We were visiting Dalby Forest the other day to review Go Ape. One thing I’ve had on my radar for the past few weeks is the Zog Activity Trail which is also on at Dalby Forest. We are big fans of Julia Donaldson in this house and have owned a hardback copy of Zog for a few years now. The last trail we completed via the Forestry Commission was the Gruffalo over at Sherwood Pines, which is no longer running. I was excited to be trying out their newest trail. But if I compare it to the Gruffalo trail I was rather disappointed.
Picking up our Zog pack
I hadn’t done a huge amount of research about the trail nor read many reviews. But the ones I had read were very enthusiastic about the trail. We figured that we should head to the Visitor centre to purchase a Zog trail pack which luckily was the right place to go. It cost £3.00 for the pack and it contained a pencil, a Zog head mask, a red viewer, star stickers, activity book and a drawing sheet.
Also in the visitor centre, they have a cafe, toilets, drawing area, binoculars to do some bird watching and a small play area with lawnmowers and such like. Plus a table full of forest items for the kids to touch and explore.
Hunting down the start of the Zog trail
The start of the Zog trail at Dalby Forest is a long walk from the visitor centre. I enquired about how long approximately it would take us to complete the trail. I was informed that it would take about an hour. The walk itself to the start and back takes at least 10 minutes each way, let alone the trail itself. All in all, it took us 1 hour 30 and that was with walking quite fast and not stopping for a sit-down.
You have to walk to the far end of the main car park and then follow more signs through a collection of buildings and then on even further to the start of the trail. There’s plenty of signs along the way though so you won’t get lost.
Review of the Zog Trail at Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire
It hadn’t been made clear to us exactly what we were looking for on the trail. In the activity pack, it showed pictures of dragons that you had to find. What we hadn’t realised was that they were single round pictures hidden on trees along the trail. We had been ticking off dragons that we’d spotted on the large activity boards along the trail instead. Doh!
Look out for these round pictures along the trail so you can tick them off
The trail follows a loop path at Dalby forest. The path is mostly flat with lots of small bumps. You are allowed to take your bikes on this path and you should be fine with pushchairs and wheelchairs. To be honest I was a little disappointed that the path was so easy to follow.
When we completed the Gruffalo trail at Sherwood Pines it wasn’t always 100% clear where you had to go next and it was fun following the signs. This element of adventure was taken away at Dalby and I thought that was a shame as essentially it wasn’t really a trail.
What to look out for on the Zog Trail
Along the way, there are large signs detailing the story as you go plus extra activities for your kids to complete. Such as flapping like a bird, making animal noises and identifying signs of animals. These were good fun and partly educational. These are the signs we mistook to be the dragon spotting signs. Once your kids complete these tasks they can take one of the gold stars from the sticker sheet. Just like the dragons in the story.
Also along the route, you will find the round signs with a picture of each dragon which you then tick off on the activity booklet. Finally, the other sign to spot along the way are clever pictures that you can spot another picture within by using the red viewer which was also in the pack. This was the most interesting and fun part of the trail for us.
I did, however, wonder why the Zog trail was taking a backwards step compared to the Gruffalo trail. The Gruffalo had wonderful interactive elements where your mobile phone could bring the characters to life for photos with them. Plus other fun aspects to the trail. The Zog trail just didn’t have anything exciting like that and for myself that was disappointing. We saw a few families along the trail and the little ones were just not interested in the boards at all. There needs to be a more interactive element for them, I feel.
We never had a chance to experience the Highway rat trail or the Room on the broom trail but I understand that they are similar to this trail. Maybe, I was spoilt with the Gruffalo but for me personally, I like to see trails improve and not take a step backwards. The end of the trail was such an anti-climax as well with just a board cut out picture of Zog. Jamie was very confused as to how that was the end.
After the trail, we had some lunch in the cafe at the Visitor Centre. We were very cold by now so we were happy to see that they served hot food as well as cold. I had a jacket potato and Jamie had a toasted sandwich. After lunch, we headed over to the playground by the visitor centre for an hour or so. We spent £13.00 on this and two drinks.
