We headed to Wendover woods to try out their latest Zog trail. Zog, based on the eponymous book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, is currently the nation’s favourite dragon and is all over the place. There was a brilliant adaptation of it on the BBC for Christmas. Warwick Castle built the worlds first ever Zog play area last year (read review here). They also have a zog trail but you have to pay to get into Warwick Castle. The latest exciting partnership between Forestry England and Magic Light Pictures has made Zog return to a Forestry England forest near you! The best thing is that the trail and the app itself is free. You only have to pay for parking. You can purchase the activity trail for 4£ but you don’t actually need to as I will explain later. The closest trails to Oxfordshire are in Wendover Woods in Buckinghamshire, Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire, Wyre Forest near Kidderminster and Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire.
The Zog trail has replaced the super worm trail, so unlike the Gruffalo trail, this one also winds its way around the play trail, which is brilliant. I was expecting the same tasks on the activity panels, as in the Zog book, like flying, roaring, and capturing princesses, but it is not so. The brightly illustrated panels are packed with activities, facts and questions, which are all aimed at encouraging children to learn about forests and practise mindfulness e.g. One of the activities is “Blow with all your might”. It is here you practise your dragon breath , as a way to keep calm. Another one is “capture the moment” (not a princess). There is a periscope on this board here asking what can you see in it. There is also a pipe encouraging you to put your ear and what can you hear… You get the gist right! In the end is the “bravo” from Zog, where you strike your best dragon pose for a picture.
One thing YOU MUST DO is download the app. It is a free interactive app, developed by Arcade, and is the closest to the Zog theme then the activity panels or the activity pack. The internet connection up in the woods is patchy, so download the app before you go. It did crash a few times on us, but we re-started it and it had recorded our progress.
As you go along the trail, you will find an activity panel. Next to it is a zog shaped shadow market. When you scan it via the app, it unlocks an AR activity. The activities are still aimed at mindfulness but you can directly interact with Zog and some of his fellow dragon students, which makes it more exciting. The first activity was the learn to fly challenge. With the camera on selfie mode, when your little dragon flies, wings appear on his back, much to Ay’s delight. Other activities included a roar-o-meter, dragon face, ZIG ZAG dance and stay calm and still challenge. You get your badges as you work you way through the activities, finally meeting Zog and getting your certificate.
Some of the activities like the dance challenge is not on selfie mode, so while you are dancing with the dragon and the dragon is next to you, you can not actually see it happening. Ay wanted to fight (instead of dance) with the dragon in one of the challenges, so he was just kicking around in space 🙂 Good thing you can record it on video or take a picture but I would have much preferred everything on selfie mode camera so that the little dragons could see it live.
Despite that, the app certainly has the wow factor and upped the whole experience to another level for us!
View this post on Instagram
While it is free to walk the trail and find the activity panels, trail activity packs are available to purchase from the information point during opening times and cost £4. The information point is located in the same cabin where you pay for parking, NOT in the cafe, where we went first. Now it is not essential to buy one, and I think you can easily do without one.
There is a pair of wings included in the pack and though Ay was not bothered, I saw a few children donning them around the trail. You can complete additional fun challenges on the trail leaflet to collect golden stars (stickers included). You can also pop on the magic glasses to look for hidden letters along the way to solve a word puzzle but to be honest, I couldn’t make out a letter or two anyway and the ones I could, you could see them even without the glasses. When you reach the end of the trail, you can complete crayon rubbing to get your certificate.
My review of the Zog trail is based at Wendover Woods but the trails I think will be more or less the same across the different sites. The routes will, of course, vary. The course at Wendover woods is along the play trail with interesting play equipment spread around the course. This provides a good distraction as you don’t feel like you are “on a walk” . The trail is fairly regularly interrupted by either some play opportunity or tasks en route. It took us around an hour to go around without rushing or dawdling and we loved it.
The first one to encounter is the ‘ants nest’ (a climbing wall pyramid), followed by the den building area, the redkite look out (with amazing views across the valley), woodland scramble (wooden/ rope obstacle course), ‘tree lab’ (with a mud/ forest kitchen kind of wooden equipment, badger sett (set of low level wooden tunnels on the ground), hollow fort (fort like structure with chained/wooden bridge which is cordoned off at the moment) and stepping stones.
There is a short and long loop around the play trail. The short one is 0.4km and long one only 0.6km- the short loop just cuts off the top of the long loop, so there is no massive different; you will only miss the Tree Lab if you followed the short loop.
I am adding my video of the super worm trail here as it has the play equipment in detail in there. You can also scroll through the photos at the bottom.
View this post on Instagram
We went to the Natural history Museum in Tring afterwards. Read our post HERE
There is something for everyone at the Wendover woods. There are different walking/cycling trails available (please see WEBSITE for more details). You can also do the Go Ape Tree Top Challenge in addition to other activities at Wendover Woods (HERE).
Address: Wendover Woods, Aston Clinton, Aylesbury, HP22 5NQ
Entry and trails free but some activities like goApe chargeable
Paid parking on site. Parking costs from £2.75 for two hours and 5£ for four hours ( Find updated prices HERE)
There are machines just as you exit the woods towards the car park. Make sure you pay before you leave as I did not see any card slots on the outgoing barriers.
Toilets and baby facilities on site
Dogs allowed with code of conduct
Picnic allowed. Dedicated BBQs available for hire in season HERE but to prevent forest fires and reduce waste, other barbecues or open fires are not permitted.
There is an easy access trail and suitable for pushchairs. The paths have some gentle inclines and declines but was very muddy. Wellies and waterproofs are a must!!! Don’t even think about not going without one (you will regret it badly). Also it is cold up there, so dress up warmly.