Low-cost activities to do this Christmas in our Forests

Forestry England/Crown Copyright

Winter is a magical time in the nation’s forests. Life slows down, and without the rustling of leaves in the wind the forest becomes quiet making it the perfect destination to escape the Christmas madness. Wrap up warm, pull on your boots, pack your flask and have a low-cost day out to remember with Forestry England.

From heading off on a forest adventure with Julia Donaldson’s much-loved character Zog, to collecting pine cones to decorate your tree, there are plenty of activities to keep all ages entertained this Christmas. And the best thing is, they won’t break the bank with many activities being free!

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1. Crack the Zog Christmas code

This Christmas, a festive twist is being added to the much loved, Zog family activity trails. Your task is to find new clues in the form of stickers on the Zog trail panels. Once spotted, carefully observe the image and write down the first letter of the word on your clue leaflet. As you make your way through the Zog Christmas code adventure, you’ll uncover hidden letters one by one, finally revealing a Christmas word.

But the excitement doesn’t stop there! Once you’ve cracked the code, return your completed leaflet and you’ll receive a Zog decoration that will add a touch of magic to your Christmas tree.

Cost: £1.50 per Christmas clue leaflet, or free when purchasing a Zog trail pack (£4) plus parking charges. Free parking for members.

Where You Can Find The Gruffalo Sculptures in England's Woods and Forests
Credit Foresty England

2. Explore a Gruffalo sculpture trail

Set off on a memorable day out this winter and venture into the deep dark wood with your family to find the Gruffalo and other creatures from Julia Donaldson’s classic story. Each sculpture has been hand-carved and placed in different positions. Can you find them all?

Your little ones will love meeting Mouse, Owl, Fox, Snake and Squirrel as well as the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s child!

To find the Gruffalo see here.

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

3. Become a forest rider

Cycling is an excellent way to keep warm in winter and can be enjoyed by the whole family. Ride your way to adventure this Christmas with Forestry England’s Forest Rider packs. The packs have been designed to challenge children to complete a series of off-road rides, build their confidence and to enjoy the fantastic network of trails the nation’s forest have to offer.

Cost: £5 per pack, plus £1.50 postage and packaging per pack when ordered online.  Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

14.05.23 Forestry England. Forest of Dean Riders: John, Carena, Ned, Hetty Oldale. PIC © Andy Lloyd www.andylloyd.photography

4. Reconnect with nature on a wellbeing trail
The holidays can often feel overwhelming. Did you know that simply taking time to be mindful can be good for children’s health and happiness? During the winter holidays, spend some quality time away from screens with your family and connect with nature on one of Forestry England’s wellbeing trails. In addition to the wellbeing trails, families can also give forest bathing a go. Simply find a quiet spot where your kids feel safe and relaxed and start practicing the art of forest bathing with Forestry England’s downloadable activity sheets.

For other things to do on walks with kids check out our ides here.

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

5. Look out for animal tracks
Winter months are an excellent time to get to know mammals in the forest. You may not meet an animal face to face, but you can read the tracks and signs they leave behind. Prints in the mud or snow can show the journeys animals in the forest have shared alongside you. You can quickly learn the difference between foxes, badgers and deer.

Did you know the only mammals that hibernate in the winter are hedgehogs, dormice and bats?

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

6. Download free Christmas activity sheets
From making the perfect decorations to spruce up your spruce, to getting arty with leaves collected from the forest floor, Forestry England free craft ideas are sure to make this Christmas the best yet!

In the pack you can expect:

  • Decorate festive pine cones – Decorate pine cones to create a mini Christmas tree, or paint a pine cone robin to get in the festive spirit.
  • Create a twig star – Ditch your plastic tree-topper in favour of a lovely handmade stick star with this guide. The perfect ornament for your family Christmas tree.
  • Forest artwork – Make forest artwork with branches, pine cones and leaves collected on your forest adventure.
  • Natural wreath – Get the family together to make your very own Christmas wreath for your home.
  • Gruffalo winter – Help the Gruffalo match the snowy footprints to each of his animal friends!

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

7. Silhouette spotting
Broadleaved trees become ghosts of the forest in winter, leaving their skeletons on show. Each species is built differently, with the silhouette of oak being round and stocky with low branches, but birch standing tall and slender with trailing branches. Although deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter months, look closely at these bare branches and you’ll see next year’s leaves are ready and waiting to burst out in spring. Looking at leaf buds can be a great way to identify trees in winter. Ash twigs have sooty, black buds, beech are long and pointed, and rowan are purple and hairy!

Did you know warming winters may be confusing trees out of dormancy? Some buds have broken open as early as November.

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

8. Stargazing

The winter landscapes of the forest are captivating by day, but after the sun sets there is a whole new world to discover in the dark skies. In winter, when the nights are longer, and the skies are darker, it is a brilliant time to head outside and gaze at the stars.

Download Forestry England’s free beginner’s guide to see the forest at night in a whole new light! Written in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine and packed with fantastic activities for all the family, get your hands on this free guide to learn about constellations, try star navigation, play night-games and become a Forest-Star.

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

Star trails over Kielder Forest. Restricted – Forestry Commission use only in relation to Kielder

9. Head out on a winter walk
Winter is an excellent time to get out and explore the nation’s forests and you’ll feel the benefits of soaking up the mild sunshine during the shorter days too. Whether you’re looking for winter walks to enjoy with your family, walks that offer something unique, or the perfect winter walks for wellbeing where you can slow down and truly appreciate the scenery, Forestry England has something for you.

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

10. Discover nature’s giants on your winter walk

Redwood trees are some of the tallest and largest trees in the world and in winter their bark really stands out. Although still very young and quite a bit smaller than their Californian cousins, the giant and coast redwoods that are in our forests are still magnificent to see. With now over half a million to discover within the nation’s forests, head out using Forestry England’s map to discover magnificent examples of these trees this Christmas!

Cost: Free. Parking charges may apply. Free parking for members.

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Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!

Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.

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