A blogger took a stroll through the deep dark wood… wait, that’s not right? I’m sure most of us have come to know and love the Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler trails across Forestry England sites across the UK, but there’s been a little bit of a gap. Well there’s a brand new trail for 2020, and Wendover Woods is one of the sites running the Gruffalo Spotters 2 trail. There are going to be other sites across the UK. Check out their website for the full list of locations. For my review of Wendover Woods as a whole click here.
We were very kindly invited to test out the new trail and app whilst it was still in final testing. This review of the Gruffalo Spotters 2 at trail Wendover Woods is based on what we did and saw today, but I’ll be taking the boys back once it’s officially opened so I’ll be able to update the review then if there are any changes. We were gifted a trail pack but neither Forestry England or Wendover Woods read this review prior to publication, or had any input into its content. All views are my own.
Covid update – This review of the Gruffalo Spotters 2 trail at Wendover Woods was originally written when we tested out the app back in February 2020. We’ll be going back now the trail has gone live to check everything is still the same as it was when we tried it out.
What do I need for the Gruffalo Spotter 2 Trail at Wendover Woods?
Once again there’s a FREE app for you to download (either via your app store or from their website). Initially it’s only available on Apple, but it will be on Android very soon. I’d recommend doing that before you visit, although there is wi-fi onsite. Make sure your phone is fully charged, you’ll be using it quite a lot at certain points on the trail. I’d also recommend taking some sellotape, you’ll see why!
There is a pack that you can buy for £3.50 to go alongside the trail. You can get your pack from the information office near the parking machines. It’s not essential in order to do the trail, but it does really add to it. The pack includes; Gruffalo hands, a Gruffalo mask, trail activities sheet, stickers, game and more. Little tip – the hands and mask can break quite easily. That just leads to upset children and exasperated parents. If you’ve taken some sellotape with you then you can repair them on the go! If you are buying the pack, have a look through the activity sheet before you start walking. That way you won’t miss anything.
Realistically, downloading the free app is essential. You can walk the route on its own, but without the app it’s mainly just a walk. There are some instructions when you first open the app. You can save yourself some time by reading these whilst you’re walking to the first stop.
The Gruffalo Spottes 2 trail and app
Did you do the first Gruffalo Spotters trail in 2017? The one where you could take pictures with the characters from the Gruffalo? Well, the Gruffalo Spotters 2 trail is a step up from that!
The Gruffalo Spotters 2 trail at Wendover Woods follows the same path as the recent Shaun the Sheep glow trail. The earlier section is fairly off-road and downhill. We tested the trail after a lot of rain and it was really muddy on this first section. We went around the entire trail with a pushchair without any problems though. The trail is going to be running throughout the winter though so the mud may get worse over time. Once you’ve got past this bit it’s a much better path, although it does then go uphill in the final section.
There are five stops along the way; Mouse, Fox, Owl, Snake and the Gruffalo. There are also smaller posts to spot along the way and tick off. At each stop there are three markers. Firstly there’s a massive interactive board about the character; there’s questions, things to do and things to touch. There’s also a post to do a rubbing in your activities booklet (using the included crayon). Finally there’s a footprints post. This is the one you need to use the app for.
Hold your phone so the footprints post is in the circle. This will activate the animation (AR). Unlike the first version of the trail, there’s things for you to do. The idea is that you (or other children) read out the instructions on screen and the children follow them. Whilst they’re doing these actions (for example flapping their wings) the AR is interacting with them on the phone. You can record what’s happening and then show the kids once they’ve finished. You can also take photos.
Each sequence involves several stages so you’ll be at each post for several minutes at a time (this might be a bit of a problem when it’s really busy, please ensure you’re socially distancing).
Apparently there are going to be two versions of the app. The normal one actually reacts to what you’re doing on screen. This means, if you don’t do as you’re asked, or it hasn’t recognised it, that you have to keep doing to move to the next stage in the animation. As I mentioned, we were there for testing and there was a bit of a bug. Sadly this was when I was flapping my wings like an owl, and I ended up flapping my “wings” for ages. They’ll be fixing this before go-live though. Overall though I’d say this version is perfect for kids aged 4+. They’re old enough to understand that once they’ve done the actions they can watch themselves on screen.
The second version is the accessible version. This means they’ve stripped out the interactive requirement. After a certain amount of time it automatically moves to the next stage. This is great for younger children who might not be following the instructions fully, or for those who aren’t able to. It’s also useful if you’re the one on screen and the kids are recording! They don’t need to make sure you’re in the right spot.
Once you’ve found all five characters you’re almost back to the cafe. Make sure you stop by the massive Gruffalo sculpture for a photo op along the way!
Our Gruffalo Spotters 2 trail at Wendover Woods review
I really like how the trails keep getting better and better. This is the most interactive trail they’ve done so far. The app reacts to what you’re doing, the posts have things to touch and do. You’re not just looking at stuff, the kids are actively participating in the trail.
Smallest Child was one of the youngest kids that they’ve tested it on (she was 2 1/2 at the time). She did struggle with the concept a little bit – she just wanted to see what was on the screen rather than following the actions. If it had just been the two of us doing the trail I think it would have been easier to either do the accessible version or purely follow the pack. She had a great time doing the activities in the booklet.
For older kids I think they’re going to love it. Following the actions, or getting your parents to follow the actions, is really funny. They’re also the most likely to get the concept of do it first, watch yourself afterwards. If there’s a group of you then the kids can take turns recording or participating. I cannot wait to take the boys along and try it out again once the trail has officially launched.
Entrance to Wendover Woods is FREE. The app is also FREE to download. It’s £3.50 per trail pack.
Parking / How to get there
Address – Upper Icknield Way, Aston Clinton, Aylesbury. Sat Nav Postcode: HP22 5NQ
Parking – A new ANPR system is in place so you pay as you’re leaving – much better than the previous PAYG system. The cost is up to 2 hours £2.50, £4.80 up to 4 hours and £9 all day.
Part of the new visitor centre and they’re much better now. There’s two massive baby changes.
There is a cafe on site and of course picnics are very welcome. There’s a nice open space where you can have yours. They also have a BBQ area. Have a look at the full review of Wendover Woods for an update on the BBQs though.