As far as family days out go, you can’t get much more frugal than a walk in the woods. Last week we decided to follow the Forestry Commission’s Highway Rat Activity Trail. We had a lovely day out, got some fresh air and exercise, and Ollie even learnt some new skills.
For those of you who don’t know, The Highway Rat is a brilliant Julia Donaldson book about a mean rat who steals all the food from the local animals. Ollie loved the animated version that was on TV over Christmas, so when I saw there was a Highway Rat activity trail, we had to give it a go! The trails are in forests and woods all over the country, and you can find your closest one on the Forestry Commission website.
We visited Fineshade Woods, which had a nice little café and a park to play on before we set off on our walk. We arrived at lunchtime so we stopped at the café first to get some food. There was a good selection of sandwiches, toasties and hot food. We sat in a little sun room to eat which was lovely as the sun was shining through. We bought our activity pack from the café and set off on the trail.
You can just follow the trail through the woods, but the activity packs are only £3 and make it much more fun. The pack includes a Highway Rat mask, an activity sheet to fill in along the way, stickers, string, and even a crayon and pencil so you don’t need to take anything with you.
The activity sheet shows you which characters from the story to look out for on your way. Ollie was so excited every time he spotted another one during our walk. We made it into a game to see who could spot them first.
As you make your way around, there are boards with pictures, information and tasks on. I think it’s great that they encourage children to play and interact with their surroundings. We most enjoyed the one that told us to make some music using things we could find in the woods. We banged sticks together and listened to the leaves crunching under our feet.
There are also places to take brass rubbings. Ollie has never done this before and he was amazed when the picture started to show through on our paper.
As part of your activity pack, you get a piece of string to make a journey stick as you walk. Again it’s another way that encourages children to notice what’s around them. We found leaves, twigs and pinecones to tie onto our stick. Ollie kept calling it his treasure stick and when we got home it’s the first thing he wanted show his Daddy.
The great thing about the Highway Rat Activity Trail is that there is something for children of all ages. Plus, you can do as much or as little as you like. For older kids, there are activities on the sheet like puzzles and drawing challenges. Ollie only turned 2 a couple of months ago, so the trail for him was all about exploring and spotting the characters from the books. He loved finding items on the ground for our journey stick, and helping me make brass rubbings.
We also used it as a chance to teach him about directions, as we were following a trail marked with arrows. We explained how the arrow points to the way we needed to go, and from then on he would point them out and tell us which way to go!
I would definitely recommend trying one of these trails out for yourself. They’re lots of fun and a great, frugal way to spend the day together as a family!