“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.”
If, like me, you’ve read these opening lines more times than you’d like to remember, then you probably have a little one that loves The Gruffalo book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. A friend recently told me that they have Gruffalo trails in woodlands around the country so I was really excited to find that we have one about half an hour away in Brentwood. It’s just a quick journey down the M25 (junction 28) and after a few turnings you’ll see the signs for Thorndon Country Park and some lovely woodland. Head for the north car park and park up opposite the Countryside Centre (you’ll need some change for the pay and display car park).
A few weeks ago, we went with a friend whose son is the same age as my Little One (2 years old) and their dog (they are allowed if kept on the lead) and I have to say we all had a lovely time. I’d been playing The Gruffalo CD in the car to get into the mood so thankfully the journey was short and I was spared endless repeats!!
When you arrive, you can collect your Gruffalo Trail map for 50p from the shop in the Countryside centre – although you may want to blindfold the kids/leave them outside with another adult as the shop is full of Gruffalo merchandise!
Armed with the map, we head off into the woods for our self-guided walk and loved every minute. It helped that it was a gorgeous sunny day and both boys love The Gruffalo book so they had a great time discovering the familiar animals in the woodland. They were especially excited when they found the first one on the list, the mouse.
Admittedly it took us a little while to work out how to read the map, although I’m sure that’s our fault more than the map design. Soon we’d found the fox in a log and were on our way to hunt out the owl hiding up in the trees.
My little one loved the freedom of running around the woodland and it took a bit of persuading to get him to abandon running up and down the wooden bridge to find the next lots of animals.
The snake was a big hit as there were logs that the boys could climb and from then on it was a short hunt through the trees to find the Gruffalo. When we first thought we’d discovered it, we were thinking how small it was until we realised we were being total muppets and what we had found was the Gruffalo’s child and not the actual Gruffalo! Doubtless, if the kids had been older they would have put us right immediately.
Anyway, the Gruffalo himself was a big hit with his terrible claws, black tongue, purple spikes and terrible tusks. We all had our photos taken with the Gruffalo and then had to try and convince the little ones to leave him so we could go and have our lunch.
We brought a picnic with us and there’s a lovely enclosed picnic area that the little ones can run around in. However, there’s also a café on site too that we’ll check out next time.
We’ll definitely go back again as it’s a brilliant way to let the little ones have a run around in the woods with some activities along the way. And when they are older it would be great to bring along some crayons and paper and get them to draw the animals as they go round the trail. Or maybe use it as inspiration for some Gruffalo-themed crafting once back home.
Have you been to a Gruffalo Trail near you? What did you think? I’d love to hear about your local trail, feel free to comment below or tweet me @WestEssexMums.
Address: Thorndon North, The Avenue, Brentwood CM13 3RZ