Day 14 – Location, location and Forest Adventuring!

Our location is very much “off the beaten track” and we have had to work hard to tempt people to make the detour up the hill. Attractions such as our Maze Maze and Forest Adventure have helped put the Farm Shop on the map, and every summer some of our first time forest visitors become new regular Farm Shop customers.

The Forest Adventure opened in 2006, designed by our family for other families to enjoy. This replaced the Maize Maze, which was impossible to grow successfully here once we had turned organic. Our idea was to create a nature based activity area that would appeal to 5-12 year olds, as this was the age our children were.  We realised that there wasn’t much going on for kids this age in our area at the time and spotted a gap in the market. The original concept was for a family activity or something that might appeal to a couple of friends meeting up with their respective children for a walk-and-a-talk with a difference.  A friend suggested that we visit “Cream of Galloway” in Dumfries and we were so impressed with their play area in the trees that we decided to create something similar, although on a smaller scale.  We were lucky to have access to an area of woodland that our landlords had recently thinned, making it an open, light woodland and a blank canvas.  We planned to plant lots of new trees but soon realised the wonder of natural regeneration and there are now a great variety of young trees and shrubs as well as wildflowers thriving in the forest.  A local playground company built a zip line and  scramble net and Mark and his team have then added to this over the years, with slides, walkways and tunnels. Emma and William dedicated themselves to testing the angle of every slide and the speed of every ride and Edward Green of Southern Green Landscape Architects spent a summer here as a student, helping us build the Oak Tree Walkway.

For those that like a little adventure and a lot of nature, the Forest Adventure really fits the bill and has been a much loved day out for over well over 200,000 visitors since it first opened.  As well as a bird hide we have tried to incorporate lots of nature based learning into the activities on offer in the forest and we use the forest during the week for team building and orienteering with our school visitors. There are several quizzes to test your knowledge – with all the answers hidden amongst the trees. During her time working here Ruth Moreland created some wonderful activities and forest school holiday camps that will never be forgotten by those children that took part. She created the wonderful dragon (his name is Bark) as well as the flower fairy and baby animal quizzes.  Forest Rangers James, Ed, Jo, Kayleigh, Juliana, Jo-anne and Lesley have all added their creative input over the years and there are new activities and quizzes being dreamed up all the time.

What we love most about the forest is how it changes through the seasons.  In the Spring you can watch the fern fronds unfold and buds bursting into leaf on the trees.  Then Summer arrives with rhododendrons and foxgloves, before wild raspberries and then blackberries dot the forest.  By July the ferns have grown tall, turning the forest into a jungle and by September we start to see Autumn colours in the trees and with it an array of fungi.  It’s truly a magical place, both at the ends of the day when it’s peaceful and you can hear the birds singing and at busy times when the happy shrieks of children fill the air.

So what are you waiting for?! Buy some tickets here and come and visit our forest soon!