A few weeks ago we were extremely lucky to be invited to Whinlatter Forest, courtesy of the Forestry Comission, to meet the one and only Julia Donaldson! There are 15 Gruffalo trails around the country to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the well-loved children’s books, and we were lucky enough to view the stunning carved statue at Whinlatter Forest. Next week, the statues will be revealed nationwide as part of the exciting finale to each of the trails so if you do get chance to go along this summer, I highly recommend it!
Each forest has it’s own unique Gruffalo statue and you can find a list of locations here. Birthday party picnics will be taking place and the celebrations look set to be a wonderful day out for all the family. As soon as I can, I will reveal the exclusive photos of Whinlatter’s statue, but for now, here is a sneak peek…
Our day at Whinlatter Forest was truly magical, and not just for the kids. I barely slept the night before, knowing that I was about to meet Julia Donaldson! A writer who’s books we have been reading as parents for the last ten years, and as Aunty and Uncle for almost 15. A writer who appeals to children and grown ups alike. The creator of one of the best known characters in children’s fiction, and the person behind scores more books for schools that are designed to aid budding readers. An inspiration to say the least, and the lady herself did not disappoint!
Immediately on meeting Julia, character masks were handed out to the children (and adults) and we set off into the deep dark forest to find the creatures dotted along the trail. Yes, it was surreal but I’m not sure I would have expected anything less! Our walk presented to us the most stunning parts of Whinlatter Forest, with a gorgeous play area and lots of little carved wonders for the kids to discover.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
At the top of a hill, we found a clearing with wooden benches- the perfect spot for a story. On this day the BBC were also filming an episode of CountryFile so there were cameras rolling at this point too. It only added to the magic of sitting and listening to Julia Donaldson read The Gruffalo. But she didn’t stop there! As the mouse, Julia enacted scenes from the book with The Big One and Ghostwriterdaddy and the children absolutely loved watching it all.
After the story telling, Julia very kindly spent some time autographing books for us all, and chatted about her career so far. We trooped back (hardly believing what had just happened) to the cafe for Gruffalo cupcakes and a chance to sit with a coffee and to chat with Julia some more. Certainly a prolific writer, Julia told us about her humble beginnings (she started writing lyrics to kid’s songs and was advised to turn them into books- A Squash and a Squeeze being the first of many- and we were also lucky enough to get some insight into the fabulous illustrators she works with too.
What a truly wonderful day! I am so so thankful to Miss Lizzie and the Forestry Commission for inviting us to Whinlatter Forest and to Julia Donaldson for making the day so very special. Please tune in to CountryFile tomorrow to see us all in action!