Despite the fact that we’ve visited Delamere Forest on numerous occasions, it’s always been as part of a much longer walk or hike. The lovely Sandstone Trail, for instance, passes straight through the forest and its many tracks and routes. However, with a nearly 3 year old and a newly 1 year old, we now had another reason to visit: the Gruffalo Trail.
Having pushed reading on both of our kids from a very young age, it delights me to say that they both love books and the bedtime reading ritual is one we cherish. We’ve already worked our way through much of the literary canon in priority order. Consequently, Jesse’s knowledge of Star Wars and comic books is already off the scale. However, we’re always sure to incorporate more traditional books too, The Gruffalo among them. So, with a fresh reading of the text still in our minds, we set off on the short drive to Delamere.
Located in the middle of the Cheshire plains, Delamere Forest is the county’s largest woodland. The tracks and forest roads provide easy walking terrain for even the earliest walkers or those who are less able or less physically fit. It really is a destination that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Arriving at the main car park, you can pick up a walking trails map from the café or the bike shop. Each map is £1.50 and while the first map will enable you to explore one of the six trails that the forest has to offer, it was the Gruffalo Trail map that we were interested in this time.
The map itself is very child friendly and, while it does engage youngsters with its illustrations, large font and bright colours, it still contains within it an accurately depicted map. As a result, it’s perfect for teaching toddlers and young children the fundamentals of map reading. For example, with just 12 checkpoints and no unwarranted symbols or features, it provides a great opportunity to get your kids orienting the map. As each of the other major trail routes (in this particular area) and the railway line feature on the map, it’s pretty straightforward for even a young child to locate themselves and continue to turn the map in order to successfully follow the directions of the trail.
At just 1.5 miles in length the trail is also just about the perfect distance for older toddlers and younger children to manage by themselves. Furthermore, the many dens that have been set up in the woodland along the way provide them with lots of welcome rest points. Here they’ll happily play, explore and forage, using their imaginations to create wonderful and exciting scenarios.
Once you have located each checkpoint the trail map has a correlating question for you. All of the questions are structured around the outdoors, nature and woodland animals and habits, so these are another great learning opportunity for younger kids. It’s also a nice idea to build in some time after each question to find a woodland space to discover examples of the habitats etc. that the answers reveal. This will further enhance their enjoyment and appreciation of the outdoors.
Once you have finished the trail and discovered the Gruffalo statue it’s back to the café for some well-earned tea and cake. The café has a good selection of food and generally has enough space between its indoor and outdoor seating areas to ensure your little ones can rest their little legs. The car park is £4 for 3 hours or £6 all day and, during busy periods, I’d advise getting their early otherwise you may be forced to park a little way away in one of the other forest car parks.
So, if your kids are Gruffalo fans and love spending their time outdoors, why not combine the two by doing the Gruffalo Trail? I’m sure you’ll all have a blast.