On Tuesday Babyzoid and I were very fortunate to have been invited along to the Hicks Lodge in the National Forest, Leicestershire (not far from Ashby-de-la-Zouche). Babyzoid, a huge fan of the outdoors, couldn't wait for the promised 'day of adventure' to arrive, and I couldn't wait to reawaken my childhood Robin Hood obsession, get into my Merry Men mindset and go trekking through the forest. I was tempted to bring Babyzoid's toy bow and arrow set along but in the end thought better of it.
So off we went! We plugged the post code given on the website into my phone's Google Maps app and it all went perfectly okay. Okay, so I did have to pull one U-turn, mounting a kerb and nearly blowing out my tire in the process, but that was completely my fault - if there's one thing I'm good at it's getting lost. The Lodge was actually pretty easy to find - though my app did tell me that the farm I reached a few hundred yards before the lodge itself was my destination. Think I panicked a few chickens as I pulled another 'u-eey' just in front of their coupes. Oops!
Destination reached and we were met by an equally excited trio of bloggers (and their children, of course) to make up a friendly quartet of mummypinkwellies, Erica and Jaime.
|Look Littlebit, there's Oliver's Madhouse family!|
Sally, the Ranger who greeted us was wonderful - highly welcoming, friendly and full of information about how our day would transpire. We were mercifully given time to gather ourselves in the lovely cafe to have coffee and a snack. And here I was really impressed. They had Soya milk - meaning that as a plant-eater I could have a soy latte! Excellent start, in my book! Also very good news for those with dairy intolerances and allergies. The cafe was very attractive and clean, and the toilets were equally good - always a concern when visiting nature attractions.
When we had finished our refreshments we started our adventure with a nature trail and scavenger hunt, with the promise that we would 'explore the Hicks Lodge walking trail and see some of the wildlife that lives here'. The children were each given a cute little brown 'Forest collecting bag', with mummies (and grannies!) given a clipboard with an A4 sheet listing items to find, including five different types of leaf, something beautiful, and evidence of mammals who used the area. This was perhaps the most difficult find, but we did spot doggy paw prints and the odd scattering of goose poop, which we decided against collecting for our bags!
The trail was beautiful and we went round a large lake, also a popular dog walking spot. It was obvious to me that the rangers take very good care of the area and the locals likewise treat the area with respect.
As you can see, Babyzoid and Littlebit took their scavenging very seriously!
As we were walking round the woodland trail, Sally and her fellow ranger were complete fonts of knowledge about the history of the area and everything we saw on the trail. The nature area already looks wonderful, but it is still very much a work in progress as trees that have been recently planted will enhance the beauty of this part of the National Forest greatly, as well as attract further species to nest and settle. I for one am determined to visit the area periodically to see how the woodland takes shape.
Whilst on the woodland trail we stopped for a bit of bug-spotting! Even though Babyzoid is a bit of a tomboy I wasn't sure how she would get on with this. Pretty darned good, as it happens!
Next was lunch - always a nervous time for one who follows a vegan diet - not to mention my equally fussy daughter. I managed to persuade Babyzoid to have a tuna sandwich and she loved it - though this was helped by an inspired intervention from Grannypinkwellies who started making boats and aeroplanes with the food in a bid to get Littlebit to eat hers. Well it had a brilliant effect on Babyzoid too who wolfed most of hers down. As for me, I had a lovely jacket potato with beans and roasted vegetables. It was very tasty and I was very happy to have an option that wasn't just baked beans! Indeed the food was excellent all round.
|Reasonably priced tasty food|
|Delicious and nutritious dairy/meat-free!|
|Babyzoid eats her sandwich, shocker|
They also do an amazing range of cakes (which unfortunately I can't have)
All fed and watered, we were ready to go on our cycling adventure. The cycles are available to hire and are very reasonably priced. Now this was what I was most excited about, but again, I wasn't sure how Babyzoid would fare. As my little almost-4 year old is still rocking her stabilisers, I was worried about how this would work. There are children's bikes, of course, but there are also cycles with seats on the back, as well as our chosen option - the trailer!
|Ready and raring!|
You can also have safety helmets, though if your child's head is particularly small, you might want to being your own.
You are given great little foldout maps of the three cycle trails you can follow, helpfully colour-coded as Yellow (family trail), green (easy) and blue (more difficult - I forget the exact terminology here!). Well, we decided to follow the yellow route and it all started out well enough. We even ran into a woodland friend a little way along who came to say hello:
He even let me pet him - what a cutie!
And on we went. Now you'll remember I can't even follow Satnav instructions properly, so you can imagine how good I was at sticking to a route. The routes are helpfully marked out with colour-coded arrows so that you stay on your chosen track. Most people would probably be fine with this, but not us. Ohhhh no. We criss-crossed between the yellow, green and tricky blue routes. We left the Wellies in our dust, but they seemingly had the same experience, so closer attention to the map before you merrily set off might be wise if your fitness is a bit lacking or you want the more gentle cycling experience.
Not us! "Faster, Mummy, faster!" Squealed Babyzoid as I went careering round bends, Tour-de-France style. It was fun, exhilirating, and totally refreshing to be peddling through the woodland, not another soul in site (where did those Wellies go?) and I can't wait to do it again sometime. I might even deliberately take the blue route next time!
|A pause to take in the view!|
|So now we're on the green route, eh?|
|The blue route is very foresty!|
What an absolutely wonderful adventure. I can't thank Hicks Lodge enough for inviting us and I would not hesitate to recommend a visit - we will most definitely be back again before long. It was the best day we've had out this summer and I can't stress enough how important I think it is to foster a love of the outdoors in our children. After all, if they don't feel they have a stake in our most precious natural resources then they won't fight to protect them in the future.
So that was our day complete, well, almost. Naturally, a 1.5 hour woodland trail and 4.5mile cycling wasn't quite enough for Babyzoid and her pals. No, they had their eyes on the adventure playground to cap off a most excellent day while all the red-faced saddle-sore adults caught their breaths.
|King of the castle....|