The International Steam Pages

May Hill, West Gloucestershire's High Point

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2011 new life', for earlier and later pages use the West Gloucestershire link above.

Walking in the hills round Mitcheldean, it's impossible not to notice May Hill, it's a high point with a distinctive clump of trees and an open area around. It's well outside the Forest of Dean and at 296m it just tops the highest point in it (Ruardean Hill, 290m), both of which are just a shade higher than the ridge behind our home (279m). (

This is actually a late afternoon shot of it from the west side above the north end of Longhope village (Box Bush).

According to your point of view we were probably either 6 months late or 6 months early as May Day is the time to be here, but 1st November 2011 promised to be our last opportunity of the year for a long walk. After a misty start it was a glorious autumn day with stunning colours. We took the bus down to Huntley and after visiting the astonishing Victorian church set out along the Gloucestershire Way which climbs from behind the village junior school. There is a map at the end showing the route described here. To start with it was pretty bog standard stuff with Yuehong posing for the camera:

As we approached the village of May Hill, we got a better idea of what we might see close up. The old brick chimney in the field shows there was some kind of industrial heritage here, there was no time to investigate but most likely it was for some kind of saw-mill.

It cannot be cheap to live here these days, every house we saw could best be described as 'well-appointed' with large, well kept gardens. This one had a most interesting feature, clearly a redundant railway signal box...

Unlike many of the footpaths in the area, this one is both well maintained and properly signposted, there was no need to get the map out at the top of the village we were joined by the Wysis Way. Most of the upper area of the hill belongs to the National Trust although the top belongs to Longhope Village (through its Parish Council):

Looking back, there are views down to the River Severn and the Cotswold Hills around Stroud on the far side:

It's a broad trail up, said to be a former drover's route, we both posed for our 'autumn colours' pictures:

Much of the top of the hill is almost bare, a thin layer of peat on stone heavily grazed to keep the grass down. There is some gorse and ferns.

The copse has a ditch around it of indeterminate age and on the summit is what used to be the obligatory 'trig point' (

The copse is anything but natural, its origins are lost in history although the most recent plantings are commemorated.

On a clear day it is said you can see between 10 and 12 counties. The upper view is down to Ross-on-Wye and Hereford while that below has the Malvern Hills in the distance, geologically of the same age.

Having come north-west from Huntley, the Gloucestershire Way turns sharply left to the south-west. This meant we now got views towards the hill above Mitcheldean:

The hill down was overrun with sheep and near the bottom, we crossed the trackbed of the old Gloucester - Hereford line. The extra width of the embankment here suggests it may have been the site of the temporary Hopesbrook Station which was, for two years between 1853 and 1855, the terminus of the line from Grange Court, presumably while Lea Tunnel was being completed although I have read that the single track line was constructed in the expectation it would be doubled at some stage.

Unlike previous walks which had not always gone to plan, this one was near perfection, two minutes later we came to the main A40 and on the opposite side was the Nag's Head. We enjoyed the a pint of Butcombe in the sunshine and then went inside for a Sharp's Doom Bar. The array of brasses met with Yuehong's approval and I'm pleased to say that's a camera she's fondling and not a mobile phone!

At this stage it could have been two buses home which I might have done with my bus pass in a previous existence but when there's two of you out and about it's much more fun to carry on walking... The Gloucestershire Way goes slightly south of Mitcheldean so we followed the Wysis Way, which is not quite as well signposted in this area, at least. I have to confess that horses have never done much for me but these were very friendly, at least until they discovered we weren't carrying sugar lumps, whereupon they walked off.

The shadows lengthened and the views just kept on coming:

Eventually the 'heavy brigade' decided they wanted their picture taken too:

It was time to head for home, we had seen just three dog walkers and another 'baby boomer' couple in over 4 hours of walking. Not everyone has to 'go to the office', what a shame so few chose to get out and enjoy such a day.. Finally here a last couple of shots that probably look like 'Photoshop jobs' . Sometimes I feel very sorry for those who choose to live in an urban environment:

This is a map of the route from Google:

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson