  

Contact Dr Emma Pope  of  Root Waymarking 

Teifi Valley Trail / Taith Dyffryn Teifi

Update:  The Teifi Valley in West Wales is home to five Walkers are Welcome groups Tregaron, Lampeter, Llandysul & Pont-Tyweli, Cilgerran and St Dogmaels and those groups have been working together to define a new long distance trail through the Teifi Valley.  The Afon (River) Teifi begins at the Teifi Pools in the Cambrian Mountains. It flows by Strata Florida Abbey, through Cors Caron, a magnificent raised peat bog, and on to Tregaron before continuing through woodland, moorland and farmland, travelling 76 miles passing St Dogmael’s Abbey to the sea.

Walking from the source of the Teifi to the sea is a route that has never before been published, but that is about to change in this year of “Wales by Trails”.  The five Walkers are Welcome groups have defined the route to make the Teifi Valley Trail a reality.

The 75 mile route criss-crosses the river through the three counties of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire linking the many market and mill towns enabling walkers to take advantage of facilities in those communities. It is intended that the hospitality and transportation sectors as well as shops, food and drink producers, and visitor attractions will benefit.  Many of these areas already have circular walks which branch out from the main route, which will attract day visitors as well as long distance walkers.

Once the route is established, the towns are excited about the potential for the creation of an impressive 170 mile circular walk connecting the new Teifi Valley Trail with the Ceredigion Coastal Path, the Borth to Pontrhydfendigaid trail and the Cambrian Way.

They have some big ideas.  They will create a comprehensive website which will allow local communities and businesses to connect with hikers as well as providing  interactive mapping. They have the Teifi Valley Trail Champion volunteers already working with the rangers from the counties of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to help fit and fix structures along the route (gates, stiles, etc). They are also creating a guidebook to support the route.  They are hoping to have all in place for a soft launch in October 2023!

They have received small grants to produce a  leaflet (can be downloaded from their website holding page – and to fund some community engagement along the route.  However, they are now seeking to raise funds for a website, to print the trail guide (currently being written by volunteers) and to purchase waymarkers for the route. 

You can sign up to the newsletter  by visiting this page where there are also links to the Facebook page and  to introductory videos.  

The first year back – Leominster

What a first year Leominster  had.  They say that, reforming again after the dreaded Covid pandemic, has been very successful .

Leominster took part in a section of walking The Herefordshire Way on the hottest day of the year! This walk was led by Pete Blench and covered 11 miles. This event was part of bigger event which local walkers walked in groups  covering all sections of the 150 mile route in one day. Leominster really does have some exceptional walks.

Leominster’s Pete also led a Orchard walk. This covered orchards local  to Leominster and was attended by 15 people.

 Thanks to  funding by The Rotary Club, for which they are very thankful, Leominster has now made three new leaflets of Family Walks.   Leominster is hoping to be able to offer these leaflets by post soon.

Visit  their page here:


Overton Hampshire – Special Walk

Overton Walkers are Welcome identified a new circular route and their Chairman wrote to the Landowner asking for permission to walk on the land. The Landowner kindly granted permission as long as he had prior notice. The first walk took place, and everyone agreed it was a very enjoyable walk. They say  they will do this again !  (WaW note:  Next step could be to try to get a permissive path agreed .) 

Baildon launch new walks guide

November and December have been busy months for the Baildon Walkers are Welcome committee. In addition to offering the usual guided walks, and one of their occasional “Introduction to Walks Leading“ courses, a new publication “Six Walks for Self-Guiding from Baildon Railway Station” has been launched. This is a companion volume to last year’s publication which featured walks which all started at the other end of Baildon – under the title “Six Walks for Self-Guiding from Bracken Hall and Shipley Glen.” Both books, which contain route descriptions, maps and photos, are on sale for £3 singly, or £5 for the pair, and can be ordered by emailing

Bob Davidson, Chair of Baildon Walkers are Welcome said: “We hope that the routes in these books will encourage local people and visitors to enjoy the marvellous moorland, valleys, woods, rivers and canal on our doorstep.”

Bradford City of Culture

As proud residents of the City of Bradford , Baildon Walkers are Welcome were delighted when Bradford was awarded the accolade of City of Culture 2025. At the end of November, Baildon Walkers are Welcome AGM included a very special keynote speaker, Shanaz Gulzar. Shanaz is locally born and came to the attention of walkers in 2019, when she presented a series of programmes called “Yorkshire Walks”. More recently Shanaz led Bradford’s successful bid for City of Culture 2025 and she is now Creative Director of Bradford 2025. Shanaz shared her vision of how walking can play a part in the City of Culture programme, and how local walking groups can best engage with this forthcoming special year. Baildon were delighted to welcome representatives from many walking groups in the Bradford area, including three other Walkers are Welcome groups, helping to build an audience of 60 for the event.

