Half term often means holidays for families with young children. So Ian has been making copper dragonflies…Continue reading “Making Copper Dragonflies With Ian”
Rain or shine (well, you’re going to get wet anyway…) the inflatables or wake boarding at the North Devon Wake Park are great fun for kids and adults.Continue reading “Make a Splash at the North Devon Wake Park”
Sometimes not everyone on holiday wants to do the same thing. Sometimes kids are growing up and want a bit more space. So we thought we’d ask the boys to do a series of short videos about their independent Devon days out. Here, they go into Exeter to the cinema.Continue reading “An Independent Trip Into Exeter”
Exeter’s Haldon Forest Park makes a great day out for all. Those with lots of energy can go mountain biking on a good number of graded trails. For the less active there’s the butterfly walk (part of the Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its wildlife), the cafe, or even Segways to hire! Continue reading “Mountain biking at Haldon Forest”
Belstone Tor, just outside the Dartmoor village of Belstone, is one of the easiest Tors to ‘bag’. It’ll give you feel for the wild nature of Northern Dartmoor. OK, it’s not often snowy, as it is in this image, but it’s fabulous at any time of year, and in clear weather you get an amazing view of North Devon. If you’ve got binoculars with you you might pick out the turbine at Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges. Continue reading “Belstone Tor: A Taste Of The Wild North Moor”
Here comes the new go cart! Everyone should have a go cart hill in their childhood. George is the main technician on this one with a bit of help from Ian and some additions from Euan. Continue reading “Go cart joins the eco lodge bike fleet”
Draughts and chess in the lodge field! (April through to the end of October). The draughts, made out of sliced-up branches, will be in a box under the board but the chess pieces will be at the house – under the sofa in the conservatory. Feel free to borrow them, but please return the chess set after use. (That way hard to replace pieces are less likely to get lost in the long grass.) Continue reading “Outdoor chess”
Even on a grey day you can’t beat a Hocking’s Ice Cream! Made in Appledore, they are an integral part of a Devon holiday. There are almost always vans on the Torrington Commons, on Bideford Quay (car park end) and at Northam Burrows Country Park, among many other places.
From spring to autumn you can go ‘small game hunting’ in our wildlife pond. Voyage out across the pond in the good ship Tender and collect armfuls of invasive Canadian pondweed, which Maggie or Ian will help you search for invertebrates (and the odd newt). Continue reading “Go small game hunting!”
We know we’ve got it right when you stay on the farm to have fun. The wildlife pond is perfect for a calm moment of reflection… or maybe you’d rather make a splash? In summer we usually have a boat or paddle board available for you to use – just ask for a quick induction first! Continue reading “Paddle the boat on the wildlife pond”
At Wheatland Farm eco lodges we have a sizeable and growing collection of ‘farm bikes’, which are all free for you to use on your holiday. We have kids’ and adults’ sizes. They’ve all been rescued from the local recycling centre and refurbished. So they may not be sparkly new, but they are serviceable and fun.Continue reading “Borrow a bike”
Climb the hill to Torrington and reward yourself with a coffee at the Plough Arts Centre or perhaps a cake from our favourite bakery, Sandford’s in the square.. Continue reading “Climb the hill to Torrington for tea and cakes”
Here’s a day out for rain or shine. If it’s sunny, then all the better, but if it rains, well you’ll be wet anyway so it won’t matter. Right on the edge of Westward Ho!’s gigantic North Devon beach you’ll find the North Devon Surf School. Continue reading “North Devon Surf School”
Here’s a real holiday adventure, and it’s indoors, so perfect on a rainy day. Clip and Climb, on the quayside in Exeter, has a self belaying system that’s really great for kids. And their adult climbing walls are pretty innovative too.
Children as young as 5 can have a go. You can too – either on the clip and climb walls or on the proper climbing wall.
Or just have a coffee and watch!
Clip and Climb is bookable online, and we recommend you do just that if the forecast is looking bleak.
You can drive, and park in the large and good value carpark nearby, or you can get the bus (stagecoach 5B from Winkleigh) into the city centre.
This tag along bike will be available for loan to guests at Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges on an ‘ask us first’ basis. It should help younger families get out and about. Euan has already test driven it up to the farm shop for a cake! Continue reading “A reclaimed tagalong bike joins the fleet for our lodges and cottage”
The Big Sheep is a family day out with lots to see and do for kids from toddlers to teenagers. And one of the nice things about it is that you can do some things together – like the twister ride which has seats for adults and children as young as three (height restriction).
There are lots of animals to see up close, including lambs (of course) and piglets.
If it’s wet there’s a ‘soft play barn’ with the usual ball pits and 3 great slides – a gentle (but surprisingly fast) one and two ‘freefall’ slides for more adventurous kids.
