One of our favourite things to do together is go to the woods, whether it is crisp and autumnal or mild and springlike, the woods is always a fun way to spend a couple of hours… on go the wellies and off we go! Nature’s playground, the smells, sounds and sights within the woods soothe me, it is really a place I can connect with nature and forget about the rest of the world for a while. I dare say it has the same effect on Littlelish, she just doesn’t know it ;)

Did you know that on average we spend £4800 on keeping our children entertained each year? Make the most of what is free and on your doorstep and head out to the woods people! We are lucky as where we live is surrounded by woodland. One of our very favourite woodlands to visit is Fineshades. Within 30 mins of our house Fineshades has so much to offer besides the absolutely beautiful wild woodland. We were invited on a special blogger activity day to find out just what there is to do there! Cheryl the forest ranger introduced us to some great activities.

Den building in the woods

Have you ever built a den in the woods? Me neither! Littlelish loves building dens and we are forever making houses out of bed linen and chairs at home and in the garden but we never thought to build a den in the woods. It was so easy! Forest ranger Cheryl played a great game with the children, pretending we had crashed nearby and needed to make a shelter for the night before our rescuers came the next day. Luckily she knew of a great clearing where we could build our dens with plenty of perfect branches and long sticks. She explained that the trick was to find a tree with a branch coming off at an angle, if you can’t find a tree with this you can also lean a long loose branch that you have found up against a tree and start from there. You then need to find long branches that you can line up next to each other to make a wall for your den – like so! Littlelish thoroughly enjoyed making her den and we could well have played in it for hours together – it was so much fun! That reminds me, this weekend – Den building again!

Cycle hire at Fineshades

One of the great things about Fineshades is how cycle friendly it is for people of all abilities. There are nice smooth tracks for families to cycle on and some cool little off road bits for those who like mountain biking. If you don’t own your own bike don’t worry Rutland cycle have a shop at Fineshades and you can hire bikes of all shapes and sizes including bike attachments, seats and trailers for children. Littlelish and I took full advantage of the bike hire and tested out a trailer (she has always wanted to go in one). I must admit pulling a 4 year old along isn’t the worlds easiest job for mummy (phew!) but we managed to have a quick whizz around the woods. We have hired bikes from Rutland cycles on quite a few occasions, also at Rutland water and they are really good. The bikes are good quality and if you are unlucky enough to get a puncture then just call them and they come out and fix it straight away as we discovered at the furthest point away from the cycle hire at Rutland Water this summer!

Awesome playground

There is a very, very cool playground at Fineshades. All made out of natural smooth wood the play equipment is perfectly designed for stimulating creative play. In fact I’d go as far to say it’s one of our all time favourite playgrounds. The wooden teepee, the giant hammock, the climbing structure that is like a giant roof, the playhouse at the top of the hill, the log (that looks like a crocodile) crossing over the imaginary river. Littlelish could and does spend hours playing here, it is awesome. We ended up in the playground after our bloggers day and I had trouble getting her to go home! She was especially proud that she climbed all the way to the top of the climbing wall, she made short work of it too!

Lovely cafe at Fineshades – open  10 – 5 every day

We have had the pleasure of sampling the cafe before on a Sunday morning, after a nice long walk in the woods. There is nothing better than knowing a large warm latte and piece of cake is waiting – it helps motivate tired little legs too! The food is high quality, fresh and yummy. With a good choice of coffee, paninis, sandwiches, cakes and fruit everyone is happy. Littlelish had a ham sandwich and I had a roast veg panini – yum! Both were delicious and filling and the staff are very pleasant and helpful too. We sat and ate our food in the courtyard sunshine and Littlelish resumed her hobby of dog spotting and stroking “Mummy have you seen that dog” “Mummy look at that funny dog” “Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum look at that dog” Oh yes – she loooooves dogs!

I’d absolutely recommend Fineshades as a great, affordable place to visit for both young and old. For those who don’t enjoy a walk in the woods, firstly, what is wrong with you! ;) I challenge you to look again, connect with nature and use your imagination! For fun ideas of things to do in the woods check out Miss Lizzie’s pinterest board http://pinterest.com/missielizzieb/we-love-forests/. Then browse the Fineshades website for planned activities within the woods, they even organise birthday parties in the woods – how fun is that?

Fineshades car parking charges – £3 per day or £1 per hour