It was freezing (0 degrees!), but the kids didn’t seem to notice at all.
I was wishing I’d put my thermals on, and was eternally grateful for choosing woolly socks and snow boots over wellies.
But the cheerful ‘Ooooh Mummy look at this’ coming from one direction versus ‘No Mummy come look at this first’ from the opposite direction cheered me up.
Curly Headed Boy was chuffed that he could easily pretend he was in an ancient forest with bears and wolves around every corner. He was off climbing through brambles and goodness knows what else.
Little Dimples was enchanted with a little partially constructed den that she had found and I was instructed to find more sticks to add to it.
The Hairy northern one meantime was taking photos left right and center, so he too was in his element.
Next time we are definitely bringing the big black monster (it would be easy to put the dog back in the car at the end of a walk, while you get a cuppa, or drink it outside).
Where were we?
A well kept secret that when I mentioned it loads of people seemed to know about, but no one had told us; Wendover Woods. (We live just outside St Albans, and it’s about 34-45mins away).
We’d brought the radio flyer just incase the kids got tired, but I was amazed that Little Dimples (3 in a month) was able to keep walking the whole distance, even when we were climbing back up the hill, it must have been all the ‘Ho Hos’ that we sang.
I’d still recommend bringing something though if you have a toddler, or be prepared to carry them. In fact I was amazed how many young families there were and especially how many with little babies, either with industrial strength push chairs or slings.
We tried out the Cafe in the Woods, which I thought was great. Simple stuff for grown ups and kids that hits the spot and at a good price (menus are online). It got really busy though (at 11.30), and it’s winter. So I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t get any where near it in the summer.
Next time we are going to go as soon as we get up and have bacon butties before we go for our walk; yum!
Plus we’ll remember to try the free iPhone app which has a map of the area and a tree finder, which I think is a great idea.
Once the family gets a little older, there were people cycling, running, and there is a Go Ape as well. I talked to a local mum who says that in the summer locals walk up rather than drive so it doesn’t get as busy car parking wise as you’d expect, and that it’s great for parties.
I also saw someone in a wheelchair, so when it says that it is accessible, it obviously is. I was a bit worried with my fibromyalgia that it might be too much for me, but I needn’t have worried (don’t worry fitness types; it could be a lot more physical than we tried).
I was worried that Go Ape would be too obvious and we’d get nagged to go, but it wasn’t too in your face at all, and the play park is great, so I’m sure the kids will be happy there.
Of course of all the potential things to play on the boys were much more interested in the huge great big muddy swamp that was all iced over and covered in big sticks, and eventually we did have a catastrophe.
Luckily it was time to go home, so we wrapped Curly Headed Boy in a blanket and popped in the car. I’d recommend a spare pair of trousers for each child just incase. (And a hot toddy for you, when you get home).
A discovery pass for a year is £37, which gives you free parking.
Parking would cost you: £1.50 for 2 hours, £3 for 4 hours or £5.50 for an all day stay.
So if you went all day 3 times in the summer, and then for 4 hours more than 4 times a year, it would have paid for itself.
There are also a pile of other freebies or discounts listed here on the page about Discovery Passes, the most significant being 15% off forest holidays or 10% off trailbase holidays and the most useful being free refills on cups of tea or 15% off Go Ape (see details for exclusions). So you could save lots more than the pass cost you.
You also get a few bits and pieces to start the kids off with ideas of things to collect and enjoy while they are there, which I think would be a great idea if you were the type of family who thought it would be a good idea to get out and about, but weren’t sure how to get the kids interested.
Curly Headed boy said that ‘it was the best holiday he’d had’; he’s not always that easy to please! Later that day he said he was really lucky to have me as a Mummy; now we know that’s true, but it’s not often that he remembers, so that was a lovely thing for him to say.
Little Dimples said ‘Forest was good. I loved the play ground’.
The Big Hairy Northerner thought ‘the woods were magical’.
I loved it, and really loved my hot toddy when I got home!
For me buying a pass would feel like a commitment and a reminder, and I think it would be well worth it. I suspect very strongly that we will be renewing next year when our pass runs out.
We are bound to go back lots, so I’ll do another review in the summer and let you know what the BBQ sites are like and whether it gets too busy or not.
Disclosure: I was given a years Discovery Pass in return for doing a review, but my opinions are my own. I’d like to thank the Forestry Commission for being so patient with me, as soon after they offered for me to get the pass I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and have been nervous of going and busy with sorting it out.