March is a tricky month for a birthday day out. The weather is unpredictable at best. Frankie’s first birthday saw snow, but thankfully this year, the weather was ok, so we celebrated her turning two with a trip to The Gruffalo Trail, Essex.
The girls are at the age where they are loving the Julia Donaldson stories at the moment, but Frankie’s absolute favourites are The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child. She can recite great chunks of it. Every time she draws, she tells you the picture is The Gruffalo. And the mouse is her absolute favourite character.
The trail is in Thorndon Country Park in Brentwood, about 40 minutes drive from us, so it was the perfect choice for her birthday treat. It’s also free to enter and as it’s a self guided tour, you don’t have to book. Ideal in case you wake up to the dreaded British weather.
The printed guides are 50p each and can be bought in the cafe. This is really my only gripe about the whole day. There was nobody in the gift shop so we had to wait about 15 minutes in the cafe queue to buy the map. Doesn’t sound like long, but when you have two excited toddlers and a dog (dogs are permitted, to be kept on leads) waiting to get going, it feels like an eternity.
Lottie and Frankie were beyond excited to be in the Deep Dark Wood. But I don’t think they realised they would actually see all of the characters. along The Gruffalo Trail, Essex. The first sculpture you see on the trail is a squirrel high up in a tree. The girls looked, but still didn’t really clock what was going on. They were just really pleased to be running around exploring the woods.
Then we found mouse. And all hell broke loose. I’ve actually never seen two more excited children. Frankie was over the moon. The sculptures are so true to Axel Scheffler’s illustrations, there is no mistaking the characters.
There were very nearly tears when we tore her away from mouse, but the promise of finding fox cheered Frankie up and we set off to look for the rest of the characters.
Included in the trail, which takes around 45 minutes to walk around, are Mouse, Fox, Owl, Snake, Gruffalo and the Guffalo’s Child. The sculptures are stunning, and cleverly placed in settings that work within the story. Owl is in the a treetop, snake in a logpile house.
Aside from The Gruffalo features, the park is beautifully kept, there are little log teepees to explore and benches on route for snack breaks. Clean toilets and baby change facilities at the main hub are a necessity with little ones. We took a picnic along with us, but there is also a well-stocked cafe and gift shop.
Parking for The Gruffalo Trail, Essex, is £2.20 for one hour, £3.30 for two, and so on and there is lots of spaces available.
I really couldn’t fault this attraction. We had such a lovely day out, for hardly any cost. The way the trail has been set out is magical for little ones who are fans of the story, as it really transports them into that imaginary world.