A few weeks ago, I blogged about a few trips we were hoping to make now Spring is here (although it’s apparently set to disappear again this weekend). Anyway, since then, we’ve met the Gruffalo in the woods and played in the Stickman playground, so it’s time to report back…
The Gruffalo Trail
Remember that nice, bright, sunny, Sunday a few weeks back – you know, pretty much the only one there’s been? We set off to Thornden Country Park to try the Gruffalo Trail. My fellow blogger Rachael’s little boy (and dad) came too.
It was a lovely day to be in the woods. The sun shone through the trees – the light was beautiful. We went straight to the visitors’ centre and paid 50p for our maps, which the toddlers took charge of immediately. The circuit through the woods is quite short. It doesn’t take that long, although you’re invited to climb on fallen logs, make dens or simply use the ones that other visitors have already made. But the most amazing thing was…
… both toddlers walked all the way round.
There wasn’t a single request to be carried. They were both keen to find the next character in the story and they were spaced near enough not to lose a two-year-old’s bite-sized attention span. We looked up in the trees to find a squirrel and start our journey. We then met the mouse and had to look carefully for the fox who was peeking out of his underground house. We went on to meet the other characters in the story, finishing up with the Gruffalo’s child and the Gruffalo.
Afterwards, we had our sandwiches in the picnic area, where the toddlers continued to play happily.
The next weekend, my little one asked excitedly, “Can we go to the woods again?” (The answer was “No, we need to pop to Westfield” but that’s beside the point.) We’ll definitely be going back to the Gruffalo trail. It’s about 35 minutes in the car from Bow, East London, and you can easily extend your walk or jump in the car and go to the nearby Stickman trail (see below).
What? The Gruffalo Trail, Thornden Country Park
Where? Head for Thornden North car park: Thorndon North, The Avenue, Brentwood
When? The visitor centre at Thornden North is open every day in the summer (check here).
How much? Free (50p for a Gruffalo Trail map)
Facilities and access There’s plenty of parking but you need to pay, with proceeds going back into the upkeep if the park. There is a cafe, but the menu’s a bit limited and I don’t think they really cook on-site, so bring your own sandwiches and make the most of the picnic area. There are also toilets and baby change facilities.
The Stickman Trail
We tried out the Stickman Trail on the first day of Spring. It was a bright clear day, but… a bit cold. So we started out in the Stickman playground near the carpark and it received the toddler stamp of approval (as opposed to the toddler foot stamp of non-approval). Everything is made of wood and there’s plenty to climb over.
We popped into the visitor centre/cafe to get deer food and a Stickman Trail map, and ended up spending more time than anticipated feeding the deer.
We carried on walking down the slope to the lake, where we spent a little time with the ducks. Then, just when we were about to embark on the Stickman Trail, we all realised we were cold and hungry, and it could wait for another time.
From a toddler’s point of view, Weald Country park has a lot to offer – not just the Stickman Trail, but the Stickman playground, real deer to feed, as well as friendly ducks and geese (one of whom kindly permitted him/herself to be stroked). And for grown ups, there’s 500 acres of beautiful landscape to enjoy.
Let’s hope there are some nice warm days soon, so we can all get out and enjoy the outdoors!
Where? Head for South Weald Car Park, Brentwood CM14 5Q
When? Whenever you like, but shop and cafe opening hours are here.
How much? Free (50p for a Stickman Trail map, 50p per cone of deer food)
Facilities and access There’s plenty of parking but you need to pay, with proceeds going back into the upkeep if the park. There is a cafe, toilets and baby change. But if it’s a sunny day, bring a picnic!