We are huge fans of Julia Donaldson’s books here at Love From Mummy HQ. At one point in time I could recite the Gruffalo all but word perfect and i’m pretty partial to Room On The Broom and A Squash And A Squeeze as well, but the boys’ absolute favourite book of hers is Stick Man. They received a copy in their Christmas Book Advent Calendar last year and since then it’s never left their bedside table.
So, a couple of weeks ago when the sun was shining brightly I decided to take them and my niece to the Stick Man Trail at Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent. The trailed opened last November and is aimed at younger children, although having now visited myself, I think the whole family can enjoy finding the trail signs and completing fun activities as they go. I know I certainly did.
Upon arrival at Bedgebury Pinetum, we stopped by the Visitor Centre to pick up some of the Stick Man activity packs (£3 each). It’s not compulsory to use these, but the pack contains a trail leaflet, activity sheets, pencil, crayon and pipe cleaners to make your own Stick Man, so I thought it would be an extra element of fun for the kids.
N.B. The Visitor Centre is home to the only toilets on site so I’d recommend taking a trip to them before you venture off!
The Stick Man Trail at Bedgebury Pinetum starts off just outside the Visitor Centre and is well signposted throughout. There are 9 stops along the trail, each one clearly marked by signs that represent a different part of the story. They feature an extract from the book, a little reminder to fill out the trail leaflet, fun facts and an activity for the children to get involved with.
Activities along the Stick Man Trail include picking up sticks, making a nest, building a tower, playing pooh sticks and bark rubbing. It was lovely being able to spend the morning exploring the forest with the kids, getting involved with nature, spotting wildlife and enjoying some fresh air.
There are various character signs to find along the trail as well, some of which are hidden in plain sight, others need a little more detective work. We also stumbled across Stick Man’s “family bed” buried deep in the undergrowth amongst bushes and branches and tree roots. This, in particular, was highly exciting for Tia and the boys. (Don’t worry, there are subtle signs to ensure you don’t miss it!)
I must say, I was really surprised with how quiet and peaceful it was at Bedgebury Pinetum, despite the fact it was the summer holidays and a boiling hot day, we only encountered three other families as we walked around the trail. Not that I’m complaining, I’d rather that than being swamped by people.
The last activity on the trail is where children can make a Stick Man figure using pipe cleaners from the activity pack to hang on the Stick Man family tree. There were absolutely loads on there already so Tia decided to hang hers and the boys in a completely different area so they’d stand out more.
As we approached the end of the Stick Man Trail at Bedgebury Pinetum, the kids spotted a giant Stick Man figure and that was it – they were gone. It’s a really lovely photo opportunity though, if you can get them to stand still for 5 minutes!
The trail is estimated to take 1hour to complete but it took us almost 2 hours. We did spend about 30minutes building nests and stopped for a snack and to feed the ducks though.
The facilities at Bedgebury Pinetum are fantastic, with a large visitor’s centre, a gift shop, immaculate and spacious toilet/changing facilities, outdoor seating/picnic area by the lake and a big café, which was very reasonably priced and served delicious food. There are also adventure playgrounds and a play trail but we didn’t make it to them on this occasion.
THE STICK MAN TRAIL AT BEDGEBURY PINETUM // USEFUL INFORMATION:
Opening Times – Bedgebury Pinetum is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 8am. Closing times vary throughout the year so refer to their site for further information.
Car Parking – Car parking is available and an admission fee of £10 is charged per car on weekdays and £12 at weekends. Access to the forest, Stick Man trail, adventure playgrounds etc. is free of charge.
Stick Man Activity Pack – A Stick Man Activity Pack can be purchased from the information point in the visitor centre between 9.30am and 4pm. Cost £3.
Stick Man Trail Starting Point – Bedgebury Visitor Centre
Length Of Trail – The trail takes place around the Pinetum, following surfaced paths and takes around an hour to complete. (longer if you stop to carry out activities).