Coleford Welcomes Walkers and Writers

Forests and woodland have long inspired great works of literature such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s fascination with Puzzlewood  invoking scenes from The Lord of the Rings. What better place to look for this then in a town situated in one of the most, well-known, and ancient forests in Britain; Coleford, in the Forest of Dean (FOD). It is especially wonderful to visit Coleford during the Christmas season, with the spectacular annual Christmas lights from 3rd December this year.

Coleford Welcomes Walkers eagerly invites you to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes and views of the area, exploring the many shops and businesses in the town. While doing so, keep an eye out for the many murals in town painted by local artist, Tom Cousins, celebrating amongst other topics Coleford’s literacy heritage.

Dennis Potter, known as a television dramatist, screenwriter and journalist is the town’s most famous author, born in Berry Hill (Coleford) and educated at Bells Grammar School (now a hotel and country club), his works include The Singing Detective, Lipstick on Your Collar and Pennies from Heaven. Initially taking a career in politics, Dennis transitioned into the literary scene to better manage his psoriatic arthropathy. Many of his works were filmed in the Forest of Dean with the area being an inspiration for his novels.

Mary Howitt was an author and poet born in Coleford, achieving great acclaim as the first translator of many of Hans Christian Andersen’s books. These included Thumbelina and the Tin Soldier, having learned Danish to translate them. The translations were significant in expanding the range of books deemed appropriate for children.

Edna Healey, also educated at Bells Grammar School, became the first pupil to gain a place at Oxford University. Starting her literary career later in life, she was renowned for her biographies (inspired by living in the former home of Angela Burdett-Coutts) exploring the wives of eminent men in Wives of Fame and Unknown Women. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1993.

Andrew Taylor arrived in 1982. He is a prolific crime novelist with many books such as The American Boy and The Ashes of London becoming best-sellers. He won the Cartier Diamond Dagger, an award given out by the Crime Writers Association of the UK for outstanding lifetime contributions to the genre.

The FOD is an excellent walking destination, especially for anyone looking to take their dog out for the day. Sammy’s Walks by Cheryl Mayo is a lovely book detailing the many walking routes available in the FOD, many of which come into Coleford.

Coleford Welcomes Walkers  highly recommends you explore the Forest books and crafts shop in the town centre as well the Tourist Information Centre if you have any interest in learning more about local literature and picking up a few books to take home with you.

Literary Dereham

Sir John Fenn (1739-1794) is not himself noted as an author, but was instrumental in identifying the value of, and publishing, the world-famous Paston Letters, providing a detailed insight into life in the 15th century.  He also made many other contributions to local life, and his wife Ellenor was a pioneer of child centred education.  Their home at Hill House is just off the Market Place in Dereham, while Ellenor is recognised by the newly established Ellenor Fenn Garden a short walk away in the town.

As reported by Literary Norfolk Dereham (formerly East Dereham) “is particularly important for its connections with the troubled poet William Cowper  (1731-1800) and the novelist/travel writer George Borrow (1803-81). It was also the birthplace of the science fiction writer Brian Aldiss.”

The main site for William Cowper, Poet and Hymnodist is the Cowper Memorial Congregational Church in Market Place.  The church is on the site of the poet’s former home, which was demolished to build the church.  Cowper is one of the most popular poets of his time – the forerunner of romantic poetry.  The phrase ‘God moves in a mysterious way’ is from one of Cowper’s poems.  He died here and is buried in St Nicholas’ Church (a 5 minute walk away), which has a stained glass window in Cowper’s memory.  There is also a window dedicated to Cowper in Westminster Abbey.

Walking between the Cowper Memorial Congregational Church and St Nicholas’ Church takes you past the Romany Rye Public House, named after one of George Borrow’s books.  This, and another book – Lavengro – contain various references to the local area, most notably ‘Pretty, quiet Dereham, thou pattern of an English town’.  (There then follows a section which seems clearly about William Cowper).  Borrow lived for a time (though, contrary to some belief, was not born) at Borrow Hall, itself sited a mile or so out at Dumpling Green, a lengthy track which is also a public footpath.

A little later came Benjamin Armstrong (1817-1890), vicar at East Dereham from 1850 to 1888.  Throughout his life Armstrong was a great diarist and there are now three published editions of his diaries which relate to his years as Vicar of Dereham, the last edited by his great grandson.  Armstrong’s affection for East Dereham was recorded in his diary in 1875 and he wrote (after returning from time away) “… no country after all, like England, and no county in it better than Norfolk, and no place in Norfolk better than East Dereham”. 

Finally, and more recently, there is Brian Aldiss, the science fiction writer who gave his name to a shopping area in the town – Aldiss Court.

Explore Dereham on foot with Dereham Walkers are Welcome.