The best family days out, as far as my kids are concerned, are ones where you get covered in mud.
Scuffed knees, wet socks and fingernails so dirty, 20 minutes sat in the bath still fails to remove everything from under the nails. These are also Good Days.
Many places we visit these days – where you pay an astronomical fee to get in and even more to eat mediocre food – are so controlled and ‘health and safety conscious’ that it strips the actual fun right out of it.
Which is probably why forests and fields and canals have such a huge appeal to my kids because they can explore and make mistakes and learn from their mistakes and get back up and get back into the tree or whatever object they’re navigating a way over/up/through.
Then we stumbled on the Crocky Trail in Chester. The absolutely brilliant Crocky Trail.
This giant iron man is the first thing that greets you as you drive up to the site. It looks like you’re parking in a field. There is literally no frills.
The outdoor adventure trail is the brainchild of a local inventor who wanted to create something for local kids and so for years it was free to enter.
Over the years it’s grown and grown and it’s now open to the public (it’s about £50 for a family of four).
It’s basic, rustic and we absolutely loved it.
It’s essentially a circuit around a giant field with bridges over the stream made from chains, fallen trees, logs you scooch along on your bottom, clever cantilevered swings, mini mazes in metal shacks – lots and lots of little tests and science lessons built into nature.
The only MAJOR downfall of the place is that it’s about 2 hours away from where we live or we would be there all the time.
We discovered it while on an Easter holiday with friends near the Delamere Forest in Chester and were recommend we try it out as it was ‘right up our street’.
Oh it was. It was, it was, it was. It managed to entertain a 9-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy – both ends of the spectrum in our 8-strong party!
And as if that wasn’t fun enough, there’s more.
As the trail’s popularity grew and grew so more ‘rides’ were added.
So as you arrive there is a ‘theme park’ area. Rides like Titanic where you get to rush to the back of what looks like a giant flat-bed truck, sit with your back to the wall and when the ‘titanic’ rises you have to try to stay sitting.
My kids were on this for ages cackling and discovering new ways to stay at the top (you need to site on your hands).
There are giant slides, obstacle courses like something from the Krypton Factor and it’s all about laughing and falling and getting back up and diving back in again.
This giant rolling slide is the Wave Rider. And that’s my daughter’s wellied feet disappearing over the top.
This below is the Spider’s Web; the only way up that slippery slope is to grab onto the rope half way up and haul you and your mates up. Cackles galore.
So my advice to you if visiting: Don’t dress up, take spare clothes, you can take the dog but they must be on a lead and be prepared to stay the whole day.
We went on a damp, drizzly day and it was buzzing but fairly quiet so we got to go on as many rides as many times as we liked. I actually think the mud and drizzle added to the fun.
However, I expect sunnier days attract far far more people and so you should expect to queue.
Picnics are welcome (there are no cafe facilities to speak of) and there are loads of places to set up camp and eat.