Outside there are go karts and the enormous bouncing pillows.
For older children try Battlefield Live – for kids (and parents) over 8 years old.
It’s is like paint balling but without the bruises and pain. You get state-of-the-art eye-safe guns that fire invisible infra-red beams up to 200 metres (with great sound effects). There’s 7 acres for your battle to rage in, full of forts, bunkers and barricades plus real military sound affects and lots of military vehicles as well as natural cover.
The Big Sheep also has a sister attraction, just up the road, called the Ultimate High, where you can try mountain boarding and climbing.
The Big Sheep is a working farm, and there are shows throughout the day (when the presenter said the show about rams was going to last 45 mins my heart sank – but it was actually entertaining and informative).
And of course there’s always the brewery, and shop, to visit. Plus there’s free wifi if you need to stay in touch.
If you’re holidaying with your dog, you might want to take advantage of the free kennel facilities (first come first served) – there’s also shaded parking and a large dog walking area.
So all in all, it’s not quite the major theme parks, but then you shouldn’t have to spend half your day queuing either.
The Big Sheep is about 22 miles from the cottage and lodges, or about 40 mins drive. It’s easy to find, on the A39, 2 mins west of the new Bideford Bridge. It’s well signed (ex39 5ap) if you’re using SatNav.
The main season runs from the end of March to the end of October. In the winter it’s open weekends and school holidays – check their website for details.
See more at the Big Sheep Website.
Not just war toys for boys, this collection of military equipment, some of which is still used in films today, focusses on the second world war and is dedicated to the memory of those who fought in it. The collection ranges from military surplus tanks, guns, helmets, artillery, grenades, and bombs, to Home Front ration books, gas masks, ARP and Home Guard uniforms, and blackout lamps.
This is real equipment that people used – the sherman tank in the car park has genuine shell holes in it – all food for thought. The main collection is housed in 2 large hangers, so it’s good for a rainy day. Best to ring ahead (01769 540740) to check opening hours. In the winter the collection opens on some weekends. In the summer opening hours are broader.
Costs: Adults £6, senior citizens £5, schoolchildren £4, under fives go free.
Check out their website for up to date information.
Chittlehampton is about 15 miles from our eco lodges and cottage.
Cobbaton Combat Collection, Chittlehampton, Umberleigh, North Devon, EX37 9RZ,
Phone 01769 540740
Just a few miles from our cottage and ecolodges you’ll find Bold Try stables, on the outskirts of Chulmleigh.
Whether you’re a learner like Holly here or a experienced rider, they’ll look after you well. They’re cheaper than stables on Dartmoor and know lots of local rides. Some of our guests have come back specifically to ride here again. Telephone 01769 580366.
Bold Try Stables
Try kayaking on the River Torridge at Bideford. You can hire sturdy kayaks suitable for beginners from Bideford Bicycle Hire and enjoy this part of North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve from a completely different perspective.
Paddle yourself beneath Bideford’s famous Long Bridge or head up stream past saltmarsh and reedbeds towards the iron bridge at Landcross to see this part of North Devon from a ‘Tarka the otter’ viewpoint!
This is a day out you can do without the car – take the 315 bus from Winkleigh to Bideford (enjoy the fabulous views from the top of the double decker) and get off at the Quay.
You can also combine kayaking with walking or cycling on the Tarka Trail – see our post on the trail from Puffing Billy to Bideford.
If you need refreshment, there’s a cafe in an old railway carriage and what was once Bideford Station – now a waypoint on the Tarka Trail. In Bideford itself you’ll find an art gallery (in the park at the far end of the Quay, and plenty of shops and cafes.
The hire shop is easy to find. From the bus stop or by car, cross over Bideford Long Bridge and find Torrington Street just around to your right. There’s limited and charged parking here – more the other side of the river in the big pay and display car park. If you’ve been walking or biking on the Tarka Trail you’ll spot the shop and steps down to it.
Prices (in 2013) were £15 for up to 2 hours, then £5 per further hour.
Bideford is about 20 miles from our Devon ecolodges and self catering cottage
Bideford bicycle hire co.
East The Water,
Bideford EX39 4DR
In the city of Exeter you can visit galleries, take a guided tour, admire the Cathedral or just relax in a coffee bar.
And if you want to be green you can take the bus from Winkleigh (the 5B) or the train on the picturesque Tarka Line – Eggesford Station is only about 4 miles away. All the trains have to stop here – a condition imposed when the land for the station was originally sold by the Earl of Portsmouth’s estate.
