As well as going away for a few days on our week off, we also managed to meet up with a couple of my uni friends. One at Treefest, the other, my bestfriend and her toddler, we met halfway at Monkey Forest, Trentham Estate. A friend at work who loves animals, also recommended Monkey Forest and it was definitely somewhere a bit different to visit.
We paid for a joint ticket to get into Monkey Forest and the Trentham Estate gardens, at and just over £15 for adults that seemed a good price. Kids, like most places, start to pay once they’re 3 (boooo), although you only had to pay for the Monkey Forest part and not the estate.
The first thing you see as you walk in is typically the café and playground. Of course that meant that N spent the whole way of the walk around the forest moaning that he wanted to go on the playground. Maybe I should have let him go on for a bit beforehand, but we just wanted to see the monkeys.
Once you have your safety talk (don’t get too close, don’t touch, don’t take uncovered food in or eat/drink as you’re walking round etc), you go in through the gates, and follow the paths until you see monkeys. The monkeys are Barbary Macaques and roam free within the forest as you walk by. As we arrived they were just about to start feeding time, so we got our spots to watch and hear the ranger tell us about the monkeys, what they ate and the family structure.
Just waiting for all the monkeys to find their way across the paths and through the gaps we’d been asked to make was great, as they walked (or leapt – one jumped right next to N’s head through to the feeding area) right by us.
There were some newborns – only 11 and 17 weeks old, loving climbing on and riding their parents’ backs.
As we walked further through the forest, we saw more groups of macaques, more babies frolicking around and trying to climb on adult monkeys or up trees. There was also the gorgeous instance of one newborn riding on its one monkey’s back, then being given to another for a family hug. Very cute.
We romped round the forest, before stopping to watch the little stream with some ducks. Boys and water, hey?!
A quick stop for lunch in the café posed the usual worries as parents. The lunchboxes didn’t really include anything we wanted for our children, so we decided just to have the sandwich option (which for once didn’t cause any hassles), and share some chips between us all. N scoffed half of my salad so it wasn’t all unhealthy. Really, all N wanted to do was chomp his food down so he could go and play. Handily the playground is overlooked by the indoor and outdoor tables, so we could finish our meal while he played outside.
After lunch we headed round to park at Trentham Estate. This is just round the corner from Monkey Forest, and includes a lovely shopping area, cafes, beautiful gardens, trails and play areas. We only had a couple of hours, so headed to the west side and the show gardens.
The gardens are alongside a lake and is a really gorgeous area to spend time walking around. N loved all the water fountains amongst the bushes and flowers…maybe too much. At first we were keeping up with him, but then he went off to the next square of garden following some another family to the water fountain. I thought we’d catch up with him there, but when we reached where he’d gone he was nowhere in sight. Panic that I had no idea which way he’d headed, and that the plants were too tall to see him. We split up and circled round in opposite directions but no joy, so I kept wandering in the hope someone would have spotted him. I found the previous family he’d followed to that area, and they said they’d seen him head off one direction. Nope he wasn’t that way.
Then walking the other way up the main intersect, I spoke to someone else who asked if I was looking for a little boy with a comforter. Phew, he was up at the top near the couple with the dog. She then added ‘he was crying his eyes out’. Oh no, not what you want to hear. It was such a relief reaching these people right up in the corner edge of the gardens, and to find them keeping an eye on him. I thanked them, then turned to check N and give him a cuddle. Was he worried? Didn’t seem so, he’d just been climbing the little hill and rolling down it again, and just told me to watch again. Scared the hell out of me, in an open area that big with water around, however good N is around water, you never know what might have happened. I do tend to let him run ahead and am fairly relaxed about things, with him usually stopping every so often and calling out to me. I think in future, I’m going to have to teach him what to do if he loses me, always put my phone number in a pocket for someone to call if they find him, and agree how far he can go at once.
He did turn round and ask where my friend was and how we would find her again. ‘I have a phone and she has a phone so we can call each other if we can’t easily find her, but she’ll be in a sensible easy to find place’.
After reuniting, we headed past the gorgeous ‘wishes’ fairy and up to the play and café area. If you have children it’s a great, if busy, area. There’s equipment for older and younger children, a ride on track, 2 sandpits, deck chairs for the adults, plus the café and toilets within range. There’s also a grassy area next to the lake where they obviously show film screenings and have bands playing as there was a stage and screen set up.
The boys had a great time in the sandpit, and then riding around on the cosy coupes and trikes.
Before we left, we stopped for a drink and cake back at the shopping village before saying goodbye and heading off our separate ways home.
Trentham really is a great place to visit when the weather’s good. As well as the few parts we saw, I’ve since been told, and read about the Fairy Trail. So that’s how the wishes fairy fitted in. There are 14 wire sculptured fairies that you can walk and search for. We only spotted 2 (and those weren’t even being searched for) but they are quite a sight. They also hold events there, and there’s a maze and a barefoot walk. My friend’s keen to do that, so maybe we’ll meet up there next year once we get past winter and try it out.
It was definitely a popular place. The car park was rammed when we arrived although it was large and there’s an overflow area, and when we left just after 3, there were more people still arriving. Definitely a good day out, although not much undercover, so definitely worth a visit in good weather.
Have you ever lost your child in an open place? What rules have you put in place to avoid losing them? Are you a monkey fan?