Who is this creature with terrible claws…. And terrible teeth in it’s terrible jaws……
Oh help… oh no…. it’s the Gruffalo!
Although in our household, this beautiful forest is affectionately just termed the ‘Gruffalo Forest’, its proper name is Wendover Woods. It’s deep, it’s dark, and yes, the Gruffalo lives there (or at least a large wooden carving of one).
Wendover Woods is a stunning woodland on the central-northern fringe of the Chiltern Hills AONB. It is 325 hectares and is managed by the Forestry Commission (and very well managed I would add). It’s an awesome location for micro adventures and caters for families brilliantly.
Morts has visited Wendover Woods a number of times with Oskar, and it’s become their destination of choice for a ‘Daddy and son’ hangout. But prior to this visit, I had only visited briefly once before and was keen to get back for more of an explore. With Morts away in Tanzania, I invited one of my new local buddies, her hubby and three girls along for a forest adventure. We were keen to catch the tail end of the autumnal colours, as being November already, it wouldn’t be long before the trees dropped their leaves and all those stunning colours were gone for another year.
Wendover is about an hours drive from us, but a lovely rural route and undoubtedly worth the effort. We parked up* and started piling the layers on the kids to combat the cold and mud and reduce the likelihood of any future cold-related whinging, then set off. Although there are a large number of signposted trails, we decided to freestyle, starting with….. the Gruffalo of course! The Gruffalo is very close to the car park (as in literally one minute’s walk) and impossible to miss. After we had greeted the Gruffalo with a big bear-hug and the kids had recited the book, stomped around, and roared a bit, we sat back on the ‘owl bench’ and enjoyed the sun on our faces, before then heading off into the forest.
The first mission was breakfast (more like brunch by now). So we found ourselves suitable tree stumps and log to act as chairs/tables and served up a brekkie of hot porridge, hot chocolate, and for those that ate it all up, a tasty croissant. The kids wolfed the porridge down as they were keen to get on and build some dens, which is one of the really great things about Wendover Woods; there are loads of areas of forest that are totally geared up for it with lots of suitably sized braches helpfully left around and many a half-built den to work on. This activity easily took up the first hour of our time in the woods. The kids happily ran around building dens, sweeping them out, marking out little ‘gardens’ and generally charging around, laughing, getting filthy dirty and having fun.
It was while we were here that Filipe (my buddy’s husband who I had met for the first time) unleashed his skill of acorn-cup whistling! He picked up a tiny little acorn cup and from it produced the most incredibly shrill sound. With Pat and I both being insanely competitive, then ensued the great ‘acorn cup hunt’ and endless attempts at whistling using them….. I peaked very early with my first blow, looking like a natural, but if only I had walked away at this point, people wouldn’t have discovered that I was infact unable to replicate it! (much to the amusement of Pat & Filipe).
The rest of our time was spent exploring the forest, trying to find the weirdest mushrooms, having the ‘biggest leaf competition’ and then harvesting a big ball of clay from the wet ground (to be taken home and moulded later!) Generally we just wandered and explored and went in whatever direction took our fancy; clearly we covered just the tiniest patch of this expansive forest but even so, it was beautiful and we had a fantastic day. However there is so much more to come back for; there are dozens of marked walking trails, including one with easy access for push chairs (a 1km loop), loads of mountain biking routes including a Family Cycle Trail (a 9.5km loop), and even a 20 checkpoint orienteering course (maps available from the Café). And talking about the café, the ‘In the Woods’ Café boasts the best bacon & sausage sandwiches around, and I have to say after an exerting walk or cycle, and coupled with a steaming cuppa, they’re pretty darn good! The café has got a great outdoor seating area in the sun and a nice chilled vibe of content outdoorsy-types.
We couldn’t head back without a quick play on the adventure playground for the kids and then time to de-robe from the extremely muddy layers and back in the car. A thoroughly awesome day had by all. We will be back. Soon.
*Car parking is pretty reasonable: £1.70 for 2 hours, £3.30 for 4 hours and £6.10 for all day
The Chilterns AONB website on Wendover Woods: http://www.chilternsaonb.org/ccbmaps/695/137/wendover-woods.html
The Forestry Commission website contains some useful links to maps and trail information http://www.forestry.gov.uk/wendoverwoods