With its kingfishers and wild pigs, this Gloucestershire forest is perfect for a family nature safari
It’s a kingfisher!” Ed’s body swung round and leaned forward, his arm following in a wavelike motion the bird soaring above the water at Cannop Ponds in the Forest of Dean. We leaned with him, scanning the sky. “There it is, there it is.” Ed Drewitt, our guide, had spotted its landing perch in a pine around 400 metres away. “Wow, I’d love to be able to do that,” my daughter whispered. Ed got his binoculars out so we could glimpse the orange belly of the bird, the first kingfisher he’d seen this year, he told us excitedly. Ed, a passionate zoologist, was taking us on an “animal safari”, offered to guests staying at the Tudor Farmhouse in the heart of the Forest of Dean. The “safari” is perfect for animal lovers, including my daughter Sophie, 20, studying animal management, and my 16-year-old son, Toby.
We’d arrived the afternoon before and, thanks to the hotel’s map of wild swimming spots, headed straight out to the River Usk, half an hour away, sinking into the water from a tiny island beach in the centre of a bend in the river. After a slow journey on clogged motorways, it was a refreshing and magical way to start our forest adventure. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed cocktails in the garden, before stepping across a wooden bridge over a tiny stream that led inside to dinner. I was impressed by the variety on the menu, particularly for someone like me who is gluten and dairy-free, and by the fact that much of it was locally sourced – and tucked into delicately flavoured beetroot and cured salmon, followed by pork belly with roast onion.