The story of hidden valley (Natures Garden)

Hidden Valley is part of the Blakemore Park agricultural Estate in West Gloucestershire set in a valley landscape of hillside pasture, ancient woodland, hazel groves and small lakes.

Traditionally it grazed sheep and had outdoor Gloucester Old Spot pigs that rummaged in the oak woodland for the acorns.

It lies in a valley that runs off May Hill and is hidden from sight. It comprises hill sides rising several hundred feet with spectacular viewing points, pockets of ancient woodland, small lakes, and a large Gloucestershire Apple and Blaisdon plum Orchard plus a wild flower meadow.

The old farmhouse has a sensory garden with a bullrush pool.

A small stream runs through the valley sourced from woodland and hillside Springs.

The Estate is set next to a medieval Turnpike road in a location of historical interest. Close by is a former Norman hunting lodge, iron ore quarries dating back to Roman times, and is on the edge of the Vale of Gloucester and within 3 miles of the Forest of Dean.

Only a few miles away is the birth place at Pauntley of Richard Whittington who did indeed become Lord Mayor of London on no fewer then 4 occasions between 1397 and 1420.

The valley offers many of natures wonders. The current farmer owners have dedicated the last 20 years to encouraging the natural features through traditional means. There has been no use of chemicals or herbicides and as a result the valley has seen an explosion of wildlife, flora and fauna, insects, butterflies and birdlife.

With the downturn in agriculture in the 1990’s the current farmer owners sort to diversify and at that stage converted outbuildings to a Visitor Centre for families with young children to visit the Countryside.

Buildings were converted into a restaurant and a massive indoor Play Barn. Walks around the valley were partially opened up and it became one of the main visitor attractions in the Forest of Dean.

It was awarded Visitor Attraction of the year and was runner up in the National Farm Attractions competition.

Water Shed

However the required closer of the Park in 2020 during the Coronavirus shutdowns caused the owners to reassess. It became clear that there were significant capacity restrictions on indoor facilities because of social distancing needs.

The answer was in fact staring everyone in the face and that was to open up and extend the outdoor element of Hidden Valley. Rather than furloughed staff a decision was made to spend the months of closure connecting up the many natural features of the valley by pathways and to further develop on the tasks already in hand.

Planning applications were made to enlarge the indoor facility to cope with social distancing but also to allow greater public access around the valley. The project became known as Hidden Valley.

The immediate project is to double the size of the existing indoor visitor centre so offering a massive heated complex that will be open all year round meaning social distancing does not become such an issue. Within the new complex there will be extended children’s play facilities and a new a gallery featuring a Who’s Who of Gloucestershire.

This will identify some 50 individuals born in Gloucestershire who both currently and historically have made great achievements. It includes war heroes, literary authors, great inventors and even one of Americas Founding Fathers.

There is also a history room of the times of Dick Whittington with information on the kings and events of the medieval era.

The Valley walks enable visitors to soak up Natures garden and to see the Flora and Fauna of the Valley, it’s insects, birds and wildlife. The flowers walks in the spring are stunning.

From the lake where the fish can be fed the trail meanders through meadows, up a zig zag path to the hill top view point where visitors can enjoy views over the valley and see in the distance the Forest of Dean and the mighty River Severn.

The ancient bluebell wood is very atmospheric and that leads into the traditional apple and plum orchard which in turn finishes in the farmhouse SENSORY GARDEN with its bullrush pond. The garden is a tranquil relaxing area with a separate disabled access.

Sit and listen to the sounds of nature like the humming of the bees. There is a water fountain. Absorb the garden colours and setting. The spring colour from the apple cherry and plum blossom is just wonderful.

The current owners love of nature has enabled Hidden Valley to be developed into an environmental experience with an explosion of flora, fauna, flower trails, birds, insects, wildlife, trees, shrubs, water and ancient woodland along with the traditional Gloucestershire orchards.

In the Spring you are greeted by a Wall of Colour with rivers of daffodils, tulips, mascaria and bluebells. Autumn sees the fantastic range of colours from the trees. The Red Canadian Maple are stunning.

The nature trails pick up such features as insect log villages, goslings in the spring, horse paddocks. The apple, plum and cherry blossom in the spring is atmospheric.

Visitors can finish off with food and drink in the Cat’s Whiskers restaurant and snack shop.

Visit the Who’s Who Gallery and Plant Centre, and even look into the stable yard to say hello to the horses and ponies.