Dear Mummy, we can’t believe that the Gruffalo is at Mottisfont this summer! We headed down to one of our favourite National Trust properties to follow the summer trail and see Gruffalo artwork hanging in the gallery. The Gruffalo and Friends: the Art of Axel Scheffler runs from 15 July – 3 September, 11am – 5pm.
Alongside the exhibition in the house there is also a fantastic outdoor family trail with additional Gruffalo-themed activity days on 29 – 30 August. You don’t pay any extra for the exhibition or the trail and normal property admission applies. Luckily we are National Trust members so we couldn’t wait to attend.
Julia Donaldson books illustrated by Axel Scheffler hold a very special place in our hearts. Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo were the first books that my mummy used to read to me and I now can recite them word from word. Imagine our delight finding out we could see the original drawings from the books up close. It was an exhibition we didn’t want to miss.
What made it even more special was that Mottisfont put on a great activity trail for kids around the grounds which included attraction points with art installations from the books. On the day we visited it was sunny but showery so we followed the trail around the grounds using our map, ducking in and out of the house during showers and spent the whole day at Mottisfont.
We picked up a map from the visitors reception to start the trail. There where physical, creative and puzzle activities to try along the way, with a craft activity to take home. It’s was great fun for all the family with my mummy and grandparents having a giggle trying to spot the clues and characters.
We spotted the Snake from the Gruffalo books curled up on his log pile and he nearly scared me out of my wits. We followed the numbers around the site, stopping to answer questions and complete tasks on the guide.
We had fun spotting signs of the Gruffalo and tracing clues to find his den in the Mottisfonts cellar. In the dark room I played with the lights casting huge shadows like my mouse friend from The Gruffalo’s Child. It was great fun.
There’s plenty of space to run, jump and play around Mottisfont, and always something for families to do. I tested my limits playing in the wild play areas, including the boggy climbing area and my mummy was glad she brought my wellies with us!
The trail had fun activities to complete which included games set up around the grounds and we loved the take on the Monkey Puzzle book with a hoop game to play. One of the areas had been transformed into a Stick Man climbing area, with stick men hidden in the trees, which we all found amusing! We stopped to play pooh sticks on the wooden bridges across the rushing river and found an area converted into Tiddlers underwater world.
We spotted The Highway Rat in the courtyard while having lunch in the restaurant and opposite was a room dedicated to arts and crafts. I made a medal after I completed the trail to take home with me as a souvenir of the day.
Afterwards we made a beeline for the Room on the Broom attraction on the map and found a magnificent broom in the grounds of Mottisfont. This was a great area for photo opportunities and there was a fancy dress box with witches hats, wands and capes so the whole family could dress up! It was great how the National Trust made Axel Scheffler illustrations come to life through props.
Another point on the map which we loved was the depiction of the Scarecrows Wedding and we were extra guests at Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay’s wedding. The attention to details was amazing with pink flowers and white feathers on Betty’s dress, just like the book!
Upstairs in the house we found the exhibition featuring original artworks and some sketches by Axel Scheffler. He’s perhaps best-known for his collaborations with Julia Donaldson, including the modern classics The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child. The exhibition was very family focused and was laid out to suit younger audiences, with lower-hanging pictures, a child-friendly guide, and cosy reading spaces dotted throughout filled with pillows.
My mummy and I enjoyed reading books by Julia Donaldson full of expressive characters by Scheffler and his ink-wash and pencil style is instantly recognisable. Scheffler collaborated with Donaldson for 25 years.We saw illustrations from Stick Man, The Snail and the Whale, Room on the Broom, Zog and many more. There was no fear of being told off for getting close to all the exhibits and I had fun playing with cushions made to look like a woodland in the Gruffalo Room. We loved the quotes from the books which decorated the walls.
There was so much artwork to see from the Zog stories and Room on the Broom, Superworm, The Smartest Giant in Town, The Highway Rat, Tabby McTat, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child and Stick Man and The Scarecrow’s Wedding. Tucked into a tiny cupboard is a ‘window’ into the house of A Squash and a Squeeze, Axel Scheffler’s very first collaboration with Julia Donaldson. We were fortunate enough to have read all the books at home so I recognised all the work from the Julia Donaldson books.
At the end of the day we headed home via the gift shop. The shop had all the books for sale and was full of Gruffalo and friends goodies! With plenty more Gruffalo fun to be had at Mottisfont and time to enjoy the Axel Scheffler exhibition until 3rd September, we will most certainly be back.
Love Bella x