Trick Bikes and Scooters Join The Fleet

Coming to a holiday cottage near you! We’ve been given a couple of second hand trick bikes and ‘off road’ type scooters – thanks Jack’s Dad! Ian is fixing them up to go in the eco lodge bike shed. They’ll be ready to use this summer holiday. Looking forward to seeing everyone having fun!

Go cart joins the eco lodge bike fleet

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.
“What’s special about it?”
“It goes fast”
“What about its build?”
“Rack and pinion steering, wheels from the old push chair, and now it even has brakes”

Sounds good to me.

This one is ‘by appointment’ at the moment – so come ask the boys for a tug!

Outdoor chess

Outdoor chess at Wheatland Farm
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.)

Sustainability credentials?
The white tiles were left over from a bathroom refurbishment, black squares are cut from broken roofing tiles, and the table itself is made reclaimed wood. The chess set came from a charity shop.

Real Devon icecream!

Hockings icecream
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.

Go small game hunting!

Ponddipping at Wheatland Farm eco lodgesFrom spring to autumn you can go ‘small game hunting’ in our wildlife pond. Voyaged 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).

There are some magnificent beasts…

newt at Wheatland Farm

pond dipping at Wheatland Farm
Hopefully, unlike the big game hunters, you’ll be more more interested in shooting with your smartphones than bows and arrows or rifles.

So if you’d like to have a go, give us a shout. Maggie is (almost) always willing to wade in with a bucket!

Paddle the boat on the wildlife pond

Boats and boards

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! And of course there are some house rules:

Borrowing boats and swimming in the pond

    • Do not go out of your depth unless you are a competent swimmer.
    • Remember that the water will be cold. You use the pond at your own risk.
    • Everyone using the boats/boards must have had the safety briefing.
    • You use the boats/boards at your own risk.
    • Everyone using the boats/boards must be able to swim 50m unaided, or must be wearing a life jacket (we have a couple of tiny ones you can borrow).
    • Children swimming, boating or just playing in the water or at the edge must be supervised at all times – you are responsible for their safety.
    • No battles or pranks please.
    • Do not use the boats/boards if you have been drinking alcohol or are under the influence of any drugs, prescription or otherwise.
    • Report any damage, whether or not you caused it.
    • Do not get into a boat or onto a board unless it is fully supported in the water – or you will break them.
    • We reserve the right to charge for any non-trivial damage however caused.
    • You are welcome to swim in the wildlife pond but please expect to encounter wildlife, water weed and mud.
    • Lock the boats/board back up after use and return the key.


Borrow a bike

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.

You can’t book them, but we’ve never run out (we have more bikes than we have bed spaces on the farm, though of course if everyone wants the same size we’ll have difficulty).

Children absolutely love borrowing them and riding around the farm. Adults find them a good way to get to the village, local shops, the pub, or just to the start of lovely walks.

But if you want something a bit more bling and (and less brawn) we also have two adult size electric bikes that you can hire out. They take the edge off our Devon hills if you’re thinking about a cycling day out. You can even book a package weekend with the bikes and accommodation and full route notes for a choice of trips.

Borrowing a farm bike means you agree to some simple house rules – here they are:

    Please return bikes to the bike store each day when you’re done, so others can borrow them. If you want a bike all week, we can arrange good value hire for you.
    Bring your own helmet if you want to wear one. We have a few to lend out, but not all sizes.
    You ride at your own risk. Before you ride off, please check the bike over, including the brakes, the chain and the tyres. We fix problems we know about, but someone else may have forgotten to tell us what went wrong. If something goes wrong when you’re out, let Ian know. He can fix most things.
    There are a couple of light-weight deterrent padlocks you can borrow, and we’re assuming you won’t be leaving the bike where it’s an obvious target. If your borrowed bike does get stolen, we’ll ask you to pay £30 so we can replace it.
    Please don’t ride the bikes after dark. They don’t have lights, so you wouldn’t be legal on the road. If you want to ride after dark, please hire a bike or use your own lights and safety equipment.

