There were thirteen of us, luckily we had a pair of dogs with us as well to make up the numbers. We all gathered on a very misty morning just before ten on Sunday 18th February, 2007. Almost immediately we were 'galloped' at by a couple of largish dogs followed almost immediately by their owner in racing running kit. He zoomed out of sight leaving a somewhat befuddled mix of dogs and walkers behind him.
The mist and somewhat boggy ground reminded me of parts of "Lord of the Rings" but it soon started to cheer up - we saw this dragon with a children's "den" created in the space under the canvas wing - a brilliant idea.
Through yet more misty back bye-ways until we were near to the Steam Mills school by Dunk's Corner where we saw this remnant of a stoneyard crane, used initially to move and load the enormous chunks of Forest stone from the quarry and then latterly to move heavy timbers for a timber yard that was subsequently built there.
Across the main road to Cinderford and on towards site of the old Northern United colliery. This is Meadowcliff pond which held the emergency supply of water for use in any underground fire that might break out at Northern United. Nowadays quite beautiful and an angler's domain.
By now we were out of the valley bottom of Cinderford and swinging round towards Ruardean past historic remnants of the old mines. Even after all these years they have not entirely 'greened over' and show clear evidence of their content mixture of coal and rubble.
The landscape became more traditionally rural with an interesting mixture of sheep as you can see from this picture.
It always amazes me that such large (and expensive) chunks of machinery can be stashed away in unlikely spots in fields like this - I suppose it is forward planning for when and where they are to be needed next.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at an opportune wooden bench overlooking Ruardean and with this rather magnificent view of the church before us. A friendly local dog serenaded us all the while - one of those that wags a tail at one end and sharp teeth at the other - but the weather was now really 'blue-skies' and rather pleasant and we were all looking foward to the next part of our walk ... towards Hope Mansell and Wigpool.
But, first, we paused and looked in at the church - most especially at the porch where there is this rather nice, and accurate, sundial. Ruardean was one of the very few communities to celebrate the "Royal Path of Time" - appropriately in a palindromic year !
Towards the interior of the Porch there is this rather beautiful depiction of Saint George slaying the dragon.
Meanwhile, outside in the graveyard there was this rather magnificent display of snowdrops, sheltering in a sunny spot beside the church wall.
Later on in the walk we passed the still walkable remnants of a tramroad that passed beneath a modern road supported by this old stone bridge.
At Wigpool - this is the pool of that name - we saw the effects of the recent heavy fall of snow with the truncated pine stranded in the over-flooding pool.
This is the still lived in building that once housed the manager of the Wigpool mine. The ground floor, apparently, had only two rooms which accounts for the chimneys being so oddly sited at the rear of the building and not, as one would have expected, rising through the centre of the house. The whole walk was 10 miles (give or take a bit) and most enjoyable if, towards the end, a little tiring as the longest haul was at the end of the walk rather than at the beginning ... but that's life isn't it.