Muddy Puddles on the Gruffalo Trail

Sophia has received some wonderful outdoor clothes and boots recently, so we decided some days in the great outdoors was the best way to put them through their paces.  We started off trying out her gorgeous PuddleFleece Jacket from children's outdoor clothing specialist Muddy Puddles.  Having heard lots about the various Gruffalo trails being run in Forestry Commission sites across the country, we set out for the Alice Holt Forest near Farnham.  This was kind of on the way to my mum's house, so not too out of our way, although when we got there it wasn't the peaceful, wild experience we expected.  On a busy October half-term afternoon there must have been, at a rough estimate, about 5-600 cars there!


Our little adventurers were of course entirely unfazed so we embarked on our Gruffalo adventure, dollies in hand, and Sophia was delighted to be able to try out her lovely new jacket.  The Plum Spot design is right up her street, not too pinky pink but girly enough, and she got very excited when the package arrived!

I had heard a lot about Muddy Puddles, but not actually seen their products before.  What stood out to me immediately was the fantastic attention to detail, like these narrow strips of reflective safety material sewn into the backs of the shoulders; and the little flap of material which covers over the top of the zip so it doesn't rub the chin.  Sophia has a tendency to lick her lips a lot in winter and usually ends up getting a sore chin which then gets rubbed by zips and things, so this is perfect for us.

Once we were all dressed and ready to go, we headed in the direction of this wonderful Totem pole, quite difficult to miss!  Having a lovely Native American set in their Playmobil collection, complete with Totem, the girls were fascinated with this one.  We loved the washed out colours, the intricate carvings, and the decorative pieces like this squirrel and ladybird.


Before we had even got to the beginning of the Gruffalo trail, Sophia had filled her capacious side pockets with a fascinating collection of stones, acorns and twigs.  She absolutely adores pockets so any clothing with them is a BIG bonus!  She walked round in her coat very proudly, slightly showing off to the other children, bless her.  For me, a cosy, well-fitting coat that she is very happy to wear, is also a big bonus.

Our adventure continued into the forest, with the usual toddler-led stops to admire a particularly interesting piece of bark, a toadstool, a log, a red leaf, a big stone... you know the drill!  Joking aside, I love how excited they get about these little things.  Wouldn't it be fabulous if we stayed like that, continually in a state of wonder about the world and everything in it?


Everyone liked this little peephole in one of the pieces of play equipment, eye eye!


Newly confident Sophia, thinking she'd spied a Gruffalo, wandered off into the undergrowth...

Unfortunately she came back slightly disappointed, and a bit muddy.  Thankfully, the waterproof fabric of her jacket can be wiped clean so we got the mud off really easily, but of course it can also be machine washed at 30 degrees.

Despite being the end of October, the bright sunshine was making it very warm under the thin canopy of trees, so little person, independent as ever, decided she needed to take her jacket off.  Luckily with easy open and close velcro tabs, and a nice chunky zip, there was no cause for strop, unlike some of her other coats.  This was an unseasonably warm day though.  The fleecy lining is really comfortable and cosy, and will definitely come into its own as the weather gets colder.


There were some great play structures in the forest, although I did find myself questioning how necessary they were.  Lara wasn't the only child I heard saying "let's go to the next one" and then running off, ignoring all the play opportunities in between structures.  This isn't unique to Alice Holt though, we go to the zoo and there's a soft play area, we go to the woods and there's a playground; we go to the beach and there are organised activities.  I do wonder about the need for all this when there are play opportunities all around; it saddens me.


However, just as I was despairing at this, Lara spotted some children playing down in a little dell which had a stream running at the bottom and took off after them, hotly pursued by Sophia.  The other children quickly bored of the play potential there and headed up hill to the next play structure, but Lara made the most of the mud-squelching, dam-building, leaf-floating potential and the girls played there for ages.  All is not lost!  Sophia's dolly had a delicious leaf and mud-based snack too!

And lo and behold we were at the end of the trail.  A slight let down for we adults, who had expected one of the large Gruffalo structures, but the girls were happy enough with this sign.  Apparently there is one of the big structures there, I later found out online, but it is in a different part of the forest to where the trail is.  Not sure what the thinking is behind that.  Perhaps a note to tell us that there was one, and where it was located, would have been useful too!

I found him, Mummy!

Sophia's lovely jacket is the PuddleFleece Jacket in Plum Spot which retails at £36.00.  Would we have bought it?  Yes!  I think the attention to detail, the quality of the fabric and the wearability of the jacket is excellent, and well worth paying for.  It will definitely last for as long as Sophia needs it, especially as she has just gone into this size (2-3 years), and it will be perfect for Tatiana too.