After reading the fantastic review from ‘north east family fun‘ a while back, the Stick Man trail at Hamsterley Forest was high on our list of things to do with the girls. We love a good trail and nothing motivates the girls more than the sense of achievement from completing a worksheet! The girls are big fans of Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaeffer books and have recently enjoyed the TV adaptation of The Stick Man which was shown over Christmas, so we were all well versed in the story.
Getting to Hamsterley Forest
The Stick Man trails are running from Forestry commission sites across the country. Our nearest site is Hamsterley Forest in County Durham, which isn’t exactly on the doorstep taking around 1 hour 30 minutes in the car from Newcastle. The drive was pleasant passing through some lovely scenery and the blue skies and sunshine was a bonus too. As our Three Yorkshire Peaks challenge was looming closer, it was a good opportunity to put on the hiking boots too!
Once at the site it was clear a lot of people were making the most of good weather and we struggled to find a parking spot, eventually finding one in the car park near the adventure playground. The £5 for the day car park was paid and the trail was bought for £3 from the office next to the coffee shop. The site is situated on the bank of a stream with a coffee shop outdoor seating area, a clean toilet block and a bike hire shop. The site is extremely popular with cyclists and lots of routes well marked out.
The Stick Man Trail
The Stick Man trail was in a bag which included was a clue sheet, a pencil, a crayon (for bark and brass plaque rubbings), paper and some pipe cleaners (to create your own stick man)
The start of the trail was well marked, near a silver bridge, and next to one of the many adventure playgrounds. The girls wanted to jump straight on this park and we let them go ahead-today was about taking it slow and enjoying being away from the housework and stresses of life.
The trail led us across the bridge and through the forest. The girls had to look for signs of various characters in the books and tick them off and some questions to be answered on the sheet. On our route we passed by another climbing frame in the shape of a Viking long-boat which provided much entertainment.
We came to a grassy area with picnic benches and decided this was a good stop to have our picnic. Half way through the picnic we had some very cute doggy visitors come over to the table. It appeared we were in the middle of a Eurasian dog owners meet up (I had to ask one of the walkers as you definitely don’t see many of them around) so flipping cute! Like teddy bears.
Back on the trail we came to a sign with the instruction to build a nest. The girls found moss, twigs and grass and had fun doing it. We then headed up into the forest crossing back over the stream and had an unsuccessful fame of pooh sticks. The sticks got wedged somewhere! Anyway despite this set back , we pushed on to the final lap of the trail involved heading up a bank to complete the brass and bark rubbings.
Hamsterley Forest Coffee Shop
The trail had taken approximately 3 hours but we took it at a leisurely pace stopping for the girls to play and for the picnic. It was definitely time for the caffeine fix.
Alan and the girls found a bench in the enclosed seating area, which had a small area with wooden steps and a sandpit, and I queued for the coffee inside. The coffee shop was busy and the food that was coming out looked fresh and homemade. Excess over Easter meant we were cutting back so stuck with a nice Pumphreys filter coffee.
It was so lovely to sit outside in the sunshine. It finally felt as if Spring was here!
Coffee consumed we made our way back to the car and the girls played in the large adventure playground. It was fantastic lots of climbing opportunities and a cool boat-shaped shuggy boat made from a super fat rope to play on. They had fun messing around with the head cams on.
for more information on Stick Man trails see here.