Woodland is readymade dramatic backdrop for a children’s book and some of the best bedtime tales have been set beneath a canopy of leaves.
The towering trees are almost one of the characters in stories like Hansel and Gretel and Winnie the Pooh.
Now that we live in North Yorkshire, we are lucky to have the beautiful and slightly mysterious Dalby Forest on our doorstep, the perfect place to burn some toddler energy and step into our own fairytale.
This Forest Commission-run woodland in the North Yorks Moors offers families a huge choice of walks, bike trails and picnic spots.
But the attraction for us was The Highway Rat Activity Trail, a 1.5 mile accessible walk broken up with characters to spot and activities to do, all based around the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book. The Forestry Commission also has similar trails at other sites across England.
After parking up, we picked up a £3 ‘saddle bag’ at the visitor centre, containing a map and interactive activity sheet, stickers, pencils, string and a Highway Rat mask.
Which Baby Bookworm wore for approximately 30 seconds before trying to eat it, naturally…
The walk itself is not taxing and takes in a small section of atmospheric mature woodland with plenty of shade spots to explore or sit.
There is also a pretty open area set in a valley beside a stream, with views in both directions.
The trail is broken up with 10 signposts offering information about the natural wonders surrounding you, plus pictures of the characters hidden in the trees and metal markers to do rubbings on your activity sheet.
Baby Bookworm is not the artistic sort and a bit too young and impatient for this element, but children aged three and older would get a lot of enjoyment from these activities.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you will also spy another rather well known Julia and Axel character hidden amid the trunks of trees. (Clue – there was previously a Gruffalo trail here).
All in all, it was charming way to while away an hour and would be just as enjoyable on a frosty day.
There is also a quite splendid outdoor play area with fairy houses and wooden tractors once you get back to the visitors’ centre which is almost worth the trip alone.
So saddle up and go for a walk in the woods if you get the chance.
The Highway Rat Activity Trail at Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, is open daily, with special events throughout the year. Car parking cost £9 March-October, £5 November-Feb. There are similar themed trails at Forest Commission sites around England. Find out more at forestry.gov.uk/highwayrat