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Soon after we moved into our Ledbury home we started hosting occasional weekend visits from our oldest grandson (then 4 years old), then later with his brother Joey (2 years old). These were always (deliberately) designed to give them some new experiences that their busy, city-dweller mum and dad had neither the opportunity nor time to replicate during their normal day-to-day family life.

And so each visit became a little bit of an adventure: most of the ‘adventure’ coming from their own impressionable minds (prompted by yours truly of course). A visit to the nearby woods was always a great treat for them. On these occasions I always walked at their pace of course – letting them run around and make explorations ‘off the beaten track’ – and, before they knew it, they would have spent 2 or 3 hours and have walked a mile (or even two) without even the slightest complaint about being tired.

A great way to learn about flowers, plants, berries etc

These countryside, wooded walks would, of course, include learning about the different flowers, plants, trees and berries, plus recognizing different bird calls, spotting squirrels (plus cows, sheep, goats and horses in the surrounding fields), etc. However, try as we might, there was one animal that proved far too elusive for us ever to actually spot, despite lots of evidence that it was actually around.

What a lot of people don’t realise is the Gruffalo (of children’s book and television fame) actually lives in Ledbury woods. The trouble with spotting him is that he usually only comes out at night (because he’s so shy). Despite that, Harrison tried his diligent hardest to find him on every weekend visit – but also his very best to avoid confronting him.

We were searching for The Gruffalo

Excitement, imagination, natural children’s curiosity (and very carefully controlled fear – by yours truly) drove him on in his quest to find the Gruffalo. Well, we never have (to date) actually met the Gruffalo, though we have discovered lots of evidence that he is still around: trees that have been pushed over (to make his way around the woods, because he’s so big), trail marks left behind by his enormous tail on some of the muddy paths – even hearing him moving around quite nearby on occasion.

But the indisputable evidence that he does live in Ledbury woods (apart from his summer breaks, when he visits a holiday camp in the nearby Forest of Dean, which we have all visited also of course) was provided by Ledbury Council (shush – don’t tell Harrison and Joey): Footprints! Actual purple footprints around the town centre – so he must live in Ledbury.

Imagination is a wonderful thing!

It’s amazing (and very satisfying) how much fun you can have with young children by just nudging their imaginations a little! (And all it costs is your time.)

Meet The Author...
Jimmy Bates
Who Am I?

A grammar school boy from a working class family, Jimmy Bates has had a chequered career. Before becoming a writer he worked in a variety of jobs, then graduated with an honours degree in electronics, emigrated and became a scientist in Canada and then a director of the same hi-tech company in the U.S.A. He returned to England in 1980 and spent 25 years as a management consultant and held directorships of several high-technology companies before retiring and taking up writing full-time. His interests are history, sociology, science & technology and music. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, spent all of his school years in Stoke-on-Trent, is married has six children (all grown up now), four grandchildren and has lived in Herefordshire for the past 25 years. His books ( include:

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