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Whitemead Forest Park – Family Adventures in the Forest of Dean

September 13, 2020

Whitemead Forest Park is a holiday park in the heart of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley. Surrounded by dense woodland and within easy access of numerous walking and cycle trails Whitemead enjoys the luxury of a stunning location perfect for exploring and getting back to nature. The park boasts a wide range of accommodation from camping pitches and glamping pods through to lodges and luxury apartments. There’s something here for all tastes, needs and requirements making it ideal for family, multi-generational and extended get-togethers.

Our stay

We visited Whitemead in the last week of the August school holidays as a family of 5. Our children are currently aged 5, 10 and 14 so the first challenge of any holiday destination is to cater for the range of needs that the tot to teen age bracket entails. As an active family we found that Whitemead was ideal thanks to endless woodland walking trails, miles of bike tracks and numerous places to play and explore on site. The Forest of Dean is a part of the country we’re not overly familiar with but we found Whitemead was in a great location for getting to know the region with several popular attractions right on our doorstep.

Accommodation

One of the perks of Whitemead is their wide range of accommodation options: camping & motor home pitches, self catering glamping pods, wooden lodges and apartments…there’s even a large bungalow with private hot tub you can hire for parties of up to 8 people.

We stayed in one of their first floor premier apartments, situated close to the site’s restaurant with views across the surrounding green open spaces. As holiday apartments go this felt really roomy with large windows and high ceilings adding to the sense of spaciousness. The main living space includes an open plan kitchen / dining / lounge area with all the appliances you might need including a fridge freezer, oven, microwave and TV.

The main bedroom is even bigger than the lounge with an en suite shower (in addition to a family bathroom with a large bath) and TV. The space, views and facilities offered in this room added a real sense of luxury to our stay while ensuring that we had our own adult space to really relax.

The second bedroom is also a good size with a set of twin beds and plenty of storage. Additional sleeping for up to two more adults is also available thanks to the sofa in the lounge – my daughter thought it was just the best thing ever getting to watch TV from her bed in the mornings!

Whitemead Site

Whitemead is set in a stunning location. Guests can access forest and cycling trails directly from the site meaning you can easily explore without getting in the car. The site is small enough to feel comfortable to let older children explore by themselves but big enough not to feel on top of your neighbour. There are numerous green spaces, parks, play areas and pretty walkways making evening strolls appealing to all ages. We loved walking about the site at the end of a busy day with the children while they whizzed about on bikes, scooters and skateboards!

Facilities & Activities

A number of park facilities were closed during our stay due to Covid restrictions including the indoor pool. I was initially disappointed to hear this (although totally understandable!) but once we were there we found ourselves so busy with other activities that it really didn’t make a difference.

We spent most of our evenings sat in the outside dining area while the children enjoyed the play areas or giggled over a game of cards. There’s a great seating area which looks across the park where you can easily keep track of the kids whilst having a bite to eat or a drink.

The on site restaurant was offering a take-away only service during our stay. The menu included a good range of family favourites including jacket potatoes, wood fired pizza and pie and chips. We were impressed with the level of consistent professionalism shown by staff in terms of hygiene and wearing of masks throughout our visits to the restaurant and bar areas.

Whitemead usually runs an extensive programme of activities including zorbing, archery, fencing, circus skills, science skills..the list goes on. Sadly a lot of these additional activities were unavailable due to Covid (damn you pesky virus!) but it does mean that once we’re all back on track there’ll be even more of a reason to visit.

Despite the current challenges our stay at Whitemead certainly felt like a typical, fun family summer break. The park was busy with families, there was alfresco live music in the evenings and there were still some activities taking place such as the Nature Trail. Whitemead has done a fantastic job at adapting to the situation while ensuring guests can feel safe and have fun at the same time. Top marks there!

Things to do

Our time at Whitemead was fleeting, but in 4 short days we packed in a lot of exploring. Here’s a little taster of just a few of the many family activities available either directly from the site or a short drive away:

Perrygrove Railway

Perrygrove is a magical little place perfect for steam train enthusiasts of all ages. After embarking at Perrygrove station the train takes you up the hill to Oakiron station where little ones can play on the Foxy Hollow play area before heading along the woodland trail to the Treetop Adventure. We all embraced the big kid inside during our visit here! A ticket allows you entry to the train as many times as you like – bring a picnic and make a day of it.

Family Cycle Trail

You can access the Forest of Dean Family Cycle via an access point opposite Whitemead’s main entrance. The full circular route is 11 miles along a fairly flat, purpose made gravelled track. The route takes you via local beauty spots such as Cannop Ponds, Beechenhurst and Lightmoor Colliery with plenty of pit stop points for refreshments along the way. As it was our youngest’s first ever bike ride we managed about 4.5km to Beechenhurst which is a great place to visit. I enjoyed this trail so much I returned the following day on my own for a run and bumped into a family of wild boar! Now that’s something I definitely won’t forget!

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail

Starting from the main Beechenhurst entrance the Sculpture Trail is a 4.5 mile woodland walk showcasing sculptures created by artists to interpret the Forest environment and the history of the local landscape. We chose a really soggy day (it was a torrential downpour!) to visit so only managed to see a few of the sculptures. However, it was definitely worth getting soaked for the chance to see the stained glass ‘cathedral’ piece which aims to highlight the forest as a natural place of worship. It certainly had us in awe! Isn’t it stunning?

We had a fantastic few days at Whitemead. The weather wasn’t great and yes, a few facilities were impacted by covid restrictions but none of these things really mattered. We found the accommodation to be above our expectations for a holiday park (really quite luxurious); staff helpful & professional; the site clean and well laid out but best of all the location and setting to be utterly stunning. Whitemead offers an ideal blend of comfort with a true sense of the outdoors – perfect for families like us who really enjoy active exploring. There are some great deals currently on offer for the Autumn which you can check out here. If, like we were, you’re unfamiliar with the Forest of Dean I can wholeheartedly recommend a visit. I can’t believe we’ve been missing out all this time, now we’re in the know we’ll certainly be visiting again!

Disclosure: We were invited to stay at Whitemead Forest Park in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

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