Climb the hill to Torrington for tea and cakes

Torrington WallsClimb the hill to Torrington and reward yourself with a coffee or a cake…

This is a pretty gentle stroll, though with a hill to climb. But you get to reward yourself, maybe with a coffeee at the Plough Arts Centre or a sticky bun from the hugely popular bakery in Great Torrington.

But before you get there, here’s the walk. You can do this walk from the stagecoach 5B bus or by car. If taking the bus, catch it in Winkleigh (you can bike to the bus stop, there are four or five buses a day, check traveline for the latest timetables) and ask the bus driver to let you off at the bottom of the hill past Rosemoor, just before Torrington. If going by car, park at the junction of the A386 and the A3124 in the layby just on the corner.

You take the path along by the River Torridge. In a minute or so you’re away from the noise of the road and walking along a wide path by the river. Or you can dip down to the river bank itself. The path leads right along the river valley to the far side of Torrington, then there’s a switch back turn taking you back up the hill. The sign at the bottom says Millenium Path, and you just keep on it until you reach the town at the top.

Just past the car park you’ll find the Torrington Pannier Market. Lots of little boutique shops, including an old fashioned sweet shop with the jars.

Or go right through and out the other side into the town square, where you’ll find colourful greengrocers shops, a cake shop, the Plough Arts Centre just around the corner, and Sandford’s bakery where we always have to stop for a cake.

When you’re finished exploring Torrington, head back through the Pannier Market to the escarpment, but this time turn left and take George’s Path back down the hill, past the monument.

When you come close to the road just head down alongside the stream and you’ll find yourself back on the riverside path where you began – and close to your start point.

Alternatively, you can catch the bus back from Torrington. From the main square take the path to the church, go through the churchyard, and the bus stop is on the road on the other side. You’ll want to cross over for the bus back to Winkleigh.

North Devon Surf School

Surfing with North Devon surf schoolHere’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. They run lessons twice a day and rent out boards too. A two hour lesson costs £28 and board hire £10 (2012 prices, and bear in mind a block of lessons is cheaper). It’s a great place to learn as it’s sandy and the water is shallow. There are lots of lovely beginners’ waves to catch. Anyone aged 8 up can have a go – you’ll be in good hands.

Lesson times vary with the tide, so ring to book what suits. You’ll need to be there 30 mins before the lesson to get suited up. Ring 01237 474 663 or see them online.

If you book a lesson, all your equipment is included, so there’s nothing to carry. And they’ll drive you to the best part of the beach for that day’s waves (and your ability). You can get there by car or bus. If you want to use public transport check up to date time tables. You’ll need an all day ticket on Stagecoach North Devon buses. Catch the 5B to Bideford from Winkleigh. From Bideford you’ll need to get the 21A to Westward Ho!, Golf Links Road. Ask the driver to put you down at the stop nearest the surf school. There’s one close by.

By car, drive through Bideford and straight across the roundabout joining the A39. Keep following the signs to Westward Ho! and when you get there head down the the sea. The surf school is down a lane leading from the road closest to the sea. You can’t miss it – it’s well signed.

If you want to park behind the pebble ridge you’ll be entering Northam Burrows country park and will usually be charged (£4.50 for the day). But there’s often space in the nearby streets for free.

Clip ‘n Climb in Exeter

Clip n Climb in ExeterHere’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.

A reclaimed tagalong bike joins the fleet for our lodges and cottage

Tag along bike, available to borrow at Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges, DevonThis 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!

Like all the bikes we have for guests to borrow, this one came from the council recycling centre (previously known as the dump), where we picked it up for a couple of quid, together with some good advice about getting a new hitch and chain. It was in a pretty sorry state, but a bit of TLC fixed that. All in all it probably cost about £20 in parts – and of course there’s Ian’s work to factor in. But best of all it’s been saved from the skip and will get lots more use.

