A safe way for children to have a day out during this pandemic is to go on an outdoor trail, where is it easy to social distance. I wrote this post in early July, when I personally didn’t feel comfortable to visit any attractions or shops, and I wanted to avoid queues and avoid other people! With my children getting bored of just going for walks, by going somewhere different and including a map with a trail to follow, it made it more of an adventure for them.
We found a Gruffalo Trail that is about a half-an-hour drive from Slough, but there are many others in the country. You can find them on the Forestry England website.
As it is a sculpture trail, you can tell you children not to touch them, but they will! So always bring hand sanitiser.
Horsenden Hill Gruffalo Trail
These are the details for the Horsenden Hill Gruffalo Train in West London.
Address: Gruffalo Trail, Horsenden Hill, Horsenden Lane North, Perivale, Middx UB6 7PQ
Parking: Free Car Park at Horsenden Hill Farm [ Gate locking times: Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec 4.30pm | Mar, Oct 6pm | Apr, Sept 7pm | May, June, July, Aug 8pm ]
If the farm entrance gates are closed, the nearest on-street parking is on Bilton Road or Jubilee Road, Perivale, Middx UB6 7HY. It is 5-10 minute walk from these roads.
Public Transport: Perivale tube station is about a 10 minute walk away.
Toilets: Not open
Food: Horsenden Hill Farm Shop is open – not sure of the opening hours though. Best is to bring your own picnic.
Pushchair-friendly: It is manageable but you will be going up/down hills.
Playground: Yes at Horsenden Hill Farm on the other side of the car park.
Print one of these off to give to the kids. Having a map makes it more exciting. I have updated this one with the entrance we used, and the right direction to follow! Please note this is a very short trail, but I have some tips in this post to make it a longer experience.
Horsenden Farm entrance is now open, and this is the closest to the trail. The first time we visited it was closed, so we parked on Jubilee Road and it was a pleasant 10 minute walk to the entrance, over the canal bridge. The children enjoyed seeing London buses and canal boats on the way.
If the farm entrance is closed, you will need to enter via Horsenden Hill East. This is what the entrance looks like. There are 3 paths, if you come this way, take the one on your right and walk for about 5 minutes past the Owl and Gruffalo to get to the start point.
If you come via the Horsenden Farm entrance, you will find a lovely playground by the canal. The only way to access it is via the farm. From the farm car park, the playground entrance is at the back of it. You can either choose to visit the playground before or after the trail. I would suggest after, as your kid(s) will want to stay here a long time. You could even have a picnic here.
There is a really cool pirate ship that my kids had a great time playing in. We spent hours here when we visited in August and practically had it to ourselves.
Behind the pirate ship is a hidden area, like a maze, with a climbing tower inside.
There are also swings and a smaller pirate ship. This is all by the canal and it’s very picturesque.
The Trail – the right way!
This is the correct way to do the trail. You shouldn’t get lost if you go this way, and it should only take you 15 minutes. You can make it last longer by reading and acting out the signs at each sculptures, and by having a picnic.
1) From the farm, follow all the signs directing you to the Gruffalo Trail. It’s about a 5 min walk up a grassy path. The trail will go Mouse – Snake – Fox – Owl – Gruffalo.
2) From the Gruffalo trail signpost at the start, it’s left at the top of the path and you will find Mouse.
3) Keep going left, through a gate and you will see Snake. Straight ahead of you, there will be a huge space of grass, perfect place to stop and have a picnic.
4) Keep going straight and on your left you will see this gate. Go through it.
5) Down the steps and you will see Fox.
6) Then keep going down and do a right turn as per this photo (this is actually the point of entering the park at the Horsenden Hill East entrance).
7) Straight down the path you will see Owl.
8) Then down a bit more and you will see the Gruffalo.
The Trail – the challenging way!
If you want to make the trail a bit more challenging, go backwards like we did! It took us two hours due to many wrong turns, rests and snack stops, going up hills and running back down them, taking photos, admiring city views, a bit of panicking and a lot of laughter. So this is our way!
1) At the start point where the closed farm entrance was, we turned right, and looked at the Gruffalo first, with his terrible teeth and purple prickles behind his back.
2) Carrying on to the right on the path, we then found owl. Each sculpture has a big board by it, with lots of interesting facts to read and something for the children to act out. For example, at Owl it said:
“Now stretch your arms out like giant wings. Try swooping, gliding and flapping in the wind”
They had so much fun acting out the different actions at each sculpture.
3) We kept walking and were at the Horsenden Hill East entrance with the three paths. We went along the path ahead of us for about 5 minutes, before realising it was too close to the road so it couldn’t be the right path! So we turned back and stopped for a mini cheddars break on the grass by the HH East entrance again.Then we went up the middle path, the sandy one, up some steps and found…
5) After Fox, we kept going up the steps, where this gate is at the top. It leads to a field of grass where cattle from Slough graze (EDIT: As of August, the cows have now gone home). It is absolutely beautiful here, we stopped to have a picnic.
6) This is where we made another wrong turn, but found some absolutely beautiful views and hills to run down, so even though its a wrong turn, it is a way to make the trail more of an adventure!
So, instead of turning right like we should have, we walked to to where the path forks into two and chose the path to the right. It went up some steps to more grassland higher up. We carried on along this path.
Went up some more steps.
To the top of the hill, where we had a rest on this bench, looking at the view.
7) Here I panicked, thinking we can’t get lost any further, who knows where we would end up?! So the kids ran down the hill, squealing with laughter like that was the best thing ever. We went back to our picnic spot, where the gate is and realised Snake was just to the right of this photo – oops! So at the gate, we should have turned right rather than go straight ahead.
8) It’s Snake. This is Lily’s “I’m scared of snakes” pose.
9) To the right of Snake is another gate. We went through the gate and found Mouse on our right. This is their ‘mouse’ pose. Woohoo – 2 hours later, we found all the sculptures!
There was a small path to the right just ahead of mouse, and that led us back to the Gruffalo Trail Start. Phew!
So that was the Gruffalo Trail at Horsenden Hill. I hope we’ve inspired you to try it.
What would you do – the right way or the challenging way?