Silver Award Practice Expedition

John Mann, Steven Heath, David Robins and Ian Wakefield
4th-7th July 1977


Duke of Edinburgh index

Full Equipment List

Provided by:
4 Plates John 1 Steven 3
5 Forks John 1 David the rest
5 Spoons John 1 David the rest
5 Knives John 1 David the rest
4 Bowls David
1 Tent, large John
1 Tent, small School (in the event we used John's Dad's tent).
3 Torches John 1-2, David 1
4 Sleeping bags David 2, John 1, Ian 1
2 Gas stove John 1, David 1
Billy cans School 1-2, John 1
Boxes of matches Steven
4 Rucksacks
Kitchen knives, spoons etc. David
1 Water carrier John
1 First aid kit John
Teatowels David & Ian
4 Compass John & Steven (if cannot, be supplied, by Mr Grierson).
1 Map John
1 Radio John
Toilet roll Steven
1 Camera John
1 Notebook John
Beakers David
Water purifying tablets John
Money Everybody


Route - Tuesday 5th July 1977

664072 START Near Blakeney Hill
652086 Railway bridge over road 50 mins 1.5 miles
634091 Road bridge at Dwarf Holes 2 hrs (inc lunch) 1 mile
608108 Road by upper Cannop Pond 1hr 15mins 2.2 miles
588122 Track crossing B4028 1hr 15 mins 2.2 miles
568129 Christchurch Camp Site 50 mins 1.3 miles

On Tuesday our expedition began. The tents came down (all equipment had to be carried) and we were taken by minibus to Blakeney Hill on the Eastern side of the Forest. We made our way down to the disused Forest of Dean Central Railway. In 1977, 15 years after the Beeching report, most disused railways were excellent for walking. The Central Railway had been closed longer than that and was very overgrown. Eventually it became clearer and walking became easier. At Blackpool Bridge it was time to enter the woodland proper and make our way up Bailey Hill. Poor Ian, who had a grotty old school rucksack, was having problems here and we had to re-distribute the equipment to lighten his load. We started the climb making our way through pathless woodland until we eventually encountered the path we should have been on.

After some climbing we reached a well-defined trackway but our route was not along it, it was up an even steeper path! This was the cause of much complaining from the party. However as we ascended we were rewarded with a spectacular view back down the slopes of Bailey Hill.

Looking back from the top of Bailey Hill. John Mann's rucksack just visible. This view is impossible today as the young trees have all grown to full height.

Photo: David Robins

Having reached the top we searched in vain for our route but, unable to find it, we took a slightly longer way round to bring us down to the road at Moseley Green. Here we headed off into trackless forest on a compass bearing to find the south portal of Moseley Green Tunnel.

John Mann at the entrance to Moseley Green Tunnel, with the all-important water bottle.

Photo: Steven Heath

Situated on the "Mineral Loop" section of the Forest's once-extensive railway network, the tunnel had last seen use in the Second World War for ammunition storage. Our route now took us through the tunnel, despite the stern prohibition on the camp information sheet about venturing into old mines. Doubtless I had argued the case that a tunnel was not a mine! Anyway, the trip through the tunnel certainly added interest to the day's journey. At the North end of the tunnel it was time to stop for lunch.

Our route now took us through some more Forest to the Cannop Ponds. Here we joined yet another disused railway line. We were also now on a Forestry Commission waymarked route. These medium-distance footpaths were found all over the Forest at that time. These days they have been discontinued in favour of more local routes. We would be on waymarked routes for the rest of the day; no need for navigation, just follow the yellow arrows.

We soon diverged from the railway line, crossed the road and began another serious climb. I regret to say this was all too much for Ian, Steven and myself. We stopped for a rest and to guzzle glucose tablets. Only the unstoppable David charged on ahead, stopping at the top to shout encouragement and advice back at us (and take a picture). Eventually he came down again and by physically pushing us from behind, got us up the slope! David recalls: "The cup of tea we had at the top was the best I've ever tasted!"

Looking back down the climb out of the Cannop valley towards Howler's Hill. John, Steven and Ian are just visible in the centre of this picture, having refused to climb the hill!