We’ll certainly be taking it out on Devon’s Tarka Trail as soon as the weather is warm enough again. With an energetic 7 year old and a shorter-legged 4 year old it will substantially extend our range.

The Big Sheep – a family day out

Family ride at the Big Sheep, North Devon 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.

Getting there
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.

A dose of history at Cobbaton Combat collection

The Cobbaton Combat CollectionNot 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.
Cobbaton Combat's home front
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

Bold Try riding stables

Bold Try Riding Stables, ChulmleighJust 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
Leigh Road
EX18 7JW

Kayaking on the Torridge, at Bideford

Kayaking on the Torridge near Wheatland Farm Eco LodgesTry 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.
01237 424123
Torrington Street,
East The Water,
Bideford EX39 4DR

Exeter galleries, cathedral and tours

Exhibition at the Phoenix gallery, Exeter
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).

Phoenix gallery, Exeter

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.

Westward Ho! and Northam Burrows

Westward Ho BeachThe 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.

Getting there
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.

Beaches and a canal at Bude

The beach at BudeBude 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.

Bude Canal
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

The Devon Wildlife Trust's Halsdon Nature ReserveHalsdon 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.

The 57 hectare reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with mixed deciduous river valley woodland, riverside meadows, marsh and including 2.4km of the River Torridge.

It’s mostly oak woodland, but rarer trees, including the Devon whitebeam (Sorbus devoniensis) and the wild service tree (an unusual-looking tree with greyish brown, flaky bark) are also here.

In 2009 the Trust started an ambitious programme to improve access an manage the woodland more actively.

You can do a circular walk from either of the two car parks – of if you’re car free, take the 5B bus to Dolton and walk along part of the Tarka Trail (local lanes here) to the bottom end of the reserve, up through the woodland, then back to Dolton on a footpath. There are a couple of pubs in Dolton if you need refreshments.

There are a few fields at the valley bottom that you’re asked not to go through in the summer without a permit, but that’s a relatively small part of the reserve. In the winter you don’t need a permit – but please don’t take your dogs into this area.

The paths a pretty variable – sometimes steep and muddy. But from the car park at the southern end of the reserve there’s a fairly flat smooth section with a well-made surface for nearly a kilometre, as far as the riverside.

Halsdon is about 8 miles from our eco lodges and cottage.

There are sometimes events and workparties at Halsdon – check out our events listing for details…

Devon Wildlife Trust: Halsdon Nature Reserve

Puffing Billy to Yarde Orchard Cafe

Beam viaduct
The Tarka Trail between Puffing Billy pub and Yarde Cafe 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 once you’ve had a coffee and cake at the cafe!

Getting there:
Either drive or take the 5B bus from Winkleigh to the Puffing Billy stop just the far side of Great Torrington. Puffing Billy is the name of the pub here, once the station buildings. Cycling is a good option because there’s no bus back from Yarde to Winkleigh, so you’d be looking at a fairly long out and back walk. If you don’t have your own bikes, you can hire some from Torrington Cycle Hire, just opposite the pub (01805 281461).

From here to Yarde Cafe is about 4 miles. Whether walking or cycling, set off leaving the pub behind you and passing under an archway. You’ll soon come to a bridge over the Torridge (look back and see the stone bridge in the picture). If you’re there really early and it’s quiet you may see an otter. In the evening, bats hunt for moths along the river banks here.

Tarka trail courtship bench

Along this stretch of the trail there is a series of 3 benches comissioned as part of Sustran’s Art in the Travelling Landscape initiative. The ‘courtship bench’ will make you smile even if the ‘bereavement bench’ seems a bit morbid…

The cafe is a lovely low key place with plenty of character. It is normally open everyday 10.00am to 5.00pm during July and August, bank holiday weekends and during half term weeks. Outside the summer season, weather permitting, the cafe is open on Saturdays and Sundays – and sometimes other days if fine! Telephone 01805 601778 to check.

