A car-free trip to the Forest of Dean: a moss-cloaked corner of ancient England

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Trains, buses, cycle routes and footpaths lead to magical scenery and magnificent wildlife in a landscape steeped in history

It’s so dark, it makes no difference whether my eyes are closed or open. The only sound is breathing and a faint ripple when I weightlessly shift position in the salt-laden, skin-warm fluid. Inside an egg-shaped pod at Float in the Forest, one of my personal nightmares (being left alone for an hour with my own thoughts and no distractions) turns out to be a strange, peaceful experience, where time is condensed and space expands. Initially sceptical, my husband, Luke, also emerges from his pod and declares the experience “profoundly relaxing as few things are” (£60, book ahead).

We’re visiting the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire for a car-free spring break and our hotel is a leafy 15-minute bus ride from the flotation centre. Thrice-daily bus 27 is cash only with no number on the front (just the company name FR Willetts), and people greet each other as they board. We chat to Julia, “born and bred a forester and proud of it”, who tells us: “Town people are weird. They don’t understand the slow pace of country life.” As if to prove her point, at that moment the bus detours carefully round a sheep with two new lambs suckling unconcernedly in the middle of the road.

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