Stay on the train until you get to Exeter Central (not Exeter St David’s). Coming out of the station turn left, and almost immediately you’ll pass the Royal Albert Memorial Museum’s main building.
But if you take the second left, just up from the end of Gandy Street you’ll come across the Exeter Phoenix gallery. Entrance to the gallery is free, and there are regular workshops – ring 01392 667080 to find out what’s on.
The cafe does local food (and is family friendly).
Coming back out of the gallery, go down the hill and turn left into Gandy Street – lots of boutiques, cafes etc, and if you keep going you’ll hit the high street. If you want to see the Cathedral, turn right in the high street, then turn left when you see the signposts.
You can also join a guided tour of historial Exeter. The Exeter City Council run several, covering, ghosts, murder and mayhem, the Cathedral, the custom’s house and many more. Check out their website a full list and timetables.
Exeter is about 25 miles from our Devon eco lodges and cottage.
The huge beach at Northam Burrows Country Park, near Westward Ho! is about 40 mins drive away from the cottage and lodges at Wheatland Farm. It can be almost empty outside peak season, and even in August there’s plenty of room. At one end you’ll find a surf school, at the other loads of empty beach. At low tide there is plenty of sand. Parking is easy – there’s a car park (small charge in the summer – cheaper than Saunton Sands and a lot closer too). At the far end of the car park there is a really worthwhile interpretation centre / shop as well as public loos (closed in the winter).
Westward Ho! takes its name from the Charles Kingsley novel – ie the novel came first. But it’s probably the beach you want rather than the town, which is a little uninspiring (unless you like arcade games). Northam Burrows is famous for it’s pebble ridge made of rounded cobbles cast up by the sea. If you’re there in May, you may catch the ‘Pot Walloping Festival’where locals gather to throw the previous winter’s dislodged cobbles back up onto the ridge – traditionally, this protects their grazing rights.
Walking the South West Coast Path
The first mile or so of the South West Coast Path, from Westward Ho! to Cornborough Cliff, has been made an easy – access level path. Beyond that it’s more challenging. If you are sure of foot see our post on a great walk from Horn’s Cross(off the A39) back to Westward Ho! that you can do as a one way if you take the bus out.
Rudyard Kipling spent several of his childhood years at Westward Ho!, and scenes from Stalky and Co. were written about this coastline, which he knew from attending the United Services College here.
Northam Burrows and Westward Ho! are about 23 miles from our cottage and eco lodges. Take the A386 to Bideford and go through the town to the roundabout joining teh A39. Head straight over and keep going until you see a sign and right hand turn for Northam (don’t take the turning to Appledore). Follow signs for Northam Burrows Country Park as you go through the village.
Bus: Well,it’s not seamless, but it’s doable. Get the 5B stagecoach service from Winkleigh to Bideford and change on the Quay to The First 1 service for Northam and Appledore. There’s a bus on the golf links road and you walk down through the Country Park from there. It adds a bit of exercise, so not necessarily a good option for young children or anyone carrying loads of beach gear.
Bude offers some of the closest beaches to us. You can enjoy the sand, go surfing or pick up the South West Coast path for a lovely walk. It’s just over the border in Cornwall, but they won’t ask for your passport…
If you drive to Bude you’ll probably end up at Summerleaze Beach, the closest to the town. There’s level access from Summerleaze car park. At low tide you can also get here from the Canal. There’s lots of sand when the tide is out, but take care swimming near the sailing channels into the Canal. You might prefer the sea-washed swimming pool near the cliffs. Crooklets is the other town beach, also popular with surfers. (No dogs allowed on Crooklets beach between Easter and 1st October).
At Widemouth Bay, (turning off the A39 a mile or two south of Bude) there is a large beach with over 2 miles of sand at low tide. Good for families and surfers – plenty of room for all. Dogs are allowed on the southern part all year.
A canal joins the sea at Bude. It was built to transport sea sand, rich in lime, to farms inland. The lock gates near the sea suffered storm damage in 1997 but have now been repaired (and if you wonder whether rebuilding the gates in such fabulous-looking hardwood was really sustainable, it’s because the gates are ‘listed’, and English Heritage insisted they be replaced by green oak). You can walk or ride along the tow path to Helebridge, passing a nature reserve on the way. Just across the A39 at Helebridge you can see the old wharf area and restored barge workshop. There’s also a picnic site here.
Cliff top walks
Alternatively, walk along the cliffs from Bude for spectacular views on the South West Coast Path. You’re standing on 300 million years of geological history!
Bude is about 30 miles from our cottage and eco lodges.
If you want to see more, check out the Bude webcams.
