Mystical adventure in the forest of fun

RICHARD BATSON It is a form of childhood fun as old and traditional as the trees that smile down on it. Running around the woods has worn out the legs, and trouser knees, of generations of youngsters.

RICHARD BATSON

It is a form of childhood fun as old and traditional as the trees that smile down on it.

Running around the woods has worn out the legs, and trouser knees, of generations of youngsters.

Now Norfolk's newest tourist attraction is rekindling the lost art of woodland adventure, with a sprinkle of fairy dust to add some fantasy creatures.

Bewilderwood was a run-down pocket of wood, marsh, dykes and hillside close to Wroxham.

When it opens next month after a £1.5m wand-waving transformation it will be a forest of fun featuring tree houses, aerial walkways, slides and zipwires set in mystical world of woodland creatures, headed by Swampy the 2ft tall marsh boggle.

Most Read

His adventures also involve Thornyclod the giant spider, tree twiggles, a witch, and Mildred, a 14ft-long crocklebog who lives in the Scary Lake but is not as frightening as she first looks - being a vegetarian.

Workmen are adding the finishing touches to the park, ahead of the May 21 opening. Yesterday, the latest attraction to arrive was Doris - a 1,000-year-old hollowed out tree trunk which will be the ticket office.

Standing in a row of oaks at the edge of the 23-hectare adventure centre, the 4m tall stump has been rescued from destruction in its native Africa, where it once would have towered 120ft into tropical sky.

A British-owned garden furniture company spotted it rotting in a Ghanaian factory yard and brought it to 4,000 miles to England where it was used as exhibition centrepiece, after being carved by apprentices who gave the tree her name.

But when Bewilderwood bosses Tom Blofeld and Simon Egan spotted it at Birmingham's NEC on a buying trip to stock the gift shop, they also bought the tree for their new park.

It suffered a mishap on the way to Norfolk, hitting a steel motorway bridge, but was given first aid and has been recuperating at a yard in Yarmouth, before arriving at its final resting place just off the Horning/Hoveton road.

An estimated 80,000 people a year are expected to visit the attraction, which aims to provide outdoor fun in a mystical setting.

The partners have worked with the Treehouse Company, which built the largest treehouse in the world at Alnwick Castle, and has now created villages of aerial homes in the Norfolk woodland - linked with jungle-style walkways aimed at youngsters aged four to 14.

Visitors can also take boat rides within the wood, with one of the vessels being the old Horning ferry which had an earlier working life just up the road.

A book about Swampy and his friends, written by Tom Blofeld and entitled A Boggle at Bewilderwood, will be launched in the week before the park opening.

For more information about Bewilderwood visit www.bewilder

wood.co.uk or call 01603 783900.