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We love a good outdoorsy day out in this house. We’re usually prepared to drive up to an hour for something promising. When Bewilderwood Cheshire opens, we’ll be there in a shot!
This weekend gone, himself was suffering with a bit of cabin fever having hardly left the house all week. So on Sunday morning we decided to venture out to Delamere Forest.
Delamere is south west of Manchester, east of Chester and Liverpool. It’s almost 100 hectares of woodland with a station, Go Ape and walking and biking trails. There’s a holiday park a stone’s throw away with cabins and camping. There’s a lake which is actually a “rewatered” marshy area called Blakemere Moss.
I’ve been a few times before, when the kids were smaller – the first time as a detour when returning a sling to Chester Sling Library, then later when himself was away somewhere. We’d all attempted to go as a family about 3 years ago but it was super busy, so we abandoned our attempt at parking and went for a pub lunch somewhere else instead.
We figured that the day after pubs reopened and the first day they would be serving Sunday roasts was a good bet that it wouldn’t be so busy.
When we arrived, we turned into the access road to be greeting by a “car park full” sign. Disaster we feared! But there was parking in the Go Ape! area, so we found a space and got ourselves sorted for a pre-lunch wander up to the Gruffalo statue. On our way to trail we passed through the half-full main car park and then bumped into some people from the Forestry Commission. We ask them is we could move the car without having to buy a separate ticket and they confirmed that the same ticket applied to both car parks, even though they had different locations printed on them. So himself went off to move the truck while the boys and I made for the Gruffalo.
Short Walk to the Gruffalo
If you’ve got little legs with you or you’re pushing a buggy, the Gruffalo statue is quite accessible and not too far. We waited for himself at the bridge over the rail line, spotting thistles and wild raspberries and even a train bound for Chester.
On past visits we’ve followed a kids trail, like many Forestry Commission site offer and even use the app to spot the Gruffalo in virtual reality. It was loads of fun.
After the bridge you can go straight on for the direct path to the Gruffalo or branch left for a wander through the woods – where the Gruffalo spotters trail used to be. We went direct as there were hungry stomachs starting to grumble. The statue is really popular with younger children, ours appear to have grown out of it and after a cursory glance they weren’t interested in waiting their turn for a photo.
This was the busiest part of the forest, but people were maintaining their distance (mostly). Lots of kids were climbing and touching the statue though. I must say that its well looked after and doesn’t seem to have suffered in the 4 or 5 years since we last visited it.
The main visitor centre and cafe are closed at the moment, as are the main toilets. They’re busy building what looks like an impressive, spacious new centre too. Since we’re still semi-locked down, there’s outside catering in the form of a couple of trailers. One from the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm, so a real treat even without soft seats and a shelter from the wind. We had packed a picnic so we headed for the benches above the main car park, not far from the portaloos. We munched our sandwiches, crisps and chocolate biscuits stocking up on plenty of energy for a busy afternoon.
I was actually really impressed with the cleanliness – no rubbish strewn everywhere, abundant loo roll and sanitizer – even if a picnic bench and chemical toilet is a far cry from the new centre they’re working on. It looks like it’ll be great when it opens, and if the food is anything like the old cafe it’ll be delicious.
After lunch, we dug the boys bikes out of the truck, secured their helmets and embarked on a ride round the forest. There are two bike trails at 4 miles and 6.8 miles long. These both seemed a bit far and we grown ups don’t have bikes (yet), so we opted for the longest trail – Blakemere – at 3 miles long.
I’d like to say we had lots of fun, but herding 2 boys on bikes that they don’t ride as much as the ought to, up and down hills, avoiding trees and people was rather draining. There were places where the paths were a little narrower or by coincidence there were more people, or there were idiots walking 6 people across so the boys couldn’t get past, dogs running around with their owners paying little attention. We felt like we were constantly trying to encourage the kids or remind them which way to go, helping them up hills and recommending sensible use of brakes down the other side – the first time small boy used his brakes 18 months ago he went straight over the handle bars.
After our long walk and ride, himself resourced ice creams for him and large boy. Small boy doesn’t like ice cream so he had snacks left from the picnic, I was sadly disappointed to find there was no coffee. We were really lucky that the heavens opened just as we all got back in the car.
We had planned to throw some rugby balls and the soft balls with streamer tails about but it was pelting it down so we turned for home and a cup of tea.
We’ll definitely be going back again. When the new visitor centre opens, it should be great. We’re looking forward to sorting bikes for me and himself and going on longer rides, playing rugby catch in the fields, and getting a hot coffee at the end of the day.
So if you live around and about Delamere, and you’ve never been, pay the forest a visit. Its beautiful, with plenty of open spaces and safe trails for kids getting their biking confidence.