Finch Foundry

Finch Foundry - fireThe 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 hammerFinch 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.
Water wheel at Finch Foundry, Devon
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…

Finch Foundry
Sticklepath, Okehampton, Devon EX20 2NW
Telephone: 01837 840046

Puffing Billy to Bideford on the Tarka Trail

Crossing the iron bridge on the Tarka Trail near Bideford
This gently down-hill walk or ride crosses the Torridge at Beam Weir, made famous in Henry Williamson’s book Tarka the Otter, before meandering along the valley, through a long tunnel, across another bridge and into the former station at Bideford, where there’s a cafe in an old railway carriage. Cross Bideford’s famous long Bridge and come back on the bus…

Getting there:
Either drive or take the 5B bus from Winkleigh to the Puffing Billy stop just the far side of Great Torrington. Puffing Billy is the name of the pub here, once the station buildings. If you walk you can get the bus back. If you want to cycle you’ll have to go out and back again. If you don’t have your own bikes, you can hire some from Torrington Cycle Hire, just opposite the pub (01805 281461).

From here to Bideford is about 5 miles. Whether walking or cycling, set off passing in front of the pub on the tarmac path that was once the railway track. Watch out for the Giants in the Forest, put up in the trees in 2013.

Giants in the trees on the Tarka Trail near Torrington

You’ll soon come to the bridge at Beam Weir. If you’re there really early and it’s quiet you may see an otter. In the evening, bats hunt for moths along the river bank.

A bit further and you’ll come to a wooden bench, one of 30 pieces of art commissioned for the trail as part of Sustrans’ Art in the Travelling Landscape project.
Near hear you can detour into the woods on a permissive path that takes you to Weare Giffard. There’s a rack to lock your bikes to.

Tunnel on Devon's Tarka Trail, Landcross

You’ll go through a tunnel, then down to Landcross (had enough? you’re close to the bus route again here – just come off the trail and cross over the Torridge on the road bridge. A few metres on the bus stop is on the corner)

You’ll cross the Torridge again over a bridge where people often fish the tidal waters, than pass close to saltmarsh and a reedbed as you approach Bideford. The trail takes you right to the old station, where there’s a cafe in an old carriage. If that’s not open, the is a pub close by and plenty of other cafes etc over Bideford Long Bridge in the town itself.

If you walked, you can catch the 5B bus back from Bideford Quay – just cross the bridge, turn right and you’ll find the bus stops.
Puffing Billy is about 15 miles from our eco lodges and cottage, but if you take the bus your day out starts a mile and a half away at the Winkleigh Bus stop. If you’re car-less and have young children with you we can sometimes run you down there.

Instow to Fremington on the Tarka Trail

Instow Pond shelter on the Tarka TrailThis 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 cafes.

Getting there (for a walk):
Either take the 5B bus from Winkleigh, or drive to Instow and use the pay and display car park.

Getting there (cycle):
Take your own bikes or do the route in reverse, hiring bikes at Fremington Quay. You’ll have to retrace your steps though, as no-one seems to do one-way cycle hire. And you’ll need to stick to the Tarka Trail as bikes aren’t allowed on the Coast Path.

We recommend getting there by bus. Tickets are really reasonable and you get a unique trip through the transition zone of North Devon’s Biosphere reserve, with fabulous views of the countryside – the 5B is almost always a double decker, giving you unparalleled views over the hedges. And the view as you go over Bideford Bridge is spectacular.

Instow is the first village stop after you leave Bideford. Ask the driver to let you off at the east end of Marine Parade – easiest to be on the lower floor now and smile nicely as there isn’t a formal stop there (if s/he insists on going on to the formal stop you just walk back down the hill until you get back to here).

The walk proper…
Railway gates on the Tarka Trail at Instow
You’ll see the old railway line, now the Tarka Trail. You can start walking here. (If you take the straightforward route along the Tarka Trail and amble, you’ll be at Fremington in under 2 hours.) Alternatively, walk along marine parade and the sea front, enjoying the clinking of stays on the moored boats and the view across the water to Appledore. Follow the coast until you get to the far side of Instow.

