After my blog post about the Peter Rabbit trail at Langdon in Essex, quite a number of you got in touch to say I really must try The Gruffalo Trail if I can find one near me. Well I did. I headed over to Sherwood Pines (also great for mountain biking and Go Ape) during the Easter break with my sister and nephew, two year old Oliver.
The Gruffalo Trail, Sherwood Pines.
The Gruffalo Trail is a nationwide activity run by the Forestry Commission, an organisation that helps to look after woodland and forests in England and Wales. There are 26 trails in forests all over the country, each varying slightly according to location. Like the Peter Rabbit Trail at Langdon, the aim of The Gruffalo Trail is to get families outside for a couple of hours, but unlike the one I’d experienced previously, there are no physical statues of the characters to find here. This trail is both physical and virtual.
Before we left home my sister and I made sure we had The Gruffalo Spotter app at home (data signal isn’t great in the forest!) and follow clues along our interactive trail, tracking down signs of the characters from The Gruffalo. Clues – real clues that you can see along the trail, lead to five different footprint markers in the forest for each one of the characters from the book, including the unmistakable Gruffalo himself. When you spot each of the markers you point your phone at them, using the app to bring the characters to life. Thanks to some very cool augmented reality technology, the characters appear to blend in with the forest around you.
Having fun outside in the woods!
To be honest I’ve never used an augmented reality app before (I’ve never played Pokémon Go!), and so I wasn’t entirely sure how the whole thing would work, but we were willing to give it a go and have a nice wander in the woods.
Trail at Sherwood Pines. I love being in the forest.
But we needn’t have worried. It was very obvious and very simple once we got going, and the trail is brilliant. It’s just over a mile at Sherwood and took us through the trees and along easy going footpaths to find the five characters from the book. Even at two, my nephew quickly caught on to the fact that he could follow the clues to work out what the next character would be, and then came over to watch the cartoon on my phone when we found the coded sign relating to the animal. Getting him to stand in the right place for a suitable photograph was slightly more difficult, he didn’t understand that he shouldn’t stand in front of the sign. Unfortunately, if the link between the app and the physical sign is lost (you move the phone too far or someone walks in front), the app restarts the storytelling and you have to wait until that has finished before you can take a photo.
Following the clues and finding the creatures.
I love getting outside and I love tech and gadgety stuff, so this trail to me is genius. Combining a little bit of exercise and fresh air in the forest with an augmented reality app is a great way to encourage kids (and grown-ups) to get out and about. Why not use technology to encourage families out of doors?! Well done to the creators, it’s brilliant!
The Gruffalo Spotter app brings the characters to life and allows you to take photographs with the creatures.
There are versions of the Gruffalo Trail at various locations across the UK. I visited the one at Sherwood Pines, but you can also see it at 25 other woodlands in the UK. It’s free at Sherwood, apart from the parking charge of course, and there are lots of other things to do on site making it the perfect place for a family day out.
I shall definitely be adding the Gruffalo Trail to my list of 50 things to do outside this summer… come back next week for the full list!
Find out more about the Gruffalo Trail (with a list of all the locations) on the Forestry Commission website.