Banstead Woods Narnia Trail

South London into Surrey can feel like an area where it’s difficult to breathe. We’re so lucky having open space nearby. As it’s a gloriously sunny day we headed to the Banstead Woods Narnia Trail.

Banstead Woods Narnia Trail has been in the woods for a couple of months now. For now it’s a pleasant enough walk without any tricky bits. I’d even stick my neck out and say it’s buggy-friendly too. As long as you’re happy dealing with mud.

Banstead Woods Narnia Trail

Banstead Woods has many different routes around it, but you can’t miss Lucy Pevensie and the lamp post if you enter the woods from the Holly Lane car park. Keep walking and you’ll get there.

You’ll also spot some cute wooden carved signs which point out things that could be spotted around the woods, and are apparently good for nature rubbing (we’ll do that next time).

There are only three carvings at the moment on the Banstead Woods Narnia Trail. Let me try and describe the route we took…

After getting to the Lucy Lamppost, walk down the track to the side of the woods, out in the fields. In August the main thing to do here is foraging. We headed through the gate at the end of this field, through the bluebell woods (the bluebells long-gone).  We walked up to the area I call the ‘train track’. In my head, it probably has never ever been a train track, it’s just very straight, defined and disused train track-like.

We walked along there back to the big slope which leads back to the car park. Turning right there we headed to the top of the hill and made our way as far as the little pond.

Once there, we turned back towards the bluebell woods, or at least in a direction that felt like it was. Eventually we made it back to the train track, when lo and behold! There was the wardrobe complete with wooden clothes inside. You can walk through it and it’s fabulous!

H was being pretty grumpy around now as she moans if she walks too much. Having said that, we found plenty of sticks which double up as Harry Potter wands so she just expelliarmus’d us a few times.

After walking through the bluebell woods we hit a single track, a bit more foraging and a giant great big Aslan at the end! By then we were near the car park again on the big slope.

So that’s the long way to do it. The short(er) way would be to walk up the slope a fraction and turn at Aslan. Walk through the bluebell woods and follow the track which goes diagonally across them, then train track and down.

The Banstead Woods Narnia Trail is fun. I’m hoping we’ll get more of these wooden sculptures, after all, the woods need a Mr Tumnus.

The wood carvings are by Ella Tree Pirate. To visit Banstead Woods costs nothing, with free parking on Holly Lane in the big car park. Rumour has it that Anne Boleyn once owned Banstead Woods. Maybe one day she’ll make an appearance? (in wood, of course)

Banstead Woods wood carvings

Country Kids

Bella Broomstick by Lou Kuenzler

Lou Kuenzler has a new book, Bella Broomstick, published Friday 7th January 2016. H is a big fan of her books, so when we were given the chance to review and feature Lou on Mum Friendly, she was super excited!

Bella Broomstick by Lou Kuenzler

Bella Broomstick is a witch, but a pretty hopeless one. Her nasty Aunt Hemlock sends her to live in Person World, and she isn’t allowed to do any magic ever again. However, Bella finds a kitten she names Rascal, who gets into a bit of bother – and somehow she finds herself helping the cat by using magic – oops….

The book has plenty of drawings accompanying the story, as well as being broken into chapters which are ideal for young readers moving into longer books.

H loves Lou Kuenzler’s books. She discovered Shrinking Violet Really Loves Ancient Egypt on a trip to the British Museum, and now has the whole set. She also has all four Princess Disgrace books – and loves them all. What I like the most about Lou’s books are the way they’re laid out – they were great at encouraging H to read expression aloud which I think is really important when a child learns to read – especially in longer books.

Bella Broomstick doesn’t have as many pages as the Shrinking Violet books – an ideal size for a bookworm like H to finish in ONE DAY! Like I said before, she’s a big fan. In fact, she’s on her fourth or fifth read of the book now – it’s safe to say it’s another favourite.

I met Lou in 2014 at Blogfest, and she kindly sent H a selection of Shrinking Violet goodies, where we also chatted about Princess Disgrace and how she has to go to school to learn how to be a princess, doing such things as training her unicorn and learn not to be clumsy. As a parent, I’ve found Lou Kuenzler’s books to have the right amount of humour for a child H’s age to understand – and I like how her characters get up to fun adventures – and most importantly, talk in a way she can relate – and they make her laugh. If you’re familiar with Lou’s previous books, then Bella Broomstick needs adding to your must-reads list!

