Review: Gruffalo Trail, Thorndon Country Park Brentwood

“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).

children in woods, Gruffalo Trail Brentwood

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!!

Little boy with map Gruffalo Trail Brentwoo

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!

Map of the Gruffalo Trail Thornndon Country Park, Brentwood

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.

Mouse on the Gruffalo Trail, Brentwood

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.

Fox on the Gruffalo Trail Brentwood

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.

 

snake on the Gruffalo Trail Brentwood

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.

Gruffalo on the Gruffalo Trail Brentwood

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

Thorndon Country Park website 

The Gruffalo Website

 

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Halloween Half Term Highlights 2014

The great news is the weather is looking pretty good for October so there’s no excuse not to get out and about this half term. Luckily, I’ve managed to get a few days off work so I’m looking forward to spending some time with The Little Guy.

One thing I’m really excited about is finally going to visit Old MacDonald’s Farm in Brentwood after whizzing past it so often on the M25. And this half term the farm is hosting a Halloween Festival from Saturday 25th until 2nd November. There’ll be creepy creative activities, pumpkin carving, glow in the dark painting and a ghost hunt. There is even free entry for children in fancy dress on Friday 31st October. And that’s on top of all the usual stuff that they have on the farm that looks great. There’s remote control tractors, a bouncy barn, large soft play area, steam train, giant adventure area and of course the animals. I’ll post a full review soon.

Old MacDonald’s Farm website

I’m already getting excited about Christmas and have just booked us a trip on the Santa Special steam train on the Epping Ongar Railway in December. But if you can’t wait that long, there’s a steam hauled ghost train on the 30th and 31st October. Featuring face painting, an Epping Forest Hawk and Owl display, apple bobbing and a goodie bag. Plus there are prizes for the best dressed costumes on each train. Apparently it sold out last year so you’ll probably need to be quick to book a ticket.

Epping Ongar Railway website 

I’ve also wanted to check out the new Grange Farm Centre in Chigwell, since I heard about the fabulous new Pelican Playground there which is a a lovely wooden pirate ship. And this week, the Essex Wildlife Trust is hosting an All Things Spooky event at the centre on Tuesday 28th October between 1-3pm. There’ll be nature inspired games and activities suitable for children aged 4 to 11 years old. You can book in advance and they are asking for a suggested donation of £3 to the Essex Wildlife Trust.

Essex Wildlife Trust website 

And finally, if your little ones love dressing up, take them along to Sid & Evie’s children’s shop in South Woodford in their costumes. Then just make a £1 donation to the local children’s hospice Haven House and you’ll be entered into a draw for a £15 gift voucher. There’ll also be free face painting on Saturday 2nd November.

Sid & Evie website

Hope you have a wonderful week and as ever feel free to let me know if you visit any of these events or share other things you’ve discovered in the area.