Promptly at 10:00 on Sunday 14th January, 2007, the 16 members of the Forest of Dean Group of the Ramblers Association and three dogs set off on a still, brilliantly lit morning for our ramble from the Speculation Car Park up by the Speech House, into the Cyril Hart Arboretum, across to Speech House Lake and on to Boy's Grave and back for a quick cup of coffee at Beechenhurst before returning to our starting off point.
After a section walking along the Cycle Trail we turned off onto the Sculpture Trail and passed by the Iron Road - a sculpture made from tramway tracks with the sleepers carved into vignettes of Forest scenes or sometimes symbolic representations of local traditions from the vanishing past.
The weather continued to be kind to us and, with the ground underfoot very firm, we were enjoying the walk very much as we turned off to the left away from the cycle trail and more deeply into the Forest.
After a while, in the middle of a section of mid-mature pine, we saw the track leading up to the 'Bois Mort' sculpture (or 'dead wood') which is part of the Sculpture Trail. This is a thoughtful reflection on the meaning of life - a half dozen simulated graves in the middle of the pine forest.
An interesting aside - "Boy's Grave" that we passed on this walk has nothing to do with boys or with graves but comes from the times when the Normans, or their descendants, used the Forest as a hunting area. In the old Norman French it was "Bois Greve" or 'steep hill' - of course, us anglo-saxon lot couldn't manage that bit of french (even if they did conquer us) and Boy's Grave is what it became ... with, over the years, a host of local stories of Gypsies and midnight happenings and skull-duggery in the woods.
The last time we were out as a group and visited the Giant's Chair it was pouring with rain and we hopefully sheltered under the non-existent cover of the Giant's non-existent chair seat from the very-existent rain. Today the weather was splendid, no wind but lots of pleasant sunshine - altogther a joy to be out and about in.
Across the hill top and onto the other side of the Speech House Road and into the Cyril Hart Arboretum, past the giant monkey puzzle tree and on towards Speech House Lake. On the way we passed this rather splendid sundial carved by visually impaired people at 'the Forge'. When the sun shines on the small stained glass window set in the shadow post it is really rather lovely.
After about three hours of very pleasant walking, for a distance of nearly 5-½ miles, we were back from where we started. An example of just how pleasant it was is this very early primrose ... there were several, isolated and very small, positioned like colourful fullstops along the edges of the path.