An Afternoon Out at Bedgebury Forest
I have some font memories of visiting Bedgebury forest in East Kent from when I was a teenager, so when I had a half decent reason to return with my twins, I leapt on the opportunity. I didn’t really do any research before we actually arrived which probably would have benefitted us, but such is life, and I have to assume that other people are a bit more organised than me!
We had a great afternoon meeting up with an old friend of mine, but it wasn’t without its minor disasters. To begin with, I hadn’t appreciated that the hour long journey to the forest was almost exclusively on wiggly country lanes, which resulted in my son projectile vomiting all over himself and the car seat before we’d even arrived. We pulled up on the side of a muddy country lane to give him water and get him changed into something a bit less sicky, and luckily I am sensible enough to always travel with spare clothes and a towel in the boot of the car. After a few minutes of wrestling with a sicky toddler, a disgruntled Kenitsh country-person came to see what on earth we were doing outside of her house – once we assured her that we were all okay and would be gone in a minute, she left and we finished cleaning up and making sure both twins were okay to carry on with the journey.
We arrived and met up with our friend in the carpark for Bedgebury Forest, where we were shocked to see the parking charge was going to be £10! Living in a semi-rural area of the North, I’ve been conditioned to expect things to be either free, or very cheap – £10 for a couple of hours in a carpark is neither of these things, but I decided not to dwell on this as I wrestled children into the buggy.
My main teenage memory of Bedgebury is of having to be airlifted down from a giant rope net which is part of the Go Ape high ropes course – I’d managed to get myself stuck, and being collected by a staff member in a crane was the only way of getting down, which everyone tends to think is hilarious when I recount the story. The Go Ape course is still up and running (although not throughout the winter months) but the Gruffalo Trail was what we were interested in on this particular occasion.
After a quick loo stop in the café, we went off to find the Gruffalo Trail, and immediately were faced with lots of blockages across trails. It turns out that we had decided to visit on the day when staff were taking down the Christmas décor, meaning we had limited access to the forest. The main way to the Gruffalo trail was blocked, but a passing member of staff gave us some alternative directions which we tried but failed to follow.
Instead, we aimlessly wondered around some paths, and it was lovely just being out in nature. We were visiting on a weekday, so there weren’t many people around which made it even nicer. The weather was cold, but nothing a hat and scarf couldn’t solve.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before my daughter decided that she really didn’t like the forest, and the trees in particular were very scary – not a great realisation to have when you’re on a forest walk. It wasn’t long before my son followed suit and started getting upset about the trees too, so we headed to the safety of the café. On our way, we passed countless brilliant looking adventure playgrounds and the very end of the Gruffalo Trail where we saw the life size Gruffalo sculpture. I thought this was excellent, but my children did not agree.
Everyone was happier once we reached the café, until we saw the prices of the food and drink that was on offer. Again, I don’t know if perhaps the prices reflected being in the South, or really were high, but I found it hard to hide my shock. Despite the cost, there was a lot on offer, much of which was toddler and vegetarian friendly, and everything we ended up getting was very tasty.
With full bellies and time to calm down, we all headed back to one of the closest adventure play areas to try and get a bit more time outdoors before heading home. We did manage a good half an hour exploring the swings, obstacle courses, and rope bridges, before anyone remembered that they’re terrified of trees – not a complete disaster! I was quite impressed with the diversity of the activities and playgrounds throughout the forest and there was definitely something for everyone. My friend found a climbing wall along one of the trails which he scaled without too much effort, but I imagine this would be fantastic for most children!
All in all, a nice outing, but it would definitely have been better if my children weren’t scared of trees. I would definitely consider taking a packed lunch next time too to save a few pennies in the café!