Blog: Becoming Gruffalo Spotters in Thetford Forest!

If you go down to the woods today, a teddy bears’ picnic is the last thing you’re likely to find. What you may spot, however is a lot of families all trying to use smartphones to see woodland creatures and mythical children’s character, The Gruffalo.

Perhaps riding a wave of ‘augmented-reality’ fervour still lingering in the wake of Pokemon Go, several National Trust forests have made trails along which people can choose to track down the elusive Gruffalo and his fearful co-woodlanders. Using an app that is able to turn certain signposts into animated 3d-scenes, people traipse casually through the woodland looking for the little brown mouse, snake, owl or fox until eventually discovering the big man himself. As a fan of technology (and even bigger fan of The Gruffalo) I had to see what was up so we went to Thetford Forest in Norfolk to try it out for ourselves.

Oh help! Oh no! It's The Gruffalo!

Does it work?

It does! The app is lightweight and had no issues installing on my Samsung Galaxy S6. We were a little disappointed to discover that it wasn’t available for Kindle Fire as that would have allowed the children to use their own devices. As it was, they were happy to view through our phones. The app had no issues during the time we were using it. It is able to be launched quickly multiple times without crashing or slowing down which is really important when you’re likely switching it out for your standard camera too. Even if it fully relaunches, it still records what creatures you’ve found so far.

The trail itself was not particularly well signposted, often leaving you a little too much to your own devices but we were ultimately able to find all the animals in the correct order. When reading the special signposts, the scenes kick in almost immediately and, as long as the sun isn’t behind you, you’re treated to an animated scene into which children can put themselves whilst us parents take pictures.

The only understandable issue is when children inevitably walk in front of the special images that trigger the app. If you can corall your child to the side or behind the signposts though, you can usually get a good snap of your younguns interacting with Julia Donaldson’s famous creatures.

What else is there?

If the children are not kept adequately brimming with the potential of seeing the mighty Gruffalo, then for £3 a head they can also be provided with a special Gruffalo Activity Kit. The kit contains a bag, activity sheets, stickers of the Gruffalo characters, a magnifying glass and a pencil. Claudia managed to fill her bag almost entirely with pine cones, which we will now have to find a crafty use for.

The trail is definitely worth taking part in at least once but do make sure that it’s not the only thing you do while in the forest. Off the trail you’ll also find a lot of other activities including food and drink, adventure playgrounds and musical activities to take part in.

How much is it?

The trail and the app are free of charge. There’s plenty of parking, charged at £2.20 per hour up to 5hrs, or £11.50 all day (+5hrs). Activity Kits are £3 each.

How can I find out more?

Visit https://www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffalo

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