Travelling with ink: Forest of Dean.

For our mid-summer break this year my wife, mother-in-law and I spent a week in the woods. This was not camping, but staying in one of the comfortable, self-catering cabins on a site run by Forest Holidays.

Whereas last year we had chosen a location near Winchester, Hampshire, as recounted in my post Travelling with ink: Blackwood Forest, this time we chose the Forest of Dean, Gloucestshire, and also went for a full seven days rather than three. It proved to be a good choice and we had also picked a week of warm sunny weather.

With the happy prospect of having some time to write, I enjoyed picking the line-up for a week away. After much deliberation (or dithering) I settled upon the yellow Aurora Talentum (my most recent pen purchase), a vintage Montblanc 34, Esterbrook Estie, Delike New Moon, and a Duke 552 bamboo barrel pen. Also I brought the Lamy 2000 multi-pen, a Sailor multi-pen/pencil and finally a Pentel 120 A3 0.7mm pencil, making eight writing implements in all.

The 8 writing implements for the trip.

To write on, or in, I brought a fresh Leuchtturm A5 notebook for daily journal writing, another A5 notebook for everything else, one A4 notebook (good for planning and drafting) and finally a small Silvine pocket notebook – which is always handy for jotting down addresses, phone numbers, directions or any notes made while out and about.

The fountain pens were inked with various colours but I decided to bring only one bottle of ink, Pelikan 4001 Konigsblau and so if any of them needed refilling, it would be royal blue or nothing. In the event, I did refill the Talentum mid-week. Whilst I like the Konigsblau, I did notice that the pen seemed to write a little drier and with less lubrication than with the Montblanc Royal Blue that it had started with. But it is useful to have a drier ink sometimes, to compensate for pens that might otherwise write very wet.

Our cabin was very spacious and slept six people, (as my sister and her family were to join us for part of the week). The open plan sitting/dining room had a large oak table with floor-to-ceiling windows and was a lovely bright place to sit, especially in the early morning when the room was cool. It did become very warm in the afternoons but we were generally out then.

The living area. There is a hot tub (with a chair lift) outside.

From our base, it was about a two-mile walk, through tranquil forest paths, to the stunning views from Symonds Yat rock, looking down on a beautiful section of the Wye Valley.

The Wye Valley, at Symonds Yat.

Our nearest small town was Coleford. Here in a local newsagents, I was pleased to find some A5 notebooks called Companion, with nicely textured soft covers in bright colours, and 240 pages of unlined, 80gsm cream paper. I knew of these from purchasing one in blue last year in a post office in Surrey. It turned out to be very pleasing and I wished I had picked up the other colours (red and yellow). Here was the chance to rectify that oversight.

Coleford town centre.

For a larger town, we were about 20 minutes drive from Ross-on-Wye. Whenever visiting another town and exploring the shops I do keep one eye open for any fountain pen shops. It is rare to find one of course, although Ross-on-Wye has a WH Smiths. I had a cursory look at the Fountain Pen section, in particular to see whether they had the newish Parker Vector XL, which I had seen recently in London – not that I would necessarily have bought one, but just as a bit of research. I was not to find one all week.

New notebooks to add to the stash.

A similar distance drive took us to Monmouth, another pretty and colourful high street, and lined with bunting for the Queen’s platinum jubilee, and with some attractive side streets and river views and plenty of history, although not the best choice for fountain pen shopping.

Monmouth’s famous medieval gate tower, on the Monnow Bridge.

A bit further afield, along scenic country roads, we also spent a day in Ledbury, Herefordshire. This is a very attractive town, famed for its half-timbered buildings and historic market building and some nice independent shops for books and clothes, but I did not find any specialist fountain pen shops in evidence.

Ledbury’s market building.

On our last full day, we visited Tintern Abbey, the impressive ruins of a Cistercian monastery beside the Wye River with wooded hillsides making a picture postcard backdrop. Once there, it seemed silly not to drive on for the short distance to visit Chepstow.

A view inside Tintern Abbey

Here, I did find a shop called First Stop Stationery, with displays of Lamy, Schreiber and other pens and a large glass display cabinet for the more expensive pens. On closer inspection, these were from Cross, Parker, Waterman, Sheaffer, Lamy, Pilot, Faber-Castell and possibly some others. Some notable examples were the Waterman Carene, Faber-Castell Ondorro, several pilot Vanishing Points, a smart Lamy Accent in the glossy black with ringed section and even the newly revived Parker 51 gold nib version which I had not previously seen in the flesh although I was not sufficiently tempted to buy one. I did at least buy some Parker cartridges in blue black.

A row of houses on Castle Terrace, Chepstow.

In our final hours of retail therapy, we headed back up to Ross-on-Wye where I had spotted a mandolin a few days earlier, in the window of River Music, in Broad Street. It was still there. I had felt in need of a mandolin, having accidently broken my old one recently when falling off a stool, whilst passing items up to the attic. It had fallen down the stairs, in its soft gig-bag but the neck was broken in two and I adjudged it to be a write-off.

The music shop had a display of ukuleles and a banjolele but it was the Tanglewood mandolin in “Wine red” that tempted me. I am very much a beginner and can play only a few chords, but recently have been captivated watching musicians such as Sierra Hull, Josh Turner, Sam Bush and Chris Thile and whilst they are all in another league, there is a lot of fun to be had from making music, trying to improve and getting to know your way around the fingerboard.

