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”
Fingle Bridge woods makes a lovely walk with a great pub for lunch or a snack. It’s about 19 miles from the eco lodges and combines well with Castle Drogo. In fact, the National Trust’s Castle Drogo land goes all the way to Fingle Bridge, and meets up with Woodland Trust land. It’s now under joint management. Continue reading “A walk at Fingle Bridge”
Black a Tor Copse and Black Tor make a lovely Dartmoor walk from Meldon Reservoir. We last did it in late March on a sunny day – gorgeous! Continue reading “Meldon Reservoir to Black A Tor Copse National Nature Reserve and Black Tor”
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”
This post is mainly about another of our ‘big bike out’ videos – to Sampford Courtney for lunch at the New Inn. But of course you could drive too – the New Inn is a lovely traditional Devon pub serving good food Continue reading “Cycle to the New Inn, Sampford Courtney, for lunch”
One of our nearest pubs is the Lymington Arms in Wembworthy. It has a great reputation for food and is open Weds through Saturday form lunch and evenings, and Sunday lunch. There should be a menu in your accommodation but if not just ask at the house. Ring and book a table on 01837 83572. Continue reading “Lunch at the Lymington Arms, 2 miles from the eco lodges”
Belstone Cleave, on the edge of Dartmoor, is beautiful even when it’s raining or cold. And unlike the moor itself, is sheltered from the worst of the wind. Belstone also boasts a welcoming pub serving 50 kinds of whiskeys – should you need re-warming after your walk. Continue reading “Belstone Cleave and the Tors Pub”
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”
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens is a great place for a bit of peace and quiet in beautiful and thought provoking surroundings, and a leisurely lunch. Continue reading “broomhill sculpture gardens”
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”
Fancy a road biking challenge? If you’re inspired to get out on a bike here’s an idea: Wheatland Farm to Belstone, on the edge of Dartmoor, and back. Yes really, you could do it for lunch at the Tors Pub. Don’t be daunted! You can borrow our free farm bikes. Continue reading “Belstone and back by bike”
Volunteer Veronica arrived and left on her bike, and while she was here took a day out and did a full circuit from Wheatland Farm to Barnstaple and back. Bike to the station, Tarka Line to Barnstaple, Tarka Trail to Fremington, to Instow, to Bideford, to Puffing Billy at Torrington, on to East Yarde and then nearly to Meeth, and finally back on Devon country lanes to the farm. About 40 miles cycling in all, so suitable for fit adults! But we’ve also done it with an eleven year old, as a challenge. Continue reading “To Barnstaple and back by bike (and train)”
Here’s a lovely spot for a river-side picnic 6 miles from the cottage and lodges, at Bondleigh.
This little woodland is owned by the Woodland Trust, and as such has public access. That means you can wander off the path – indeed right down to the Taw – without worry. It’s a pretty small wood, but you could combine a picnic with a Bondleigh Walk too. There’s room to park (just) at the second gate (the Bondleigh end) some big trees, and a lovely peaceful atmosphere.
If you want something similar by even closer, try the Big Tree Walk at Haywood Wood, Eggesford, just 4 miles from us (and easier to get to by bike).
This circular Devon dog walk is fairly easy terrain, with wide paths and no styles. But it does have a couple of gates – and a couple of hills in it too, so you’ll get a bit of exercise!
You’ll start about 2 miles from the cottage and lodges. You can borrow a bike, or drive. Turn right out of our drive, and keep going until you get to the Methodist Chapel at Stable Green. Just opposite the chapel take a left, at right angles to the road, steeply downhill into Hollocombe – not the one that almost doubles back on you when you reach the chapel. Head down into Hollocombe and leave your bike or park opposite the house at the bottom of the valley and just before the stream. Take a lead because you may encounter livestock or tractors. OS Explorer map 127.
We set off through Hole Wood. It’s a bridle path, meaning it’s fairly wide and flat, though it can be muddy. You go through conifers, roughly following the stream – Hollocombe Water. When you get to some out buildings turn left, walk downhill and through the gate. There were pigs here! Great hairy things. I was on my guard, ready to warn everyone, but the kids didn’t seem concerned and even scratched the lazy beasts’ bellies through the fence. Hey – that’s my role isn’t it – lying around in the sun and being tickled on the tummy?
