It certainly hasn’t been the hottest summer on record and with a couple of weeks of the school holidays to go, there may be a few rainy days left to fill. Although the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean is best known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities, there’s a wealth of things to do whatever the weather.
A sure-fire way to escape the wet is to head underground. Experience the subterranean labyrinth of Clearwell Caves, which has been mined for iron ore and ochre for thousands of years. Explore the upper caverns or head into the deep caves with guided expeditions to find out what life was like for the first miners in the Forest of Dean.
Today it’s one of Britain’s most complex and oldest mine workings and has served as TV set, playing host to productions such as Doctor Who and Atlantis.
Stay dry and admire the beautiful ancient woodlands all aboard an authentic steam train at Dean Forest Railway. If the sun comes out, there are five stations along the way where passengers can hop off and explore. Or spend at day at Perrygrove Railway where, as well as enjoying a journey through wood and farmland, the little ones can play hide and seek in the indoor village.
For history, activities, galleries and attractions all under one roof, head to The Dean Heritage Centre. A converted 18th Century mill set next to a lake in five acres of woodland. Follow a thousand years of Forest history with five indoor galleries, step back in time to explore the reconstructed Forester’s Cottage, Victorian school room, Forest of Dean mine or enjoy a host of daily arts and crafts events.
On the subject of crafts, the whole family can try their hand at stone carving throughout August with Cats Eye Carving at Taurus Crafts. Make a rubbing of your stone artwork to take away or, for a little extra, get your hands on a square of beautiful Tetbury limestone that you can carve into a personalised creation.
The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean is well known for its wildlife so why not get up close and personal with some of its more feathery residents at the International Centre for Birds of Prey? Up to 40 birds are flown each day in spectacular displays that move inside if the weather turns. At the moment, you can also see the baby owls born during the spring and summer, now being trained in the Hawk Walk.
History comes alive at the spectacular Chepstow Castle. Standing for nearly a thousand years, the castle has grown century after century along its narrow cliff top ridge. If the heavens open, take shelter in their on-site exhibition which includes the medieval weapons that used to defend the castle as well as the oldest castle doors in Europe which are over 800 years old.
Keep warm on chilly days in the kitchens of Harts Barn Cookery School where there’s classes to suit all ages and abilities. Try your hand at pastry or discover bread making techniques of ancient times. Be hands on, knead your dough, bake in a beautiful wood fired oven.
But who says that a rainy day means stay inside? If you’re going to get soaked have fun while doing it on a Gorge Scrambling day with Inspire2Adventure. Climb waterfalls, battle up river, over rocks and through tunnels.
For more ideas on keeping the kids entertained before school starts, visit http://www.wyedeantourism.co.uk/