Blog post

The Highway Rat trail- Forestry Commission

February 15, 2018Jenny

Outdoor activities + reading = happy times for us! So much so, that when we heard that Forestry Commission England were setting up several trails for Julia Donaldson’s The Highway Rat around their woodlands this year, we leapt at the chance to try one out. Dalby Forest is the nearest site to us, so we went there and gave it a whirl!

The trail is about 1.5 miles long and is accessible by pushchair, walking or bike. You set off at the visitor centre where you pick up a bag of resources, for £3. Inside the bag there are stickers, string for your journey stick, a crayon for rubbings, pencil, a trail guide, puzzles and a mask. “Stand and deliver!”

We started looking for bits to attach to our journey stick. We started with a little piece of “Christmas tree” we found, but Little was keen to keep it at that. He didn’t want any ‘yucky things’ added to it! Big was happy, off on his bike- it is great to find somewhere where they can cycle safely for a good distance without any worries of traffic.


At each stage around the trail there is a post with a suggested activity and/ or a raised picture to rub a pattern onto your guide. Little got stuck in right away; squelching along in his boots. The main path was not muddy, the pushchair was fine, but along the side of the path there were lovely muddy puddles for him to leap into! Big joined in with the brass rubbings, he was interested by how it worked and the pattern left on the trail booklet.


About half way round, there is a challenge post where you are asked to create a spider. We did this and really enjoyed making the spider from pine cones, bark and other bits we found. This was a great chance to talk about what creatures might live in the woods, where their homes might be, what they eat, etc. which is all interesting and engaging for the kids and widens their vocabulary as well as developing their understanding of nature.

We enjoyed The Highway Rat element of the walk, as this was new to us. We don’t have the book at home but have borrowed it from the library several times in the past and I was surprised by how much detail they both remembered of the story and connected it with the posts and images on the way round.

This activity is great for children of differing ages and is brilliant exercise, fresh air and gets them out and connecting with nature. The added experience of the activities connected with the book was great, too, as it gave an added dimension to the walk and kept their enthusiasm going. They were keen to look out for each activity post coming up and spot all the characters along the way. I would definitely recommend going. Next time we go, I will take a copy of the book with us to match the models with pages in the story. It would also work well as a school trip, as the route is clearly marked, and you could link the book in with different areas of study.

Have you been on a Highway Rat trail yet? Drop me a comment or message, I’d love to hear about your adventures!


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Comments (18)

  • Ashley Beolens

    February 16, 2018 at 2:05 am

    I love how more places seem to be having walks like this to encourage kids out into the wilds, we are all far to sedentary #AdventureCalling

    1. Jenny

      February 16, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      True! Yes, it does make it a lot more accessible and user-friendly for younger children or those just starting out with walking/ outdoor activities.

  • Karen | TwoTinyHands

    February 23, 2018 at 3:02 am

    This looks really good. I recently did a stick man event and it was good but even though we’ve read the book the connection didn’t massively hit my 2.7 year old. I haven’t actually read the highway rat yet I think we would have to start there! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

    1. Jenny

      February 25, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      Yes, it is a great trail and the book links well with the challenges on this one.

  • Alana – Burnished Chaos

    February 25, 2018 at 10:47 am

    I love The Highway Rat and you can’t beat a good forest walk, I’ll have to see if this is on at our local forest. Great spider by the way!

    1. Jenny

      February 25, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      Yes, it it is on near you it is well worth a visit. Thanks!

  • Louise – Cooking with kids

    February 25, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Awesome! We’ve done the gruffalo and stick man trails in the past and I know the highway eat will be a bit with our lot (with an added bonus of shape rubbings). Thanks for sharing with #Thesatsesh, I’ll get planning on our trio to the forest of Dean soon

    1. Jenny

      February 25, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      Great! It is a great book and the trail works really well.

  • Eva Katona

    February 25, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    This is so nice, my children would love there! We’re huge fans of being outdoors. #thesatsesh

    1. Jenny

      March 1, 2018 at 11:01 am

      Awesome! Yes, it is great- they’ll love it!

  • Joanna Bayford

    February 27, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Love how fun this looks. Definitely need find this trail nearby as Blake will love it. Thank u for linking up with Tactical Tuesdays.

    1. Jenny

      March 1, 2018 at 11:00 am

      Yes, I’m sure your little one would have a great time! thanks for the linky 🙂

  • David – Potty Adventures

    February 27, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Ah I love this and it’s a new one on me so I’m definitely going to check out which of of local forests offer this trail. The kids will love it. Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling

    1. Jenny

      March 1, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Great, I hope there is one near you, too. It was very easy to do; great for getting them out in a fun way.

  • Lauren The Helpful Hiker

    February 27, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Finn got the book of The Highway Rat for his birthday and he loves it, so we’ll definitely have to see if anywhere round here does it. He’s old enough now to join in so I love the interactive elements of the trail. Thanks so much for sharing #AdventureCalling

    1. Jenny

      March 1, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Ah, great! It is fun when they get a bit older and can join in more! I hope there is one near to where you are based. 🙂

  • fridgesays

    February 28, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    #thesatsesh on the cusp of world book day, I’m loving how this outdoor adventure is inspired by a wonderful book 🙂 I have say my little dude would love it and I also love the ‘pick bits you want to do’ out of the experience – so many activities are prescriptive…and like me, my creative dude is horrendous at following instructions. Im so glad you all enjoyed it.

    1. Jenny

      March 1, 2018 at 10:56 am

      Yes, very flexible and able to opt in and out of it! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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