What tribe are you? Our new family days out writer is wild about woods and finds trees and tribes at Thetford Forest’s High Lodge
- Credit: supplied
Tree lover Sally White finds a forest full of fun for all the family on the Norfolk/Suffolk border
Trees are one of my top favourite things. One of the greatest losses of being a grown up is that it's no longer acceptable to climb trees or make camps under them. I basically only bothered procreating so I could have a reasonable excuse to start doing all that again.
Up until a recent move, my children have been raised in the wilds of Norwich's Unthank Road and spent their time exploring the handkerchief garden where the most exciting thing they could spot was next-door's football. In contrast, I spent my childhood feralling around in the woods. I was going to try and paint a picture of me as a kid being like a 1980s version of Katniss Everdeen and had to stop myself because it'd misleading. I was more…well…I was a member of Young Ornithologist Club and had a notebook of lichen samples, put it that way.
My children's lack of interest in Moss and Other Tree Growths is a source of bitter disappointment to me. How can the fruit of my loins know all the names of Paw Patrol but not an oak from a willow? What have I created?! So, the husband and I loaded the Citroen with the kiddos, a Collins guide to trees and a pair of binoculars* and headed for Thetford Forest to right the wrongs of our children's upbringing.
*I didn't pack the binoculars actually, because we took them to Borneo with us pre-kids and haven't seen them since we went night-time croc spotting. That was nine years ago. Husband hasn't noticed that they're missing yet. I'm 90pc sure I dropped them in the water. Shh.
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High Lodge, for the uninitiated, is an adventure playground in the woods. On its website it describes itself as a 'premier recreation site' which makes it sound like a fancy park but it's way more than that. I will usefully/judgementally divide families in to 'types' so you can calculate which of High Lodge's assets best suit you:
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The Lycra Lot
You know who you are: you've got roof racks, your kid's been without stabilisers since it was eight months old, you go for hiking holidays. You may even have team t-shirts and do Parkrun together. For you lot, there are excellent bike tracks. Pack your protein bars in your panniers and head off in any direction. You'll soon be just Team Lycra and the trees. Enjoy.
You are professional picnickers: I bet you've got a flat-pack BBQ and a wind-break in the boot of your 4x4. For you there's a big field in the centre of the woods just begging for you to unwind with your fold-out chairs and ice box. Within arm's reach is a big play area with sand, swings, seesaws, play tents, and enough stuff to climb to keep even the most over-excited member of your crew busy. All in the shade of the picturesque pines.
This is 100pc my category. If you're like me, you've forgotten to pack the kids' wellies but you've got a storming Sainsbury's picnic in your backpack and a pocket full of chocolate coins to 'hide' along the track to help cajole your kids through the woodland. For us, there is a gentle, meandering track through the woods with plenty of bits to do and explore until you get to the right tree trunk to unpack your picnic on.
High Lodge is a magical spot, whatever your tribe. The woods are littered with bells to play, tepees to pretend to camp out in, musical stepping stones to jump on and even a trail to follow to the Gruffalo. In fact, it was so much fun I totally forgot to take any lichen samples or bore on about evergreens; a lucky escape for my two city dwellers.
You only pay for parking which is £2.20 an hour or £11.50 all day. I am almost phobic about paying for parking, but even I think it's a bargain because there are no other charges - unless you want to participate in the Go Ape tree-top assault course which is at High Lodge too. It looks ace. Check it all out online at www.forestry.gov.uk/highlodge
Sally is a teacher and blogger. For more ideas for days out and parenting-musings, visit her website wifeofawigwearer.com