Recently we visited Grizedale Forest in the Lake District to go in search of the elusive Gruffalo on their Gruffalo Spotters Trail. For the past couple of Christmases and birthdays Willow has got lots of different Julia Donaldson books so we have been reading the Gruffalo and other stories for a while now. We’ve also watched the Gruffalo’s Child on TV so we knew she would recognise the characters. Added to that we all love being outdoors in the fresh air so thought this would be a perfect family day out for us.
In true Dooney-Springall style we packed up a massive picnic (we never go anywhere without a stock of food) and set off to find the Gruffalo. Beforehand we checked the Forestry Commission website so we knew where to go and what to expect. It instructed us to download a free app which would enable us to see the Gruffalo characters come to life. We were also told to go to the visitor’s centre where you could buy an explorers kit for £3. Inside was an activity book and pencil with things to spot and mark off as you go, information cards, a magnifying glass for hunting for Gruffalo clues and some stickers. It was a little old for Willow but she loved the stickers. It’s perfect for older children. We saw loads of them on our way round the trail excitedly marking things off in their little books.
Off we go
The trail was a really easy going little ramble around the beautiful Grizedale Forest. Along the way there were signs giving hints of which character you were about to find. Willow is obsessed with owls so just shouted “owl” regardless of which character it was! At certain points in the trail you just need to get your phone out, open the app and focus it on the sign as instructed. Lo and behold the characters come to life in front of you. It was fab. Willow could watch them appear and move around on our phones and you could pose for photos.
More by luck than anything, we have photos where it looks like Willow is touching or talking to the animals. She couldn’t quite get her head around it but thought it was great. Along our way we saw the mouse, fox, owl, snake and of course saving the best until last the Gruffalo! Once we established he was feeling friendly we even dared pat him on the head!
Along the trail there were small houses for little people to explore. Willow got in one and wouldn’t come out for ages saying it was her house. There were also giant keys planted in tree trunks which when wound up would play lovely music which sounded like it was magically coming out of the ground.
With Willow toddling along it took us about an hour to do the trail but that’s only because she stayed in the little houses for so long. She also wanted to pick up every leaf and twig along the way and climb on everything. We found some Gruffalo poo (fir cones) which has taken pride of place on the kitchen windowsill ever since! We totally encouraged this as we want her to explore and learn about different environments. It can get a bit muddy outside of the summer months so I recommend wellies for all the family.
There are Gruffalo Spotters Trails at several Forestry Commission sites across the country so check out their website to see if there is one near you.
Have you been Gruffalo spotting? Did you manage to find him? Have you done anything similar to this with your family? I’d love to hear your recommendations.
Speak soon, Kat x