on July 18, 2009
== Grizedale Forest. == === Location === Grizedale is located between Esthwaite Water and Coniston. Parking always used to be a problem here, but they've created a larger car park a couple of years ago, so chances are you shouldn't have a problem now. To reach the forest from the North you need to take the A591 to Ambleside, leave Ambleside A593 to Langdale/Coniston. First left B5286 to Hawkshead. Bypass Hawkshead follow B5286 south then first right at tourist sign "Theatre in the Forest", follow to Grizedale approx 2 miles. Or from the South M6 junction 36 take A591 first exit A590, Barrow follow A590 past Newby Bridge Havethwaite Crossroads, right turn, tourist sign "Grizedale Forest Park", follow signs for Satterthwaite/Grizedale north.During the high season (Easter to Oct/Nov) you can reach Grizedale via the Cross Lakes Experience, where you can arrive from either Coniston Water or Bowness Pier. There’s also a bus service that runs from Hawkshead to Grizedale to Newby Bridge.=== The Forest === At the old car park (which is still useable) you'll find the visitors centre, the shop, the cafe and a massive playground for the children which is all wood and looks like a ship. There's also a place to hire cycles and the Go Ape tree top experience, where those over the age of 10 can swing through the trees and clamber around 19 metres in the air!! I have to say I've never tried it, the trees would probably bend under the weight, but I've watched people doing it and they always look like they are thoroughly enjoying it, and I admit I'd love to have a go on the zip wire. It's open for children over 10 and adults, currently the prices are £20 for children up to 17 and £25 for adults. For the less adventurous among you there are several different walks around the forest, all of differing difficulties and distances. Some of the walks are free of stiles, so they are suitable for wheelchair users, although none are actual pavemented walks, so they might still be hard going depending on the style of wheelchair, because I know some are far more difficult to push or handle than others. The other walks range from a 1 mile blue walk which is classed as easy to a 9 and a half mile orange walk, which is classed as strenuous. The walks are all marked out with arrows of certain colours along the route, so you don't accidently go along a more difficult path. All in all there are 8 marked walks. The forest is also home to the country’s largest off road cycling facility, it has 5 marked cycle routes of differing difficulties.As you're walking round you'll find statues hidden among the trees, I say hidden, some of them are quite obvious and out in the open, but the kids love to be the first one to spot the next statue. The statues are mostly made of natural materials, although some of the newer ones are metal rather than wood. Some of the figures are interactive, for instance you can play the forest xylophone. At the beginning of the forest close to the Go Ape area there is a small stream running through the forest. Providing they have wellington boots on this stream is just right for the children to jump in and splash about, without any worries about it being too deep.=== Visitors Centre === The visitors centre is open all year round, except for Christmas week. It opens at 10am each day and closes between 4pm and 5.30pm depending on the time of year (later opening during the summer). The visitors centre has details of the walks and cycle trails, they have leaflets which show all the walks, but as previously mentioned all the walks are well signposted with colour co-ordinated arrows. They also sell souvenirs, and just across from the main centre there’s a small cafe which has hot and cold snacks as well and hot and cold drinks, although they are a little expensive, so I’d advise packing a few of your own drinks. There are indoor and outdoor seats, the outdoor seats are also available for anyone who wants to take a picnic. On the opposite side of a small stream you’ll find a cycle hire shop, so you don’t have to take your own cycles, the latest you can hire a cycle is 3pm, and it has to be returned by 5pm.Also close to the visitor’s centre is a large children’s park. The playground has a large wooden structure in the centre which is shaped like a pirate ship, and has slides and climbing frames. This is usually being used by children aged 10 and under, with a few children around 11-13, after that age it seems like it isn’t ‘cool’ enough to be used.Just outside the Visitors Centre you’ll find the Theatre in the Forest. There are different plays and performances going on through the year. For instance the Brewery Art will soon be performing their hilarious adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III.The forest is busy nearly all year round, but during the summer you’ll find the area very busy. This means you are unlikely to find any quiet time around the visitors centre, and the shorter walks will be quite crowded. No matter which walk you decide to take I would recommend you plan for a full day at Grizedale, the scenery is beautiful and despite what I mentioned earlier about crowds, you’ll still be able to find some time and space to enjoy the tranquillity of the forest.=== Final Opinion ===I love going to Grizedale because there's something for everyone. My children love it because they enjoy the playground, they love to hunt for new sculptures, and they really love jumping in the stream!I find the cafe and shop expensive so we generally take our own food and have a picnic, and will just buy an ice cream or something small during the afternoon if we need to.The routes are well signposted (and by signpost I don't mean great big ugly things that spoil the forest, they are small and don't detract from the natural beauty), however, if you don't pay attention, or head off without looking to see which colour is which, you might find yourself on a much longer walk than you thought. As I did once when I ended up on a cycle trail not a walk, and 4 hours later was starting to worry that I'd never get back. Although in a way it was a wonderful mistake because it took us up quite high and the view was outstanding.A lovely day out, that's well recommended.
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