On Sunday morning we decided to make the most of the weather coming good again and took a drive to Hamsterley Forest. We got there just after 10am and already the car park was filling up, but due to the size of the place it never felt busy as we were walking around. Parking is £5 for the day, or £1.50 for an hour. I toyed with the idea of just paying for one hour as I knew we needed to be home in time for the little ones afternoon nap, but didn’t want to rush so plumped for the all day ticket and I’m so glad I did. You can actually get a yearly pass for £43 and after the lovely morning we had I am seriously considering it.
There are so many different walks you can do through the Forest, for all ages and abilities, and each path is clearly marked. There are also Gruffalo and Stick Man trails you can do and guidebooks can be bought from the shop. We decided to just explore the numerous play parks instead and perhaps save the trails for another day.

Crossing over the bridge we came to the first play park, which was an obstacle course and great fun for the older kids (although L did attempt some of it too with a little help).

A little further along we came to another play area, this time it was a big climbing frame in the shape of a viking ship. While M had fun climbing, L discovered the Gruffalo’s Child on the other side of the path and ran off to say hello.

Following the path on up the hill there were plenty of things to look at in the trees, including a few sculptures and some carved tree trunks for climbing up, and an area where they run den building workshops. It was next to this area that we came across The Gruffalo. L smiled and laughed at the sight of it but I think she was also a little scared because of the sheer size of it and wouldn’t go too close bless her.

At this point we took the route back over another bridge and found the biggest play area nestled in the trees nearby a beautiful place for having a dip in the river and throwing stones. There was a wooden walkway and tower, a long viking ship swing, a basket swing and various obstacle courses. We spent the majority of our time here and despite the crowded car park had it mostly to ourselves.

Moving on through the trees we came to the next play area where the floor was covered with tiny little stones which could be collected in buckets, hoisted up to the platform and sent down various different chutes. Both kids loved this area, M for filling and lifting up the buckets and L just for the feel of the stones which for some reason she liked dropping into her hair. One word of caution for this area, the stones are very dusty and we were all pretty filthy after ten minutes.

After this we cut across a picnic area to find some tunnels built into the side of a small hill and some fallen trees that have been turned into an obstacle course to cross the small stream (there is a path you can take too if you have a pushchair or little ones to young to walk across the logs). One last little play area with a small wooden house was all that was left before we arrived back at the car park. We had intended to head home for lunch but we were having such a nice time we decided to take a look at the cafe.


The cafe has a number of tables inside as well as an outside seating area with picnic benches, including some small picnic benches perfect for the little ones. There was also another small obstacle course, and large sandpit and a noughts and crosses games all within the walled picnic area, so plenty to keep them entertained while you wait for the food or enjoy a piece of cake. The food on offer was fairly simple; sandwiches, pasties, burgers and the like, but very tasty. They also had a large selection of cakes that I definitely want to go back and sample!

We arrived at the cafe at 11:40 and there were only two other people there but by the time we left at 12:30 it was pretty full so if you’re considering eating there I would highly recommend eating early.

All in all it was a great day out and I can see us coming here regularly from now on. The parks are great for the age they are at now (7 and 2) and as they grow older we can tackle the longer walks. My husband wants to bring M here on his bike as well.

If you are planning a visit you can find out more information here.


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16 thoughts on “Exploring Hamsterley Forest: The Gruffalo, Stick Man and a Viking Ship

  1. I love your photographs! We recently had an excursion to a place near us but silly mommy forgot the camera. I guess we’ll have to go back and do it all over again. 🙂


    Posted on 17 August, 2016 at 8:41 pm
    1. Thank you. I don’t actually own a camera at the minute (something I really need to remedy) so these were all taken on my phone, but I’m pretty pleased with them.
      Great excuse for you to go back!

      Posted on 18 August, 2016 at 7:33 am
  2. Awww what a lovely lovely place to go! I would get that annual pass if I were you cuz everything looks so nice. The play equipment feels so organic and the whole area just feels fairytale like =) #countrykids #whatvertheweather

    Posted on 17 August, 2016 at 8:41 pm
    1. Thank you. You’re right, it’s a magical place x

      Posted on 17 August, 2016 at 9:34 pm
  3. Looks like a fantastic place to explore! Sounds like there is so much to, with Gruffalo and Stickman trails and play areas too, I can imagine you could spend quite a few hours here and a great place to revisit! Lovely photos too, looks like they really enjoyed it 🙂 #countrykids

    Posted on 18 August, 2016 at 8:11 am
    1. Thank you. It really is, you could easily spend a full day here and not get bored.

      Posted on 18 August, 2016 at 8:58 am
  4. What a wonderful place, fantastic for many adventures.#Whatevertheweather

    Posted on 18 August, 2016 at 1:19 pm
    1. It certainly is, and I think it will be even in the winter

      Posted on 18 August, 2016 at 7:19 pm
  5. Hamsterley Forest looks amazing and typical of a good forestry Commission site. I think it is really worth the parking fee for the fun that can be had. Someone has to pay to maintain the pathways and play equipment to the high standard they are here. I must say I’d be tempted by the annual pass option too if you think you will use it enough. I think kids are more inspired to come up with creative play from the nature led play items here than regular park equipment and it all looks so pretty.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

    Posted on 18 August, 2016 at 2:13 pm
    1. I must say I think they use the money wisely as the place is extremely well looked after and play parks in the woods are just so much more fun and energising x

      Posted on 18 August, 2016 at 10:08 pm
  6. I love how all the areas to play fit in so well with the woods. The children look like they absolutely loved it! Our rule of thumb for a cafe is to always get there at 11.30am!! My daughter is always hungry!! haha. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

    Posted on 19 August, 2016 at 8:49 pm
    1. It’s really well thought out and so much fun. 11:30am does seem the best time! x

      Posted on 19 August, 2016 at 9:12 pm
  7. Looks like there’s plenty to do – love that it’s so very hands on , even if it’s a bit dusty! Fab photos – thanks for linking to #pocolo

    Posted on 28 August, 2016 at 10:08 pm
    1. Thanks, the kids certainly had a great time.

      Posted on 28 August, 2016 at 10:24 pm
  8. It looks like a great place to visit, especially if your little ones like to be outdoors. I visited Calke Abbey recently and they have a similar trail where the boys enjoyed climbing and walking along the trails. Great photos hun. x
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo (sorry for the late comment).

    Posted on 10 September, 2016 at 11:44 am
    1. Thank you, it’s so beautiful. I’m looking forward to visiting again in the autumn and seeing the change in colours x

      Posted on 10 September, 2016 at 1:17 pm