We visited Cannock Chase Birches Valley Forest Centre in February Half Term to check out the new Gruffalo Spotters Trail app.
The new app allows you to follow the Gruffalo trail through the forest and at certain points parts of the trail come to life through the app with the characters from the Gruffalo including the mouse, snake, owl, fox and the Gruffalo himself.
Cannock Chase Forest
On arriving at Birches Valley Forest Centre at 12pm in a school holiday the place was heaving! It took a while, but there is plenty of car parking and we found a space in the overflow car park. It costs £4 to park so please remember to bring coins.
We headed to the toilets and what we thought was the visitor centre to begin with to purchase the Gruffalo Trail map. We were directed to the café to purchase the map and it was very busy, so we headed to the Go Ape counter a short walk away. You can also purchase the map at Swinnerton Cycle Hire.
The Gruffalo Spotter’s Kit costs £3 and includes a guide, stickers, magnifying glass, pencil and information sheets. I would just get one between a group of you – I don’t think everyone really needs one and you can certainly do the trail without it if you choose.
The Gruffalo Spotter Trail
The Gruffalo Trail at Cannock Chase begins at Go Ape with big signs to tell you where to begin. A lot of parents were super excited to use the new app (me included!) and pointed the screen at everything waiting for something to happen. But, it just works on the 5 circles on the trail that look exactly like the circles on the app, so just wait!
The trail is a short walk around forest and takes approximately an hour to do with little people. First, we spotted the mouse and there are several clues along the path to let us know who we are going to meet. Then the first augmented reality circle is there for you to see the mouse come to life!
Now if you visit on a busy day at lunch time like we did, then be prepared to queue to use the app! It takes a while to get the gist of how to use it and there are excited children and parents waiting to have their turn. It got a bit nasty to begin with! But it calmed down when everyone had a go.
To use the Gruffalo Spotter App
To use the Gruffalo Spotter app choose the footprints you have found then point the circle on your screen to line up with the circle of the sign. It takes a few seconds to come to life. Then, wait until the animation is finished – i.e. the mouse gets on top of the log and sits still and then there is an option to take a photo. Or you could screen shot it, but the camera icon does appear when it is ready. The snake in particular had a long animation as it wrapped itself around the log. Great fun for me to watch, but there was a queue of families waiting behind me to get a move on!
This is where the app falls down a bit, as I was getting all the excitement of seeing the animation come to life as the photo taker. Meanwhile the children had no idea what was going on, and wanted to see the animation but also wanted to be in the picture. Mine are a bit too young to know what to do without me using my phone for them so it would be good to re-do the trail at a later (and quieter) date to get them to use it and see the animals come to life.
Along the trail there is plenty to do to keep everyone entertained. There are dens to build, drums to bang, and lots of open spaces to run around and hide.
After the trail finishes, there is a life sized model of the Gruffalo to see and some fairy houses in a small wood. Then a big play ground to burn off any extra energy before our journey home.
To Download the App
The app is easy to find on the App Store when you search for Gruffalo Spotter, or visit the Forestry Commission for full details.
I would definitely recommend visiting the trail. The app is great fun, if a bit stressful at first! The Gruffalo Spotters trail is coming to 26 forests across England and launch dates vary between each forest.