Halsdon Nature Reserve is one of the nearest of the Devon Wildlife Trust’s reserves to Wheatland Farm. Otters are sometimes to be seen from the hide overlooking the River Torridge, and orchids and bluebells abound in the woods in spring. Continue reading “Halsdon Nature Reserve”
The Tarka Trail between Puffing Billy Cafe and East Yarde is a lovely woodland walk or cycle crossing the Torridge.
While the surface isn’t as good as other parts of the trail it’s still fairly easy going. Bear in mind you’re following the Torridge upstream now, so that means gently uphill almost all the way, but a much easier coast back, and there’s excellent coffee and cake at the Puffing Billy Station Cafe! Continue reading “Puffing Billy to East Yarde”
The National Trust’s Finch Foundry is the last working water-powered forge in the country. On one of their regular guided tours you can find out what it really means to have your nose to the grind stone or to be pole axed.
Finch Foundry is in the village of Sticklepath, on the edge of Dartmoor. When it’s raining, this will show you what all that water was used for! The leat would originally have driven up to 10 water mills.
The forge made argricultural tools right up until the 1960s and is a sight to behold. They say the vibrations were powerful enough to shake glasses off the shelves in the next door pub. If you catch one of the guided tours you’ll see one of the hammers in action.
This is a small National Trust property, but well worth a visit. There’s a tea room in the grounds, and also Thomas Pearse’s summer house. That’s the Tom Pearse from the Widdecombe Fair song (plus Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all). He was a local serge maker, making the red material used to dress the British army.
There are also lovely woodland walks from the Forge. One takes you to Okehampton, where you can visit the Museum of Dartmoor Life. Or you can follow the river valley along to the village of Belstone (where there’s a pub that does food). Every November the Forge hosts the Sticklepath Fire show – a performance on a huge set which is burnt at the end of a fabulous fireworks display. The Foundry is usually open from mid-March until early November between 11:00 and 17:00 every day except Tuesday. There are tours about once an hour.
Finch Foundry is about 13 miles from our eco lodges and cottage. This National Trust property sometimes puts on events – check out our what’s on listing for details…
Sticklepath, Okehampton, Devon EX20 2NW
Telephone: 01837 840046
This gently down-hill walk or bike ride is our favourite part of Devon’s Tarka Trail to do from Wheatland Farm. Bridges, tunnels, cafes…and it’s off road too. Continue reading “Puffing Billy to Bideford on the Tarka Trail”
This is an easy going walk (or cycle) with options to explore part of the South West Coast Path and detour around a Devon nature reserve. You’ll end up at Fremington Quay cafe, a thriving cafe. Continue reading “Instow to Fremington on the Tarka Trail”
Walk or cycle from Barnstaple to Fremington Quay on the Tarka Trail, and enjoy an ice cream at the cafe. You get fabulous views out over the mouth of the Taw River, see beautiful butterflies and flowers in summer, enjoy easy walking and a lovely cafe at the end. Continue reading “Barnstaple to Fremington on the Tarka Trail”
This is why we call it the big tree walk! This douglas fir was planted around 1840 and is to be found in the Heywood Forestry Commission woodland about 4 miles from Wheatland Farm. This is an easy going walk which you can do with a push chair. But it’s better if you can cope with a scramble because then you can get down to the River Taw and climb to the top of a Norman Motte and Bailey castle.
Heywood is between Eggesford Station and Wembworthy – about 4 miles from the eco lodges. Just ask us to point it out on the map. You can cycle there on our free bikes. If you take the car there’s easy parking. Trails are marked. The Forestry Commission say their circular walk takes 1.5 hours, and it might at an amble. Follow the red posts, turning right at one by a downhill woodland path off the main track. You’ll soon come across the ‘big tree’. Hard to miss it! It was part of the Egggesford estate and was planted around 1840.
Push chairs and anyone with limited mobility should go straight on after the tree to the motte and bailey….
If you take the tiny path just beside the tree and head downhill some more you’ll come to a steep scramble or slide through bushes and rhododendrons. It takes you to the bank of the Taw. There’s a little river-shingle beach – a fabulous picnic spot in the summer and an essential ‘stone chucking’ spot. It’s not deep enough to swim, but suitably attired you can certainly cool off!
Then either retrace your steps or walk down stream along another path that goes alongside the river until you come almost to a stone bridge. This bit can be muddy. Zig zag back up hill on another well trodden path, and when you rejoin the main track, turn right and walk on to the motte and bailey castle. There are steps up to the top and you get some good views of the surrouning countryside.
There are 3 paths back from here – the one you came on, the next one which will take you back to where you turned off to get to the big tree (and then back to the car par), or one the other side of the mound which goes on through woodland and ends up on a quiet stretch of road. From here you walk for a couple of hundred metres back uphill along the road until you get back to the car park.