Exploring the New Highway Rat Trail at Fineshade Wood, Northamptonshire
The first Saturday of the year, what a great time to get started on my 2018 bucket list.
We spent most of the Christmas period taking it easy, not needing to be anywhere, and it was a shock to have to be back at school and work this week. I knew it would be, but what I didn’t realise is that on the first day back at school my insomnia would keep me awake until 3am, causing me to sleep right through my alarm! Isabel (12) had 10 minutes to get dressed and grab her breakfast before running for the school bus, and then I had 10 minutes to focus on the boys. They boys need a lot more hands-on help, especially Max (4) who refuses to be rushed and therefore I ended up dressing him myself – something I keep telling him I’m not going to do for him anymore.
They were at school for 2 days and now it’s the weekend already, and the kids wanted to carry on with their relaxing-Christmassy routine of doing nothing. That’s ok with me, but I know by 2/3pm in the afternoon I would regret not having taken Max out to run off some of his energy. So we compromised and ventured out early afternoon so they had some pyjama computer/television time this morning.
I had heard about the new Highway Rat Trail at Fineshade Wood, and being big Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler fans in this house, we wanted to take the kids along to check it out. Max was given the storybook for Christmas, and we have already read it several times during the last week.
It was cold today so we wrapped up warm to go to Fineshade Wood in Northamptonshire. We started at the Visitors Centre, where you can buy The Highway Rat activity pack for £3. Inside the pack was a Highway Rat mask (which Oliver (9) tried on and broke), an activity sheet, stickers, pencil, string for an activity, and a crayon for brass rubbings .
There was a play area by the visitors centre, it wasn’t very big but that’s ok because we were the only ones there. George (10) preferred to climb a nearby tree.
We crossed the carpark to get to the Highway Rat Trail. There were plaques for brass rubbings, and boards to find and tick off on the worksheet. While Max was completing his sheet, Oliver was pretending to be a spy – hiding somewhere in the woods, watching us. We didn’t know where he was half the time which makes me nervous, but he showed himself every few minutes which put my mind at ease.
George spent his time carrying around huge sticks, “bazookas” and “snipers”.
Isabel was chatting with us, and trying to persuade us to buy her a smart watch. This is 90% of her conversations with us at the moment. Ben said that she could have mine if I wasn’t wearing it, it was hidden under my coat so she couldn’t see. I told her I was wearing it, but she wouldn’t believe me. She spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out if I was wearing my watch or not.
We kept walking. There were signs for the “tree house”. I thought they meant the play area that was back near the visitors centre, but actually it was another play area along the trail and down the hill. The kids enjoyed this one too.
Then we walked back up the hill and finished the trail. I tried to get a photo of everyone at the end, but there was so much messing around. The one I got made me laugh and captured the moment well. Perfectly imperfect.
You can find out more information about the locations for the Highway Rat Trail at the Forestry Commission website. (there are currently 21 locations across England). You can also download free Highway Rat activity sheets. There are more things to do at Top Lodge Fineshade Wood, including Gruffalo Orienteering.