The shop owner told me how he had lowered the action on this instrument, by paring off some wood from the base of the bridge so that the strings sat closer to the neck. He had done a good job, making it much nicer to play, but without overdoing it so that the strings buzzed on the frets. This was a real bonus, rather like buying a fountain pen when the nib has been expertly tuned. At a similar price to an Esterbrook Estie, you get a lot for your money, (although he had me at “Wine red”). And so it was to come home to London with me.

A Tanglewood mandolin in Wine red.

It is probably just as well that there were not more fountain pens shops in this lovely part of the world and I am glad not to have purchased any more. But when a mandolin calls you, somehow nothing else will do.

10 thoughts on “Travelling with ink: Forest of Dean.

  1. Hi Rupert
    My wife and I much enjoyed your article about the preparations for travel and the selection of pens and notebooks. I used your article to prove to her that she had (by comparison to some) not married a pen obsessive, with your decision to take 8 writing instruments and 4 notebooks for a week’s trip.

    But then I realised I was hoisting myself with my own petard as we are driving down today to Devon to see a daughter for 2 1/2 days and I found it “necessary” to take 4 writing instruments:
    -a Pilot 823- which is my permanent travelling pen as it has a huge reservoir of ink
    -a Pelikan M600 Black
    – a Pelikan M600 Violet White
    – a Leonardo Officina Momento Magico ‘Mango’
    And three notebooks:
    – a small A6 Muji spiral bound jotter
    – a Leuchturm 1917 A5 notebook
    – a large A5 refillable Muji notebook.

    So, by comparison to me, you were actually quite restrained…


    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Philip for your very amusing comments. I see we share some common ground here.
      I hope you have a wonderful stay in Devon and don’t find yourself lacking in any stationery. 🙂


  2. Always enjoy reading these and last time looked up how much these chalets were.

    Shame you did not head over to Hay-on-Wye as there is a full fat stationary/pen shop there – Bartrums (not related afaik to the US store).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That mandolin is gorgeous. There is definitely a correlation between fountain pens and musical instruments – they share a melding of technical complexity and aesthetic pleasure. Mind you, there would be more than eyebrows raised if you tried to argue the case for taking eight musical instruments on holiday with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Pamela. I count myself lucky to have been in the right place at the right time with the mandolin. There was a choice of one only but that was enough and made matters very simple! It is an entry level model, from its price and materials but feels well made and has a good bright sound and sustain. Higher end models boast solid wood (rather than laminated) tops, back and sides but I actually prefer that it is a less precious model to practice on. Interestingly the fingerboard is something called “Techwood” which, if I understand correctly, is a wood which is heat-treated to give it the properties of a rosewood, (a wood which is now subject to export bans for environmental reasons) so it is a great sounding, low cost, environmentally friendly alternative. I shall try not to drop this one down the stairs.


  4. Hi Rupert,

    Thank you for sharing. That looks like a wonderful area to have a holiday and I will put that on my list of places to go. Reading your blog post and comments makes me feel so much better that my love of fountain opens hasn’t gone too far! Or has it?

    My preparation started last year as we booked a once in a lifetime 4 week cruise around Alaska and the US to celebrate reaching a certain birthday milestone.

    In the UK we see it as getting older but in the Far East they celebrate Kanreki and rather than being seen as getting older, it’s viewed as a rebirth. The reason for this is when a person turns 60, they have gone through the Chinese zodiac cycle a total of five times and are now back at their original birth zodiac.

    I liked that idea of a rebirth and finding a Sailor Pro Gear Kanreki that is based on that idea just seemed like fate. It’s also a sublime 23kt fine nib and will be my main pen over the next year. Partnered with a Platinum 3776 Century Kanazawa Haku Matsu-Tora (Pine & Tiger). The year of the Tiger being my birth year.

    I’ve never written a journal before so I’m aiming to start my rebirth with a Journal of the holiday.

    However, two pens for a month is clearly not enough. Instead I’d planned on taking six but your post has made me see that is entirely delusional!

    I’m so pleased I’ve read your post before we went on holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your great comments. I am pleased that my blog post was of some help in showing this part of the UK and also showing someone deeper in the rabbit hole than yourself! However it sounds like you may surpass me with your planned writing tools for the cruise. You found a great excuse to buy the Kanreki! As you are taking two Japanese pens, why not balance this with two German and two Italian pens, for example?
      The cruise sounds fabulous. Have a great trip.


  5. Incredible post Rupert, I am so glad that I stumbled upon this read.

    Simply stunning sceneries, instantly put a spell on me with breathtaking beauty of the place.

    This also reminds me of an incredible journey I took with my wife in a small island nation called ‘Sri Lanka’ in South Asia in the beginning of this year.

    Trust me when i say this, it was truly the ‘pearl of Asia’ mind blowing wild life, culture, people, food and unspoiled destinations it was purely a one for the memory vaults for us. I made a post from my journal entries on the journey and you are more than welcome to have a look through here,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments and for visiting the blog.
      I enjoyed reading your post about your trip to Trincomalee. It looks like you and Darshi had a fantastic time seeing the sights, and the beauty of nature, even doing some scuba diving. Thank you for sharing your memories and photos.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.