Another Fun Trail from The Forestry Commision: The Highway Rat

As the summer holidays quickly approach, you may already be on the lookout for free activities to keep children occupied. Here’s one from the Forestry Commision that will get the whole family out and about enjoying the glorious British sunshine.

Last year, the Forestry Commision partnered with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler to bring you a fantastic augmented reality trail in search of the Gruffalo. This time, they’ve teamed up to provide a Highway Rat trail. This less well known tale from Julia Donaldson gained popularity over Christmas when the BBC aired the animated version.

The story is very loosely based on the famous poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. In Donaldson version, the Rat travels the highway and steal from the other animals until he finally gets his comeuppance.

Highway Rat Trail

They’ve kept things simple this year and taken a step back from the technology. Instead they trail takes you past ten large signs each with a scene from the story and small challenges set in nature. If you choose to, you can purchase an activity pack with crayons, stickers and a few activities but we chose not to and still could do most of the tasks.

The tasks included activities such as collecting five different leaves or creating a spider with stones and twigs. There were also some lovely metal images which were for taking rubbings and this would have been fun to do had we got a crayon and piece of paper.

Ten boards to Discover

Each board has child friendly facts and were great to start discussion. We’d read the board and walk on as we talked about what we’d found out. My girls especially like talking about nocturnal animals which was on one of the boards.

About halfway around the trail at Hicks Lodge, we discovered a lovely bird hide. This was great to break up the walk and take a quick rest. We encouraged Jessica and Emily to keep quiet to see if they could spot any of the birds that were displayed on the walls.

As we followed the path around the lake, we could have taken smaller paths off onto different trails but we chose not to. The main circuit took us just under an hour at a very leisurely rate and with lots of stops. We thought this was a great length as any more would have been too much. As it was, the girls took a dreaded danger nap in the car on the way home.

Photo Opportunity

The last sign gave them a chance to pose in the wanted sign for a picture before reaching the small play area. Parking cost a pound for an hour and if you’re not super slow this is totally doable especially if you’re on bikes. However, it’s not much more for a bit longer and so why not take a picnic and make the most of your time there.

If the trail wasn’t enough why not check out one of the Highway Rat Forest Feast events that are happening on selected dates this summer. At these there will be additional activities and the chance to meet the Highway Rat. Find out more HERE.

What’s your favourite free family activity?


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