When we arrived, we were met in the fabulous play park by ranger Cheryl. The kids didn't seem to want to leave the park they were having such a great time, but were soon enticed away with promises of more adventures in the forest.
So, who wants to build a den??!!
Cheryl set the scene - we had survived a plane crash and were stranded deep in the woods. There was no hope of rescue before night-fall so we must build ourselves a shelter to keep safe and warm. She gave us some tips on how to build the best den and then each family set to work finding a suitable spot and hunting out fallen branches and sticks. Den building is a brilliant activity for kids and families. It encourages team-work; teaches them about safety and risk-taking; encourages respect for nature and is a great physical activity - but above all else, it's FUN!
We were all hugely proud of our dens, and each one was tested for it's water-tightness by brave kids, and a few brave dads.
After 'surviving' the morning in the forest, we all trekked back to the Top Lodge Cafe and were rewarded with a well-deserved lunch. The cafe is bright, clean (5 star hygiene rating) and offers a wide range of hot and cold food; drinks; snacks; delicious cakes and ice creams. There's loads of healthy options and they pride themselves in their locally sourced produce. They are independently run by a small family business who are clearly passionate about what they do, actively seeking to be as environmentally friendly as possible by reducing their waste, composting on site and using it in their newly developed kitchen garden which will ultimately supply the cafe.
We enjoyed toasted sandwiches and tea in the pretty courtyard area, which also has a number of retail units including some set aside for local craft sellers.
I was really impressed with their eco initiatives - the toilets are flushed with rainwater collected from the roof; there is a reed bed sewerage system and solar panels for power.
After re-charging our batteries, we headed to the bike shop and hire centre managed by Rutland Cycling. Here, the staff were friendly and knowledgeable, kitting us out with all we needed to enjoy a bike ride around the forest. They have bikes; baby seats; trailers; pullalongs; helmets - you can even hire a satnav or an electric bike if you're not feeling energetic!
I have to say, I didn't like the wobble of the trailer bike so didn't manage to get very far. I think next time I'll stick with a buggy trailer which feels more stable, although it was a great opportunity to try one out.
There are lovely, well-marked cycle trails for varying abilities and it offers a different way to see the forest, allowing you to get around much faster than on foot.
After our excursion, we headed back for a rest and an ice cream before heading back into the trees for a final explore, when we spotted Red Kites soaring high above, and a host of beautiful butterflies close-up.
As we pulled away in the car and the end of a wonderful day, Ruby asked "Mummy? When can we build another den?" Soon. Very soon I think.
They were grubby, happy and utterly exhausted - the signs of a great day out don't you think?
Fineshade wood is managed by the Forestry Commission. Entrance is free although there is a charge for car parking of £3 for the day or £1 for up to 1 hour/or after 5pm. The car parking cost is invested into the management of the woodland.
The visitor centre and cafe is open 10am-5pm every day.
It is located an easy drive from Peterborough; Corby; Stamford and Oakham, sat nav postcode NN17 3BB
We are official Forestry Commission reviewers and receive an annual Discovery Pass. This event was organised and subsidised by them and their partners. All opinions and images are my own.