The Highway Rat trail- Forestry Commission
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!