Here, you’ll have another choice. If unencumbered by buggies etc, follow the South West Coast Path through dunes topped with marram grass and along the coastline. You can rejoin the Tarka Trail fairly shortly after the cricket ground, or say on the Coast Path until you loop back just before the RSPB’s Isley Marsh Nature Reserve.

If you need smoother going, join up with the Tarka Trail now – turn left off the road where you see a beach cafe. Stay on the road side and shortly on your right you’ll see a pedestrian gateway onto the Trail. If you miss that, carry on along the road (it may be a private road, but it’s a public footpath as well)and join the trail where a road crosses it just before the cricket ground.

Once on the Tarka Trail the walk is pretty open and straight.
Cycling the Tarka Trail between Instow and FremingtonWatch out for wildflowers like tansy, willowherb, toadflax, wild carrot and many others in summer.

Assuming you’re on the trail…

Just outside Instow you’ll come across Instow Pond – a picnic site with a shelter made of traditional cob, and a wetland area where swallows hunt insects during the summer.
Before you get to Fremington, look out for a set of steel kissing gates and an information board on your left. This is the start of a permissive path around Home Farm Marsh, owned by the Gia Trust and managed primarily for wildlife. The walk takes you back to the coast, then along and finally back to the Tarka Trail again at another set of steel kissing gates ( and probably adds a kilometre to the overall walk).

From there, keep on the Tarka trail until you reach Fremington Quay, once the busiest port between Lands End and Bristol.

Now the buildings are a cafe with fascinating displays and photographs from times gone by, incluidng pennyfarthing and other early bicycles (suspended from the ceiling).
The cafe is open most days in the summer, most weekends in the winter, and closed most Mondays outside peak season. Ring them on 01271 378783 to be sure.

To get there, cross the bridge over Fremington Pill (the river here). Even if you don’t want a coffee, go in and look at the pictures of how things use to be. The cafe doesn’t like you using the loo or eating at the tables unless you’re a customer, but there’s a picnic site a few metres further on (on the left) and a public loo at the base of the tower.

Getting home again:
If you’re catching the bus back from Fremington, go back over the Pill and take the footpath up the hill (not along the side of the Pill) on the left hand side. We’ve done this bit with a pushchair and it was fine. If you walk up the West side (the side the cafe is on) you end up with a longish walk through modern housing before you reach the bus stop. A brisk 10 minute walk should cover it, so if you set off with 30 before the bus leaves you’ll be able to amble and still have loads of time to hail the bus.

Follow the path through beech trees and past a few houses until it narrows and runs alongside an unmade up road. Go through the gap in the fence and walk on the road (much easier) over a small bridge up to the main road.
The bus-stop is called the New Inn on the timetable, and this pub is almost opposite where your road joins the main road. Actually the bus goes from outside the Fox and Hounds pub a bit further to the left and across the road.

How far is it?
If you take the bus, your day out starts just a mile and a half from our eco lodges and cottage! If you’ve got young children with you do ask, and we’ll see if we can run you to the bus stop…

By car, Fremington is about 22 miles from us, and counter intuitively Instow is about 23. The last bus back is usually about 16.20 from Fremington – but please check online.

Barnstaple to Fremington on the Tarka Trail

Estuary on the Tarka Trail near BarnstapleWalk 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.

You can hire bikes at Barnstaple Station or at Fremington, and this level tarmac path is ideal for anyone who wants to take it easy. The down side is that nobody seems to do one way cycle hire so you’ll have to retrace your route. The alternative is to walk and get the bus back home from Fremington or even Instow.

Tarka Trail between Fremington and Barnstaple
We recommend getting there by bus (train or car also possible). Tickets are really reasonable and you get a unique view of the North Devon countryside from the top of a double decker. Catch the 5B from Winkleigh and get off at Sticklepath Hill just before you come down to the roundabout at the edge of Barnstaple (ask the driver). Get an all day ticket if you plan to come back from Fremington. Cross over the road, head down the hill and down a side street to footpaths under the main road. Follow the signs for the Tarka Trail and enjoy the scenery. You’re following the path of the old railway line that served Fremington Quay.

