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FOREST OF DEAN

The forest’s rural beauty has inspired storytellers for generations, but past the gnarled branches is a more poignant side to this English woodland
ILLUSTRATION: JACQUI OAKLEY

After seven years of living overseas, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that when I started to write a novel, it was about my roots — almost literally. The Forest of Dean is a bit like the drummer in the band; hidden behind its louder, better-known mates — like nearby Cheltenham, the Cotswolds, the Welsh Valleys — and favoured by a select, contrary few. It’s 42sq miles of ancient mixed woodland and one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, containing limestone cliffs, sweeping river views, and magical forest paths that twist and turn through moss-covered trees. As Dennis Potter, the Forest’s most famous son, put it: “It’s a strange and beautiful place, with a people who were as warm as anywhere else, but they seemed warmer to me.” Storytellers have long seen the possibilities of this secret landscape; as well as Potter’s works, it’s credited with being the inspiration for Middle Earth in JRR Tolkien’s books, and has featured in everything from Doctor Who to Star Wars, as well the Harry Potter books.

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

We grab our binoculars and set out to discover the awe-inspiring wildlife of India, scouting out the likes of Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinos and snow leopards in some of the subcontinent’s most dramatic national parks. Elsewhere, we explore the winelands of southern Australia; cross the frozen frontier of the Antarctic Circle; and spend a long weekend in the city of Leeuwarden. Other highlights this issue include the Faroe Islands, Tel Aviv, Manhattan, Tokyo and Santiago, while our photo story takes in the fresh air and Alpine beauty of Switzerland.