H was really excited to get to ask Lou Kuenzler some questions too – and Lou herself tells us more about Bella Broomstick.

Lou Kuenzler

Questions for Lou Kuenzler from H Age 6
What is Bella Broomstick about? I’m excited to read this book!

Bella Broomstick is about a young witch who is so hopeless at doing magic she is expelled from the Magic Realm and sent to live in the Person World where is fostered by human beings instead. Luckily for Bella, her new foster parents are much kinder than her mean, old, witchy Aunt Hemlock (who always served frog’s spawn porridge for breakfast). Now Bella discovers ice cream and hot chocolate and finds a talking kitten too. There is just one rule: she must not do any magic, ever again. So, you guessed it! The first thing she does is … Whoops! MAGIC! And that is where the fun really starts …

Thank you for my Shrinking Violet poster and things, I love them! I am thirteen fish fingers tall! Do you have any more Shrinking Violet books planned?

I am so glad you like the fish finger poster. When I do school visits, children often come up with brilliant ideas of things they could measure themselves in. Chocolate biscuits is one of my favourites … but I don’t think I could be trusted not to eat a few while I was doing the counting! Ants are another good one, but it might take a while to train them all to stand in a nice neat line while you measured yourself against them. Perhaps they would have to balance on each other’s shoulders. If ants have shoulders …? Either way, it would take a lot of ant training! Maybe spaghetti would be easier. But should it be cooked or raw?

Oh dear, maybe fish fingers are best after all.

I would love to write another Shrinking Violet book. Perhaps one where she shrinks at school. It is definitely something I am thinking about but, at the moment, I am working on the next two books in the Bella Broomstick series.

I love Princess Grace. How many Princess DisGrace books are you going to write?

There are four Princess Disgrace books already. But, again, I would definitely like to write more when I have time. I think it would be wonderful to take Grace right through to the end of her studies at Tall Towers. That way, there could be a wonderful Princess Graduation ball and we could see Grace ready to face the royal world beyond the magical shores of Coronet Island …

How do you say your last name please?

Kuenzler is tricky, isn’t it? It is originally a Swiss name. Try saying Koons-la. But I tell you what … it’s probably easier if you just call me Lou.

Do you like writing books?

I love writing books. I get to sit at my big red desk (with my dog by my feet and my two cats peering over the top of the computer – they think they are very helpful). Then I just make stuff up all day long – it is like playing the best imaginary game ever … and I get to share it with readers and see my books for sale in the shops. I am hopeless at drawing, so other people always do brilliant illustrations for me. That is one of the most exciting bits … seeing how somebody else imagines the characters might look. Now, I can’t think of Violet or Grace or Bella looking any other way.

Shrinking Violet is Violetta Winzig in Germany. Do your characters have different names in other countries? What is Bella Broomstick?

My books have been translated into lots of other languages. It is always very exciting – and slightly strange – to know these are the same words I wrote but not be able to understand them. Shrinking Violet is known as Minik Violet in Turkish for instance. And Princess Disgrace is Princesse Catastrophe in French. As I have only just finished writing Bella Broomstick in English, it has not been translated into any other languages yet. But my husband, who is Swiss, says that she would be Bella Besenstiel in German, which I think sounds brilliant.

Will you be writing any more Bella Broomstick books?

I have almost finished the second book in the Bella Broomstick series – where we see her go off to school and make a new best friend. There is a bit of bother for Bella with some multiplication sums and a lot of magic rabbits! Once that one is done, I will start on Book Three which is going to be all about celebrating Halloween for the first time in her new human village. There is some magic trouble from Bella’s mean, witchy Aunt Hemlock. I am looking forward to that one, as writing horrid characters can be really fun.

Thank you so much for asking me these brilliant questions, H. I hope you find the answers helpful. You have really made me think!

Lou.

Let’s leave the final word for Bella Broomstick to H – “I liked when she went to the human world, it was funny and not scary. I liked she had to do magic even though she wasn’t meant to. If I saw the book in a bookshop I would DEFINITELY buy it! (but I would have to save my pocket money first or ask you, Mummy)”

This post is part of the Bella Broomstick blog tour – see the banner for other fab bloggers taking part. Bella Broomstick is published by Scholastic, and can be bought here. It has a rrp of £5.99. (affiliate link) Lou’s website can be found here and she’s on Twitter here. We received a copy of the book to review for this piece.  Also, huge thanks to Faye Rogers for organising this book tour!

Bella Broomstick blog tour banner, Bella Broomstick