A mouse took a stroll in the deep, dark woods… and so did we! A few weeks ago, we laced up our trainers, donned our wet weather gear and took ourselves off Gruffalo hunting at Haldon Forest Park, Devon. Since getting our dog nearly eight years ago now, I’ve discovered a real fondness for walking. Whether it’s mooching around the lanes near our house or exploring new paths, it genuinely is one of my favourite things to do. As much as I love clearing my head by walking with just the dog, let’s face it, that doesn’t happen that often these days! Instead, we can usually be found traipsing around with the dog, the double buggy and half of our worldly possessions in the basket. Nevertheless, I still love it.
From a parenting point of view, a good walk wears the toddler out a treat. It also seems to send the baby to sleep, regardless of whether she’s in the baby carrier or in the double buggy. It also gives us a chance to reconnect with each other whilst we wander along. So with that in mind on a wet Sunday morning, we decided to head to Haldon Forest Park and burn off some of his excess energy nice and early in the day.
Haldon has two Gruffalo-style activities. The first takes the format of a trail that you follow, where along the way you’ll find creatures from ‘The Highway Rat’ tale before finding the Gruffalo at the end. We did this walk back in the winter time and loved it. It’s flat and at 1.5miles it’s a nice length for little legs, although I’d recommend an off road buggy or carrier for toddlers as it was a bit too long for our (determined to walk everywhere) two year old.
Since then, they’ve rebranded the route with the Highway Rat creatures and activities. For those who fancy it, you can purchase an activity pack for the Highway Rat trail for £3. Or, you can do what we did and walk it without the pack, spotting each point along the way. Whatever you fancy!
Recently they’ve launched a new activity which is aimed at older children; a Gruffalo Orienteering Challenge. You visit the site shop to buy a map for £1.50 which then shows you where you need to go in order to find the twelve creatures from the book. The animals are dotted around the forest and are numbered which helps to give you some structure to the walk.
As a map reading challenge, it’s pretty good. Given that the two year old wasn’t that much help at orienteering, Dave and I put our minds to the challenge and soon found ourselves enjoying hunting down the various creatures. At each animal, there’s a picture and a small bit of information text which links to the questions you have to answer such as ‘what snake is the most common in the UK?’ or ‘what colour is the butterfly?’.
We were worried that a two year old would lose interest but he loved finding the signs and answering the easier questions, whilst we took to tackling the map work! The path ended up taking you all over the site which included some fairly big hills but as it was all buggy friendly, it was only us that suffered them, the kids sat happily in their nice dry chariot! Older children would have no issues with the walk and would definitely be able to handle the map and the quiz aspects.
At the end, make your way up to the play park and see if you can spot the Gruffalo keeping an eye on things in the woods. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there’s even Go Ape on site, with courses for both adults and children. Or, if you’re more like me, then there’s a cafe there too!
Haldon Forest Park is just outside of Exeter in Devon. The site is signposted with brown signs and can be found by sat nav at EX6 7XR. Parking is on site and is a little pricey but they will accept card payments for it if you go into the shop. Likewise, activity packs and the Gruffalo trail map can be purchased from there. The site contains plenty of walking and biking trails some of which require more exertion than others. Both of the trails I’ve mentioned are nice, easy walks aimed at little legs and are completely accessible for buggies as they’re almost completely on paths. That said, I’d make sure it’s an off-road buggy, just for the suspension aspect!