Photo: David Robins

There was more excitement when the route crossed Howlers Hill Quarry, the yellow arrows sending us up a path cut into the rock face. This took us up to the Woodlands Caravan Site, which was greeted with great joy as it had water points where we were able to replenish our carefully rationed water supply. From here, the rest of the days journey was something of an anticlimax passing through some level woodland and then a frankly boring trudge through Berry Hill and Christchurch.

We camped for the night at Christchurch Camp Site. We were only about half a mile from the main school camp but technically on a different site. William Norris's group were also camping there that night and pitched their tents near to us.

William Norris's groups's tents pitched next to ours at Christchurch.

Photo: William Norris.

Route - Wednesday 6th July 1977

568129 Christchurch Camp Site
575108 Six roads junction in Coleford 50 mins 1.3 miles
553094 T Junction in Newland 50 mins 1.75 miles
537098 Telephone box at Lower Redbrook 2 hrs (inc lunch) 1.25 miles
526114 Opposite minibus near river 50 mins 1.5 miles
504127 Monnow Bridge camp site 1 hr 2.25 miles

Next morning we were woken by the tent collapsing around us. Bill Norris and his friends had sabotaged our guy ropes! We retaliated in kind but did not have the advantage of surprise. All tents and equipment had to be packed away again for the second day of the journey.

Although we tried to follow footpaths there was little alternative but to follow the road into the town of Coleford. We then took what was the course of an old tramway running behind the shops and houses. This took us right through Coleford and passed through a short tunnel at one point. The original plan of walking along the old railway line from here on had been abandoned. I was concerned about being caught trespassing. This section of line, possibly the most remote and obscure on the Great Western (from whose system it became isolated in 1916 when the Whitecliff-Redbrook line closed) actually remained in use till 1967. There is a good chance that in 1977, only 10 years later, it was still in BR ownership. Instead of walking along the track we followed the parallel road through Whitecliff before taking the road towards High Meadow farm. Then it was back to the footpaths and bridleways over the hill to Newland.

Miss Read checked us at this checkpoint, what is more she bought us ice creams! Leaving the village we headed uphill across fields. A sign warned us that cyanide had been applied to the land. At the top of the hill we passed through a gate into Forge Wood. Loads of wild strawberries were growing here - no one would eat them except me! The others waited for me to drop down dead. The multitude of paths here was confusing and we soon realised we were on the wrong path. A diversion enabled us to regain the correct route. A descent through the wood brought us to the valley with its stream and eventually the village of Redbrook.

We crossed the River Wye on the old railway bridge and made a stop on the riverbank for our lunch. Inquisitive cows came to see us and we were adopted by a friendly dog. Once again Miss Read checked us, this time she had brought all the girls with her. They sat on a concrete breakwater with their feet in the river.

Lunch stop at Redbrook. I take a photo of the girls sitting on the breakwater but lose the film. David takes a photo of the girls sitting on the breakwater (left) but it comes out blurred. Steven takes a picture of a dog (right). John Mann just visible on the left cooking lunch.

From here on going was straightforward as we walked along the west bank of the Wye. But after passing through Livox Wood we were faced with a huge field and had to resort to the compass to find the exit. Then onto the final stretch through Troy Farm and down into Monmouth and our campsite at Monnow Bridge where we paid the sum of 60p each to camp.

Route - Thursday 7th July 1977

504127 Monnow Bridge camp site, Monmouth
519136 Dixton Church 1 hr 1.7 miles
527150 Chapel Farm 40 mins 1.25 miles
549143 Suspension Bridge 1hr 45 min (inc lunch) 2.5 miles
562159 Symond's Yat Station 50 mins 1.25 miles
564160 Symond's Yat Rock 25 min 0.25 miles
558135 Bracelands Camp Site 1hr 50 min 3.7 miles

Next day after packing up we walked through Monmouth town and joined the Wye Valley Walk following the west bank of the Wye. This was a pleasant walk up past the little village of Dixton and on to the Biblins where we crossed the Wye on the suspension bridge

Biblins Suspension Bridge.

Photo: David Robins

. From here we followed the old railway line as far as Symond's Yat and a steep 400-foot climb to the Yat Rock. We were on the final stretch now although in order to follow the waymarked route, and make up the distance, our route to Bracelands campsite was rather circuitous, at least in theory. I have a suspicion that in practice we took a rather more direct route. It was a great relief to take off our rucksacks for the final time.

To follow events from this point return to the main camp pages.