On the second day of our Lake District holiday, we decided to visit one of our favourite places not far from the holiday home – Whinlatter Forest Park. As the name suggests, there are lots of trees, and several paths that wind their way through them on the hillside. There’s also a Go Ape! course in the tree tops, and the park is popular with mountain bikers who hare up and down on the trails through the forest.
Once we’d parked in the already pretty full car park (it was a relatively good weather Sunday in the Easter holidays, so everyone was out), we made our way up to the visitors centre. Granny spotted a sign which said that there was currently a Gruffalo trail in the woods and that we could get an activity sheet for it from the kiosk. So we queued up and got our sheet, then set off into the deep dark woods in search of a Gruffalo!
Andrew was tasked with spotting the signs that had an arrow and a picture of the hairy creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws. We made our way through the winding paths, guided by Andrew’s navigational skills. Every now and then there was an activity log by the side of the path, which encouraged the kids to think about things related to the Gruffalo story. For example we had to match up animals like a mouse, snake and fox to their different homes, use our five senses to notice things in the woods, and write our names using sticks. This was all very fun whilst being educational and teaching us all about the forest. The sheet that we’d got from the kiosk was handy to write our answers to the activity questions down on, but in the end we forgot about this and decided it would be useful to repeat the activities when we got home to see how much Andrew could recall from the experience.
One of the activities was to collect 10 natural things from the forest floor. So as we walked, Andrew collected various items like stones, twigs, leaves, feathers and bark, and stuck them in the pockets of his yellow mack until they were full to the brim. We also had some lessons on tree-related things from Pop, the tree consultant, including the resin that we could see seeping out from holes in one tree’s trunk. Despite the first half of the walk being uphill, Andrew was keen to walk most of it, though he did get tired and hitch a lift in the sling on Daddy’s back near the top, then he got out again later on the way down. We joked that Daddy blended in well with the woodland with his squirrel print fabric sling.
Joel was mostly happy to be carried in his sling on my back, but as we neared the top of the walk, he got restless and wanted out, so he then walked all the way down again with Pop holding his reins, which was quite a way for little legs. The route back down the hill brought us through the adventure playground. This is a fantastic area for kids (and grown-ups!) of all ages. There are climbing frames and swings, but also some more unusual pieces of playground equipment including an Archimedes screw that picks up water from a stream and drops it off onto a wooden run which you can dam up in places and then release the water. Andrew was fascinated by this, and Joel liked the look of it so much that he climbed in! There is also an area of the park with gravel that you can shovel into buckets and tubes and then lift them up using pulleys onto the climbing frame which has chutes where you can drop the gravel down again. This was also popular with the boys — the adults as well as the kids!
At this point we were nearly back down to the start again. Once we’d had a good go on the playground, we decided that we’d all earned a nice drink and snack in the cafe. Clearly everyone else had thought this too so it was packed, but it was just about warm enough to sit outside with coats on, and actually we got a lovely view of the bird feeders hanging near the cafe, which were attracting lots of little birds to the seeds.
We had a lovely day out, and learned some interesting facts about the forest and its wildlife. Did we find the Gruffalo? Well no, but didn’t you know, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo! 😉