My children and I were very lucky to be chosen as Blogger Ambassadors for The Forestry Commission. The forest we are to be Ambassadors for is Whinlatter Forest Park near Keswick which is about an hour from home via a wonderful drive through the Lake District National Park. We have previously visited Grizedale Forest and loved it so were very keen to see what Whinlatter has to offer.
It is the only true mountain forest in England and its quite a twisty and steep road to get there but its worth it for the clear, fresh air and stunning views. For the purposes of our visit we were supplied with a car parking permit and plenty of activity leaflets to try.
The first suggestion from the ranger was to go and spend time in the new Wild Play children's play area. This has been built along paths and in clearings in the forest so that its nicely spread out and you get a walk in between sections! In the words of my children it was epic, mense and awesome. They would have stayed in there all day if I'd let them! This is a taste of what is on offer:
There was a real range of activities for most children to be able to have fun with. The whole thing is well designed with plenty of seating for supervising adults as you went round! Even though there were a fair number of children around they didn't have to wait too long for a turn on things.
Then it was on to the Squirrel Scurry which a £1 trail around the forest which takes about 45 minutes. My 8 year old was in charge of map reading on this one though I did have to double check and correct some of her directions! The trail takes you in search of a number of squirrels (either carvings or plaques) and you need to look out for the answers to questions from information boards as you go. A fascinating and fun way to explore the forest and find out more about these lovely animals - just a shame we didn't see a real one...
After our exertions of the morning it was time to retire to Siskins Cafe to sample the lunches on offer. Under advice from the ranger we got there early as its very popular and the only place to buy food in the forest itself. We were lucky to have lunch included for our day and this it what we chose:
The children's hot meals were a very reasonable £2.90 and as you can see they make it all look fun! My hot baguette was around £5 and I was nearly tempted to have a warming soup at £4 instead. The cakes were all just over £2 each and very yummy... Whilst we were eating we had time to get a really close look at the local birds who had no fear about coming close in search of a bite to eat:
With energy levels restored and the nice clean loos made good use of we went to check out one of the things the forest is most popular for - mountain biking. Unfortunately my 2 aren't yet competent enough to tackle the rather challenging courses available in the forest but they were impressed by the many cyclists who were! There are plans (subject to permissions and funding) to put in a new cycle route suitable for families with tracks usable for trailer bikes etc. It would be great if this goes ahead soon. Meanwhile we will leave the biking to the experts:
Instead we headed out onto the Tracks Trail (£1 from the shop). This time it was my 5 year old in charge of the directions. A slightly longer trail it takes about an hour and goes to different parts of the forest to the Squirrel Scurry. The trail has 10 posts to find each with an actual sized footprint to guess what made it. There are clues on the back of the sheet to help. Another fun and educational walk with more stunning views to enjoy:
On this occasion we didn't see too much of the range of wildlife that lives in the forest. At the information centre they had a list of the animals currently spottable but we only saw birds and butterflies (probably due to the amount of noise we made!). It will be a challenge to go back and try and find more of the local creatures. The cameras in the visitor centre are a great way to see some of the shyer ones:
In all we were at the forest for a total of 6 hours and would have stayed longer if it wasn't for the drive home. I can't wait to go back again and take better hiking boots so we can try one of the walking trails. On a sunny autumn day it was just the perfect place to be as a family. Watch out for more posts as we go back to visit again over the next year to see what else we can do.
In just over a year my daughter will be 10 and I've promised her a joint birthday trip on Go Ape. Just hoping I am will be brave enough having seen it in action yesterday:
Have you visited your local forest lately?