Our most recent family day out took us to the Forestry Commission’s Bedgebury Forest in Kent. Our main aim – to find Stick Man, a character our toddler finds particularly hilarious in the film of The Gruffalo’s Child, when there is literally one second of footage involving him falling over in the snow, which has to be replayed repeatedly – yep, no idea why either. It is endlessly fascinating discovering what peaks a child’s imagination!
At Bedgebury – and Forestry Commission sites across the country – you can currently follow the Stick Man Trail with accompanying activity pack. With husband totally disinterested in trying to tick off the character panels you have to spot around the trail, I took great delight in the fact that he couldn’t even work out what a panel actually looked like and mistook the poster advertising the trail for the first sign, whereas our toddler got it straight away. Toddler still mentions the trail every day – he loves the idea of trying to spot signs at the moment. I guess continuity and order are a big part of a three-year-old’s understanding of the world as they try to make sense of their surroundings. On an adult level, I always take great delight in trying to lose the obnoxious family we inevitably get stuck going round awkwardly with at exactly the same pace wherever we seem to visit.
We ate overlooking the lake and still made the same mistake of buying a full lunch for our toddler, who took one bite of sandwich and left the rest, but not before we realised he had slipped a packet of Cheddars and a enormous cookie into the purchases without us noticing – neither of which he touched either. I’m keeping a running tab of all the food he’s wasted so far and will be billing him when he’s 18.
Then it was on to hiring bikes and riding the Family Trail around the forest. The shop staff were amazingly calm as our toddler span the pedals of a £3,000 display bike round and round incessantly. He had a trailer on the back of the bike to sit in, which he loved, although his insistence on having the cover down, then up, then down, then sticking one foot out of the side didn’t go down too well along the way. The wood ants’ nest did though, until he realised they were crawling up his trousers.
Quench, the cycle hire people, sell off the previous year’s bikes in batches so it is worth asking when you are there as they retail at around £650 and are sold off at £250 each.
The site is huge and there is so much to do – bikes, walks, numerous play areas, a pinetum, cafe and visitor centre. And with all profits going back into the site, it’s my kind of place.