I do not know of any family who doesn't love The Gruffalo. When we heard he was making an appearance in some deep dark woods (aka Hamsterley Forest in Durham) near us, we all couldn't wait to visit.
After parking our car we picked up our trail packs from the Forest cafe - lovely forest bags in which to collect pinecones, leaves, twigs and other forest treasures. A Gruffalo nature spotters sheet, activity leaflet and pencil are also included. These only cost £2 and are definitely worth it.
The trail is extremely well signposted (just look for The Gruffalo signs) and took us about 90 minutes to complete including a good play in the play area approximately half way along the trail. Start at the Forest Cafe.
Every so often you will come across a special 'Gruffalo activity sign'. These were lots of fun and even the grown ups joined in - we ended up barking like a fox, spinning around like a seed and hunting for slug slime - lots of fun and definitely kept us entertained.
You also have to keep your eyes peeled for characters from The Gruffalo and make a note of the letter they are holding to make a word at the end of the trail.
Hamsterley forest is gorgeous, dog friendly and accessible for buggies and prams - the whole family can come along and nobody needs to stay at home.
We were very excited when we spotted The Gruffalo himself - he is very realistic and does indeed have a poisonous wart at the end of his nose and purple prickles all over his back!
We stopped half way through the trail to play at the adventure play area - if you have very small children who aren't good walkers I would maybe suggest this is where your trail ends. There are picnic tables for grown ups and our children loved the play equipment.
While Harry and Heidi were playing, Jack and daddy plodged over the river onto an island and I took the opportunity to practice my close up photography skills taking pictures of some of the 'forest treasure' our children had found.
Then it was time to continue our walk along the trail - taking part in more Gruffalo activity boards and ticking off more finds on our spotters sheet.
I don't know why but I expected the trail to run in a circle and we would finish at the start - it didn't! Make sure you pick up a map from the visitor centre or, as we did, walk back the way you came to the start.
By this point, our eight year old did start whining that he was cold, hungry and thirsty - In hindsight I probably should have packed us some drinks and snacks. Not to worry though, we were soon back in the warmth of the cafe where we ordered picnic boxes for the children and cake and hot chocolates for the grown ups. Food was very reasonably priced and I loved how there was a separate room for those dining with dogs!
Hints and Tips
- The Gruffalo's Child trail continues until 28th February
- Make sure you wear wellies and wrap up warm
- The cafe is open 11am-4pm on weekends only
- The toilet block is undergoing refurbishment (hopefully open by February half term) so the only toilets available are portable toilets in the car park
- The information point where you can collect leaflets and maps is open daily 9am-5pm
- Car parking is charged at £3 per car per day, entry to the forest and trail is FREE
- Gruffalo activity bags are available to purchase for £2 from the cafe
We had a fantastic afternoon and loved the first part of the trail, the gruffalo sculpture and the adventure playground. I was not overly impressed with the trail after the adventure playground though, especially as you have to double back on yourself to get back to the car. If you have children who tire easy, maybe give this section a miss and end your trail at the playground. If they love walking though (and spotting cows) certainly give this section a go too. Either way, Hamsterley Forest is certainly worth a visit.
Postcode:- DL13 3NL