Fremington Quay was once the busiest port between Bristol and Lands End. Now it’s a cafe and has fascinating displays and photographs from times gone by, incluidng pennyfarthing and other early bicycles (suspended from the ceiling).

The cafe is open most days in the summer, most weekends in the winter, and closed most Mondays. Ring them on 01271 378783 to be sure.

You have to walk up to the main road to get the bus back – ask us and we’ll show you on the map and describe the bus stop.
But why stop there? Why not go on and walk around Home Marsh Farm, or follow the South West Coast Path for a stretch before rejoining the Tarka Trail in Instow (also on the 5B bus route)?
Barnstaple is about 25 miles from the eco lodges and cottage at Wheatland Farm, and Fremington about 22. The last bus back is usually about 16:20 – but please check online.

Fremington Quay, old station buildings

Big tree walk

'The Big Tree' in Heywood Woods, EggesfordThis 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!

Skimming stones on the Taw at Eggesford
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.

Lydford Gorge

The White Lady Waterfall at Devon's Lydford GorgeLydford Gorge is the deepest gorge in the south west of England, with the White Lady waterfall tumbling 30m (90ft). It’s been voted the No. 1 most romantic spot in Devon and Cornwall and is about 21 miles from Wheatland Farm’s eco lodges.

The main attraction of this National Trusts property is its grounds and a spectacular walk that takes you through woodland trails to the famous While Lady waterfall, then follows a deep-cut ravine alongside the river Lyd.

Legend says anyone falling into the Lyd who sees a woman in white with long flowing tresses standing in the waterfall will not drown! Presumably if you do drown you don’t get to say whether or not you saw her…

You’ll need proper footwear – it’s narrow in places and can be slippery, especially after rain. The full walk is not suitable for people with severely limited mobility, although there is a gentler path from the second entry to the waterfall. The return path takes you alongside crystal clear fast flowing water – look out for baby trout in the stream. At the end you’ll find the Devil’s Cauldron – a shorter but booming waterfall that has cut itself a cauldron shape cavern in the rock. You can go to a viewing platform along a walk way – it’s fabulous! The walls are covered with moss and liverworts, and the whole thing is quite an experience. There’s a bit where the National Trust have (courageously?) not included a fence – so you’ll be pleased of the handrail!

You can take your dog to Lydford Gorge, but an infirm or elderly pet might struggle with the narrow slippery paths. You’ll definitely need a lead.

During school holidays there will often be family activities running, such as woodland sculpture workshops.

Lydford Gorge is on the north western edge of Dartmoor. You could easily spend a day here, or combine a visit with other Dartmoor attractions. You could even bike it from Okehampton along the Granite Way.

Free entry to National Trust members. Day ticket for a family was about £23 in 2017. There are loos at the entrance, and a teashop.
Postcode: EX20 4BH
Telephone: 01822 820320

Lydford Gorge is also close to the Black a Tor Copse walk on Dartmoor – you don’t have to approach it from the Meldon Reservoir.

RHS Rosemoor gardens

RHS Rosemoor, hot garden

RHS Rosemoor is just 11 miles from our cottage and lodges, and makes a relaxing day out, or you can combine it with other attractions in nearby Torrington (walks, Dartington crystal, The Plough Arts Centre). You can get there by bus from Winkleigh – the stagecoach 5B service stops right at the gate.

See formal and rose gardens, a potager, the vegetable plot, a foliage and a plantsman’s garden, and even a winter garden.

Open every day of the year except Christmas day. Hours are 10:00 until 17:00 from September to March and 10:00 until 18:00 in the summer months. Last admission one hour before closing. There’s a cafe, shop, loos etc.

Free to RHS members, otherwise adults cost £6, kids under 6 go free, ages 6-16 cost £2.

Guide dogs only

We liked the vegetable garden best!
RHS Rosemoor Gardens