Thursday 23 August 2018

Four things to do near Sherwood Pines Forest with my autistic kids

Our autistic boys in Sherwood Pines Forest

Travelling can sometimes be a bit challenging for our autistic kids.  It involves changes in routine, unfamiliar places and people which can be confusing. But they still greatly benefit from time away and days out.  We've recently been to Sherwood Pines Forest in Nottinghamshire and here's some of the things we got up to that you could try.

1. Bike trails

You can bring your own bikes to Sherwood Pines Forest Park, just make sure it's a mountain type bike. If you are driving they are just in the process of upgrading their car park to a numberplate recognition system but at the moment it's pay and display up to £4 for the day.

Otherwise you can hire bikes at the cycle hire shop which is what we did.   Although David is seven years old, he has not developed the motor skills for cycling. However, he loves going in a bike trailer. Cycling is something we've done before.

Our family resting after the bike ride

There are three bike trails coloured a bit like ski runs with green being the easy family course, blue medium and the red trail being a definite challenging and adventurous course through the trees.  The green trail was the only one that a trailer would really go through, and given we had a small child on a bike that's the one we tried.

The route is three miles long with had 21 stages (mostly at junction points). It starts at main visitors area and loops through the forest - the track is interesting and there are some small up and down hill sections.  The trailer can feel a bit heavy going up hill.  David shouted out the numbers of the stage posts as we past them which was delightful to hear.

I did spend some time shouting at Anthony to "Use your breaks and don't go to fast" along with "Use your gears and change as soon as it gets difficult to turn your legs." At a leisurely pace, this will take the family an hour, and there are picnic benches dotted around the trail for when you need a break. We did it a few times and had it down to about 30 minutes as it's a bit easier when you know the course.  We had a great time.

2. Hiking and geocaching

The area is really pretty with some sloping forest areas and some accessible trails. The Dragonfly Trail is a one mile surfaced trail that leads from the Sherwood Pines visitor centre through the forest which is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.  It goes past some of the oldest trees in the forest, some kids play and picnic areas and visits the Dragonfly Pond, hence the name. Some of the way around the trail the Nightjar Trail cuts off to the side and takes you on a slightly longer three mile trail.

Whenever we went on a hike we'd always take drinks, snacks and suncream with us in a comfortable rucksack like an Osprey Backpack.  This meant we always had stuff for the kids and could carry one of them if they needed a bit of help or got a bit tired.W . e take our drinks in sports bottles so we can fill them with whatever we need to that day.  It also mean there is less chance of the drinks being spilled especially for the members of the family with motor skills challenges.

Our family on a hike

We also went geocaching with Forest Holidays which was a great way to explore some of the local area.

Geocaching is when you use a GPS receiver to hide and seek geocache containers.  A typical cache is a small waterproof container in which you will find a logbook, a pen or pencil and sometimes small items that you can swop your own for.  You sign and date the log to show you found the cache, then carefully put it back where you've found it.  Jane said it was like going on a treasure hunt.

Our geocaching trail was put together by the Forest Ranger and included hire of GPS equipment for 2 hours to locate the hidden treasure boxes as well as a hot or cold drink at the end in the Forest Retreat. It was quite fun, our eldest in particular enjoyed using the GPS and guiding us towards the caches.

3. Nets Kingdom

Sherwood Pines is one of only two places you’ll find a Nets Kingdom.  It's run by Go Ape, who we know as they also have a site near Chessington World of Adventures.  It's a bit like one of those netted climbing areas that you often get in soft play gyms but mixed with trampolines.  The nets are 'jumbo nets' which are springy and set up in the trees.  Sort of like a very simple floating maze.

If you've been to other Go Ape things it's not the same where you need a harness or anything - the jumbo-netting keeps you completely surrounded like our trampoline at home. Which makes it safe and possible for our kids to participate.

It's £20 per person on the nets for up to two hours, but if you need to go on as a carer then you can go on for free.   Everyone else can watch from the enclosed area on the ground, around and under the net city, where there's a nice cafe serving coffees, teas, drinks and snacks.

Our family playing at Nets Kingdom

We found it was never really too busy which is great for our kids, who don't like crowded or busy place. We also went towards the end of the day when it seemed even quieter and there was sometimes only one or two other families on the nets at the same time - which leaves plenty of space for every one.

After about half an hour the less energised of our crew took a break whereas non-stop David kept going and I found after a while and once he had discovered everywhere I could watch him from the ground instead of having to be with him the whole time.  This is really good for developing his independence.   He particularly loved the awesome slides which brought you back to the ground before heading back up again.  We had a great time.

4. Sherwood Miniature Railway

The Sherwood Forest Railway is only a few miles from the Sherwood Forest Pines area and is Nottinghamshire’s only narrow gauge steam railway.  It's a 5/8th scale, 15” gauge railway running through cuttings, over a few level crossings before the train moves to the other end of the carriages to bring you back. It's £2 to ride and was not too busy, being pen everyday between March and November.

Our family on a ride

There is a fun play area from younger and older children and we spent about an hour there including our time on the train and having a snack.  This made it quite useful for an activity on a day when the kids were perhaps tired out from our other adventures.

Have you ever been to the Sherwood Forest area?  What would you like to try?

We purchased most of the activities above as part of our holiday.  Geocaching was gifted as part of our own stay at Forest Holidays.  Osprey BackPack is available through Please see my footer for further information on reviews.

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