The Playground at Dalby Forest Visitor Centre
One thing that has to be said about Dalby Forest is that it is stunningly beautiful. It’s set in a series of valleys and the trees and scenery all around is gorgeous. The loop walk we did for the Zog trail had streams running through the middle of it and on one side farmland with horses and sheep and pretty cottages. The location for the playground is set amongst the most picturesque location of all. There’s a tree covered hill behind and a very shallow stream running along the bottom with easy access to paddle in. Although not our thing on a cold March day. We are already looking forward to returning in warmer weather.
There was plenty in the playground, even with a couple of things roped off. There’s a large climbing structure with a tube slide. A couple of smaller slides. Plus a really fun assault course, reed tunnels, swings, toddler play area and more. Here are a few photos from the main play area.
Where to Find the Zog Trail Across the UK
Of course, the Zog trail isn’t just on at Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire Address – Dalby Forest Visitor Centre Low Dalby Thornton-le-Dale Pickering North Yorkshire YO18 7LT. You can also find it at the following locations:
- Alice Holt, Surrey – Bucks Horn Oak near, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 4LS
- Beechenhurst, Forest of Dean – B4226, Coleford GL16 7EJ
- Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent – Bedgebury Rd, Goudhurst TN17 2SJ
- Cannock Chase Forest, Staffordshire – Forestry Commission, Cannock Chase, Rugeley, Staffordshire, WS15 2UQ
- Cardinham Woods, Cornwall – Bodmin PL30 4AL
- Fineshade Woods Northamptonshire – Forestry Commission Visitor Centre, Fineshade, Corby NN17 3BB
- Gisburn Forest, Lancashire – Gisburn Forestry England, Slaidburn, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 4TS
- Grizedale Forest, Cumbria – Grizedale, Hawkshead, Cumbria, LA22 0QJ
- Guisborough Forest, Yorkshire – 8 Old Station Cottages, Pinchinthorpe, Guisborough TS14 8HD
- Haldon Forest Park, Devon – Bullers Hill, Kennford, Exeter EX6 7XR
- Hamsterley Forest, Durham – Hamsterley Forest, Redford, Hamsterley, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, DL13 3NL
- Haughmond Hill, Shropshire – Haughmond Hill, Shrewsbury, SY4 4PL
- Hicks Lodge, Leicestershire – Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Swadlincote LE65 2UP
- High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Norfolk – Thetford Forest, Brandon IP27 0AF
- Jeskyns Community Woodland, Kent – Henhurst Rd, Cobham DA12 3AN
- Kielder Forest, Northumberland – Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland, NE48 1BT
- Moors Valley, Dorset – Horton Rd, Ashley Heath BH24 2ET
- Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire – Wootton Rd, Northampton NN7 2HX
- Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire – Edwinstowe, Mansfield NG21 9JL
- Thames Chase, Essex – Upminster RM14 3NS
- Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire – Aston Clinton, Tring HP23 6LD
- Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria – Keswick CA12 5TW
- Wyre Forest, Worcestershire – Wyre Forest Discovery Centre, Callow Hill, Rock, Worcestershire, DY14 9XQ
Dalby Forest Facilities
At Dalby Forest as well as the visitor centre, Go Ape, cafe, the playground at the centre and the Zog trail you will find:
13 walking trails (including easy access)
6 cycling trails
4 running trails
1 more play area (Discover Grandfather Oak and the Curious Forest in their new wild play area, den building is highly encouraged!)
Multiple BBQ and picnic sites
They also have plans to build a dry stone wall maze. Plus there is the opportunity to go orienteering with the help of the Gruffalo. For £1.50 you can pick up a certificate and a map and take a fun family-friendly map reading challenge. Using a simple map you need to find twelve Gruffalo markers hidden in the deep, dark wood. These may even include large wooden sculptures from the story. This is something we will certainly give a go on our next visit.
You can also pick up a My Forest Adventure Pack. For £7.50 you will get a backpack, activity booklet, foldout binoculars, magnifier and collecting tray. Plus forest finds card, stickers and a pencil.
This also sounds fun “Snarkhunter at Dalby. Download the Snarkhunter app to follow Lewis Carroll’s original story and play some exciting games as you explore dedicated forest trails! Follow the Baker, the Banker or the Bonnet Maker and play some exciting games as you explore Dalby.” Although if it needs a signal I will struggle as my phone had no reception at all at Dalby Forest.
Car parking costs £5 for the day until the end of February and from March – November £9.
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