Leisure And Tourism
To compliment Coleford’s location in one of the most beautiful areas of Britain, a sophisticated tourism and leisure infrastructure has grown up catering both for visitors and residents. Even though the railway lines have long since been removed, the Great Western Railway Museum, opened in 1988 by Mike Rees, stands where Coleford Junction once lay, reminding us of the town’s very different past.
Continuing the railway theme, the Perrygrove Railway was built by Michael and Frances Crofts on a old farm south of the centre to celebrate narrowgauge stock, once commonly used in local mines. A woodland estate to the south west, Puzzle Wood, mined for iron even before the Romans, was developed into a maze of woodland walks early in the 19th century and is now open to the public.
J R Tolkien, a frequent visitor to the Forest, reputedly took inspiration from it for his setting of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings. Clearwell Caves were a natural system of caves enlarged by iron working over the milennia and were opened to the public in 1968 by Ray Wright. as a fascinating museum to mining. One of the larger freemines, Hopewell Colliery, is also open to the public on the B4226 road to Speech House. There are countless beautiful walks in the Forest around Coleford. Perhaps one of the most attractive areas is the Cannop Valley just east of Broadwell where there is important oak woodland surrounding ponds stocked with fish.
Healthy living centres on the Forest Leisure fitness and swimming centre at Five Acres. The facilities are shared with the Royal Forest of Dean College and Lakers school. The fitness centre is open to the public throughout the day, seven days a week, while the swimming pool is mostly available in the evening and at weekends. Outdoor recreational facilities include those at Forest Leisure Coleford at Five Acres and the more informal fields at the town’s principal recreational ground, the Angus Buchanan Memorial Ground which has served the town since 1919, and alongside it the King George V Recreation Ground. There is also a large children’s play area here. There is a substantial recreation ground at Coalway and various smaller children’s play areas, including that at Mile End.
The town has two golf courses, Bells Golf Club on Lords Hill and Forest Hills on Mile End Road. There are bowling greens at Buchanan Recreation Ground and Bells Golf Club. The Forest of Dean is becoming justly famous these days for its cycling opportunities.
There are many wonderful routes available, many following old railway tracks and therefore relatively easy going for all the family. The old railway course between Coleford and Parkend via Milkwall is one of these. There is a cycle hire point in the Cannop Valley east of Broadwell (just off the B4226) where you can join the Family Trail, a 12 mile circuit around the centre of the Forest.