We found the Whomping Willow! Geocaching with kids

"Harry Potter's Whomping Willow"

Daddy had an unexpected day off this week, and so we decided to go to the cinema as a family. But to make a whole day of it he planned an extra element, indulging our new-found love of geocaching. He didn’t tell us what we were looking for, simply plugged in our coordinates, popped the top of the Mini, and drove us to Frithsden Beeches. Handing me the iPhone, pre-programmed with the coordinates, he fell into line behind me and the Bug. Knowing my way around the geocaching app I quickly figured out that we were en route to the actual Whomping Willow used in the Harry Potter films.

The real Whomping Willow!

"Harry Potter's Whomping Willow"

Geocaching is a brilliant way of making kids go for a walk. I’m not sure what it is about adults that they enjoy just putting one foot in front of the other, but I’ve always found that a steady supply of Wine Gums is necessary to keep me moving forwards for no good reason. Either that, or a dog, and Mummy says that is NEVER happening! She actually shouted it, so I’m pretty sure I’m never getting a dog. However geocaching – especially when it leads to something really cool like the Whomping Willow – halves the requirement for Wine Gums, meaning that every walk is about 99p cheaper than it used to be.

You will find many trees claiming to be the Whomping Willow, but this is the one used in the Harry Potter films. It is in fact an Beech tree, not a Willow, and it has been used for several films and TV programmes, including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and UK TV series Jonathan Creek. The Geocaching website has this to say about how the tree has formed it’s distinctive look:

This particular tree has evolved due to pollarding, a form of woodland management where the branches were regularly cut from the trees to use as firewood. Branches would be cut from the trunk to around a metre or so off the ground and this would then allow new branches to grow unchecked by browsing animals such as deer, before the process was repeated.

The really fabulous thing about this tree is that it is not fenced off like a museum exhibit. You can actually climb it. ‘Someone’ may even have taken an emergency wee on it’s roots. Ahem.

If you’d like to visit the Whomping Willow the geocache reference is: GC3H4NY. It’s a lovely stroll in the woods, easy to navigate – there is a boggy area at the start, which didn’t do anything for my sequinned boots, but it’s easy to find a way around that if you look hard enough. The woods are also home to deer, so watch your step ;)

To make a full day of it, we then visited the Alford Arms – Hertfordshire’s dining Pub of the Year. You will need to book if you want to eat there, and it’s easy to see why. Amazing food, and they’re happy to do smaller portions of the main menu for children, which scores a big tick with us – if you’ve seen our posts about kids menus in restaurants you’ll understand why. Although the accolade is well-deserved for the food, you might want to avoid it in the summer though – lazy flies settled on our meals throughout lunch, and the manager was very defensive about that when we mentioned how annoying it was. Apparently it’s the location. Until they figure out a better way of controlling their fly population we’ll be steering clear until the Autumn months – but we will be back.

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Comments

  1. says

    Well I haven’t seen Harry Potter (or read the books – I think I’m the only person in England to claim that), and I have Geocached, but now I want to do both! What an incredible tree – so interesting how they have chopped it to create that look. Great post – and I’m sure that the wee would only serve as a very good fertiliser :) x Popping over from CountryKids
    Dragonsflypoppy recently posted…Postcard from Cornwall: BeachMy Profile

  2. says

    That is just brilliant, what an incredible tree. Such fabulous surprise too, GG and Bug must have been super excited! Geocaching sounds excellent, we must check it out. Funny you were at the Alford Arms, I grew up in Little Gaddesden and Berkhamsted, it’s one of my old haunts :)
    Charly Dove recently posted…The wonderful world of a toddlerMy Profile

  3. says

    What a brilliant day! I’ve friends who are into geocaching, but have yet to try it. I’ve a feeling once the kids are a little older, we’ll try it & be hooked. And wow, the actual Whomping Willow!

  4. says

    we are het to try geo caching but i know a lot of people who have done it and really enjoyed themsleves.
    i love that you found an actual whomoing willow tree and so close to youyr recent trip to theHarry Potter studio tour too!
    what a super day out for you all x
    jenny paulin recently posted…Banoffee CakeMy Profile

  5. says

    Geocaching looks and sounds fab. I keep reading about it and I really need to get organised and give it a try. My eldest would absolutely love it. She would also be incredibly envious to know that you’ve visited the actual whomping willow! I may not tell her about this bit just yet!!
    Iona recently posted…London without childrenMy Profile

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