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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 20 April 2014
I love the series as the mapping is clear and walks tend to be varied and well worth doing. Sometimes the written instructions are less clear as occasionally a step is missing - e.g walk 6 "Ahead, the narrowing tip of the field ushers you to a kissing gate. Walk away at the edge of grazing to another kissing gate " - sounded to me as if we shouldn't go through the first gate but look for a second. In fact we needed to go through the first, cross a field and then go through the second. Walk 3 started brilliantly but we met some locals who told us the path in the book no longer existed had been gone for years - the good mapping showed another. alternative path which we could take but unfortunately it was not visible on the ground as it was early in the year and hadn't been trodden down yet. We landed up following the re-routed Wye valley walk and had to go back for 2 miles along a road. The update only 3 years ago seems not to have taken the re-route into account.
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As a keen walker and 'local' living in the Wye Valley/Forest of Dean, I was very keen to accept the invitation from Pathfinder Guides to review their range of local walking guides, particularly as I have previously written area guides and walk routes myself and know the local area and its footpaths well.

The book includes 28 walks of varying difficulty starting with a 2.5 mile walk of 1.5 hours around White Castle through to the 10.5m strenuous hike around Hay Bluff, part of the Black Mountains range. Although described as 'Wye Valley and Forest of Dean' walks, neither of these, nor the 'Sugar Loaf' route (more suited to the Brecon Beacons area), are actually within the typically-defined area of the Wye Valley but they add variety to the book and include very different terrains from flat, easy and gentle to a tougher hill-walk in the mountainous Welsh borders.

The range of walks are varied and cover the mid-Wye Valley southwards from Hay-on-Wye following the route of the Wye to Ross-on-Wye and Goodrich then into the Lower Wye Valley down to Chepstow where the Wye flows into the Severn Estuary and heads for the sea. No walks book in this area would be complete without including the many quiet woodland footpaths of the adjacent Forest of Dean and some of the best have been included.

The book is laid out well with walks grouped by distance up to 2.5 hours, 3-3.5 hours and the longer walks of 4 hours or more, all of which are easily identified by a colour tab for quick reference. Routes can be selected at a glance from a map of the area and this is followed by an 'at a glance' summary page of each route listing distance, time, height gain (important for those of us less keen on steep hills!) plus a short description of each. There is also a well-researched short local history of the area including pre-history, border strife, the Forest's industrial past and the changing role of the River Wye from transport to leisure.

As a local walker and route researcher, I am already familiar with most of the routes and can vouch for them being amongst the best the area has to offer and the authors have carefully devised their routes to include some of the best viewpoints too, including the world famous Symonds Yat Rock viewpoint and the spectacular view from the Devil's Pulpit over Tintern Abbey. The route maps and directions are clear to follow as well as being accurate and these are supplemented by good photography, presumably

Although the routes were first published in 1991, they have been revised and updated to reflect changes in the footpaths and even included the (relatively) new visitor facilities at Goodrich Castle - all very good to see in a guidebook and reassuring to see that it is up to date.

For anyone either lucky enough to live in the Wye Valley/Forest of Dean area or just visiting to enjoy it for a short while, this is an excellent book to help you enjoy some of the best the area has to offer and it is suited to all levels of ability from a gentle afternoon stroll to a full day's stiff walk for the more serious.

A highly recommended book for all.
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Having camped in the Forest of Dean/The Wye Valley virtually every summer as a child and staying nearby frequently as an adult, this is an area of the country with which I am very familiar. Overall I have found the instructions for the walks I have tackled have been sufficiently detailed that, along with well-marked paths and an ordnance survey map, there is little chance of taking the wrong path - and an outside chance of spotting a red squirrel on one of the forest trails (or even in one of the forestry car parks).

The 28 Walks are divided up into three categories: short and easy, modest length with some uphill walking and thirdly challenging ones that involve more rugged terrain. They range in length from 2.5 to 10.5 miles and each gives an indication of the approximate height gain you'll experience so you can be prepared for the uphill stretches. 10 walks are graded easy, 10 moderate and 8 more challenging. Timings are fairly accurate as long as you do not have an avid photographer amongst the group to slow you down.

One favourite is the walk at Newland; it's only 3 miles long and takes about 2 hours, conveniently starting and ending at the Church located opposite The Ostrich Pub. Try to avoid arriving between the hours of 12-2 as the pub is extremely popular and parking (there isn't a carpark) is along a very narrow country road that soon becomes full. We have found it best to arrive at about 10 in the morning so that we have time to walk before having lunch at the pub (which is well worth a visit even if you don't intend to do the walk).

The walk at Symonds Yat (a more challenging 9.5 miles) is another worthwhile option but if you don't have the minimum 4.5 hours to spare then you can always drive and just take in the view (there is a car park a short walk from the viewpoint high above the Wye). You might just be lucky enough to spot some of the birds of prey that tend to nest nearby.

Whilst I already owned an earlier copy of the book, the most recent version was provided without charge for review purposes.
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on 22 May 2015
I am now a committed user of the Pathfinder series of books having bought this as my first.
I like the details of the walks they are generally decent quality and easy enough to follow.
I like the fact that there is a map extract to aid in the navigation.

We originally made the mistake when we first started walking to try one of the orange walks because it was close to us.
Well after completing it and then not being able to walk for about 3 days after we decided on the more sensible approach to starting on the greed walks and moving on up to the oranges at the end.

We have now completed every walk in the book and I would say all bar two were fantastic with a contrast in walks. We now consider ourselves a lot fitter and happier and this book, with it being the first has helped us a lot in that process.
We have actually done a couple of the walks twice, due to the weather not being perfect the first time.
We have subsequently bought and are working through the Brecons, Mid Wales and the Marches, Cotswolds and also Hampshire in the series.

These are by far the best books I have found for directions.

I do however also buy the maps for the area also to have with me and always carry a day sack with the map and compass, especially when you are on to the more remote walks and venturing through some more rough terrain.
The best thing I also invested in for me was a GPS, I am not saying get a really really expensive one, but I use the GPS coordinates provided in the book to plot out a route, I then will plot a track by following the map and I send them to my GPS. Many smart phones can do almost as good a job but it is definately worth the time.
I then have my very own personal guide with me to verify where I am for those few times that we all have, where the reassurance of a confirmation saying you are on the correct path is all that is required.
All in all very happy with the book and enjoying seeing our beautiful countryside.
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on 12 September 2013
the book was ok for the holiday we just had in the area, gave details of walks which had different lenghs. the only thing is no sat nav reference or similar to find the start points.
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on 13 December 2013
Great product, the walks are so informative, it gives you so much information! From type of walk, dog friendly or not, close pubs, everything's such a good book. Get it!!
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on 20 August 2013
good information and easy to follow instructions. does exactly what it said it would. a good guide to anyone wish to explore this area.
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on 16 October 2015
Have used this book many times. As with all books of this type the countryside (because of change ) is not always accurate but we haven't got lost at all!
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on 25 August 2015
An ideal book for someone planning a walking holiday in the area with good descriptions and maps.
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on 11 August 2014
Magnificent area to visit - Symond's Yat. Very useful guide
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