When I asked my children what they wanted to do today, the answer was unanimous. Go on an adventure.
Well, I say unanimous – that’s what Little Man O, 3¾, and Little Miss E, 5½, said. Baby Boy I, now 16 months, didn’t really express an opinion, so an adventure it was.
Fforest Fawr sculpture trail has been on my list of must-do days out for ages, so today seemed the perfect opportunity.
It’s situated not far from Castell Coch – the fairy tale-style castle whose red roof protrudes through the trees at Tongwynlais, on the northern edge of Cardiff. It’s about a mile or so down the road after the castle’s entrance if you’re coming from the A470.
The trail opened in 2007 and was designed by the Cardiff Outdoor Learning Wales network group, who worked with local children to create a fun outdoor learning experience. It’s managed by Natural Resources Wales, which has incorporated The Forestry Commission Wales.
It’s based on the idea of a giant creature living in the woods, who has discarded a number of objects including a treasure chest, cauldron, some books and a chair. There’s also a dragon, a wizard and other mythical creatures, all intricately carved into tree trunks and dotted around the trail. The area is popular with school groups, and children are encouraged to create a story based around the objects, so that’s what we thought we’d do, too.
Starting and finishing at the free car park, it’s a circular route of about 1.5 miles/2.6km and, as you would imagine, the route is really accessible for families with young children. If you don’t want to do the whole trail, it’s easy enough to leave mid-way through. It took us just over an hour and half to complete, but we were definitely taking our time and having fun exploring our surroundings. It’s also a great place to bring dogs.
I took a buggy for Baby, as it would have been way too far for his little legs to walk the whole way round. There were a couple of parts of the trail that were tricky to navigate with a pushchair, but mostly, it was fine. Being the middle of the forest, there were no toilet facilities… but thankfully this wasn’t an issue for us today!
Even before we had entered the trail itself, the area around the car park kept my children entertained for a while. They loved the giant creature pictured at the top of the page, complete with saddles for them to sit on; and the official entrance with the red dragon and wizard.
The wooden stepping stones were great fun; my children went back and forth on them several times; despite their young ages, the distance between the steps was fine for my eldest two.
They loved discovering each sculpture and creating a story of how it got there. But they also loved exploring on their own accord. We spotted a squirrel very soon into the trail. He scooted around in front of us for two or three minutes, not at all worried by our presence. Miss E also collected some empty nut shells, while Little Man gathered lots of sticks.
We found some horse hoof prints in the mud, which my children were really excited about – and they thought the sight of manure was hilarious.
There were quite a few muddy puddles, which is not at all surprising seeing as the weather had been so up and down in the days prior to our visit. We’d brought our wellies, so they took great delight in walking through the mud in these. We also found a few fallen tree trunks that they had fun walking along, testing out their balancing skills. There were also a few tree stumps that were great for playing “I’m the king (or queen) of the castle”.
It was an overcast and cloudy day so we didn’t quite get the full benefits of the viewing point, looking across Cardiff, but I can imagine on a sunny, clear day it would have been incredible.
The final point of interest on the trail is the Three Bears Cave. Little Man was a bit scared of this, as we could only see a statue of two of the bears so he wasn’t quite sure where the other one was hiding!
the pathway alongside the woods back to the car park was quite long and slightly uphill – but we entertained ourselves by reciting some of our favourite woodland-based stories, including The Gruffalo and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. We got back to the car, all three of my children (and me, too) covered in mud and dirt, absolutely shattered but bursting with excitement about their woodland adventure. All signs of a good day out if ever there were.
Have you been to Fforest Fawr sculpture trail with your children? Do let me know what you thought of it either in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy
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