On a hot Saturday in June my family and I headed for Haldon Forest Park in south Devon. It’s a tricky place to find but still incredibly popular – the car park was nearly full. Devon is known for its beaches and moors but forests are reasonably rare in this part of the world so a lot of people seem to make a beeline for Haldon Forest. The car park and the area near the cafe were a bit of a nightmare with three children to navigate past numerous cyclists, walkers and even trains of people on Segways. Every few yards we needed to jump out of the way of slightly out-of-control cyclists on their hire bikes.
To keep our three out of trouble I entertained them for a while in a lovely playpark with sand-play while my wife popped to the Ranger’s office for some information. When I say ‘entertained’ what I really mean is ‘joined in with’. When my wife returned we chose the ‘Gruffalo Trail’, which is part of the shorter Discovery Trail.
It was one and a half miles along forest paths and we were pleased to discover that the walk was really quiet and not busy at all. There are so many paths spread over such a large area that it wasn’t difficult to escape the crowds, but whilst it was the ‘easy’ trail we found that one and a half miles was quite a push for my seven and five year old, and definitely too much for my two year old who spent most of the walk on my shoulders. Apart from a spectacular view around halfway, most of the highpoints of the walk were towards the end. We decided that if we came again we would set off to do the trail backwards and turn round when the children got tired rather than try to complete the whole circuit.
There were a lot of fallen trees to climb on and activities like hide and seek at different points along the Gruffalo Trail which my children really enjoyed. The highlight of the trail was a large carved wooden sculpture of the Gruffalo which my five year old in particular adored. My two year old’s favourite thing was a tree dressed as the stick man of the Gruffalo’s Child. For my seven year old a bouncy tree was the highlight of the day. It was soon being used as a train, a tightrope and somewhere to hide presents for the fairies.