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.
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.