So anyway, swiftly on to the footbridge (for me) or the ford (for those who like to splash) and then a right turn and walk up the lane on the other side.
Don’t get side-tracked here by the diverted footpath sign looking like it wants to send you up a steep hill. Not that I mind hills but there are others coming… No, just stay on the lane, which is still a bridle path, and go through the farm buildings and on. Where the lane divides, ignore the track curving uphill and stay on the concrete driveway.
You’ll soon come to a hairpin turning, almost back on yourself that takes you down to the water again.
Enjoy the flowers in the hedgerow, but when you reach the footbridge watch out for rotten planks!
You’ll come across a pretty pink thatched cottage – turn right alongside it and follow the path that takes you up the hill. You walk through conifers first, then broadleaved woodland with speckled wood butterflies and dappled sunshine, and eventually come out at a gate. Pause for a pant if you like, then go through the gate, shutting it behind you and follow the edge of the field.
You come to the farm buildings at Redland and another pretty Devon thatched cottage. Walk with the farmhouse on your right, following the track through a gate and around the buildings until you get to the lane. This will take you back to the public road, but both are pretty much as quiet and grassy as each other. When you do get to the road turn right and head back, downhill, to where you started. It’s a steep and windy Devon lane, so be ready for cars but you probably won’t even get a sniff of one.
This Devon walk, good for dogs, adults and kids, starts at Speke Cross in Wembworthy, just a couple of miles from Wheatland Farm.
To get there:
Right out of the drive, right at the first cross roads (Tinker’s post), bear right at Lane End – a Thatched farmhouse. Carry on over and down the hill, and up into Wembworthy on the other side. Turn left through the village, until you see the playground on your left. Leave your bikes, or car, near the playground, then cross the road at the junction and follow the footpath sign towards Wembworthy Down.
You’ll go past the houses that front onto the road and along a lane until you get to a new barn on your left. Just past the barn the footpath has been redirected – take the kissing gate into the field and follow the signs. It’s a bit different from the OS map here, but clear enough.
When you go through a metal gate, and the path no-longer seems to go straight on, head downhill to the gate in the middle of the hedge at the bottom of the field. It seems to have lost it’s waymarker, but you can’t get too confused – there aren’t any other options!
Through the gate (don’t forget to shut it) turn left, along the field margin, heading towards another gate. On this one you can just glimpse the yellow waymarker badge.
Go through this gate and follow the hedge line. The field falls steeply away from you down into the valley.
Here there’s a stile into a steep corner field. The dogs (2 labradors and Muttley) managed to wriggle a way through. On our March walk there were daffodils flowering in the grass here – not the native ones though.
Follow the old hedgerow into the corner of the field where the stream is. Snow drops flower here early in the year. Look for hedgerow flowers and spring turns to summer.
You’re in amongst trees here, and it’s a good place to stop for a coffee – if you’re that way inclined! Watch out for woodland flowers – wood sorrel and wild garlic in spring. When you’re rested, follow the well-marked path to a stile into Stone Wood plantation – forestry commission land and therefore open access.
The path brings you out onto a forestry commission track. Turn right, downhill. You’ll soon come across a large wooden gate, which you go through.
You’re temporarily leaving open access forestry land and crossing farmland again. But the public footpath follows the river valley – to another gate.
Once back in the plantation the forestry track takes you uphill through conifers. Bear right when you meet the next track, roughly following the stream below you.
Just follow the track, keeping the stream closeby, and you’ll come across a stone bridge crossing the stream. Your path heads downhill to cross it.
As you start to head uphill after the bridge (and small gate), look to your right. In the field (and unfortunately off the public right of way), is the trunk of an enormous tree, now sadly toppled. It’s still an awesome sight though.
You walk uphill here through trees until you come to a gate in the corner of the field and near the main house. That gate takes you back onto the farm drive. The footpath now skirts the property, returning you past the the new barn seen at the start of your walk, to the start point.
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.
This Devon walk starts about a mile from the cottage and lodges. You can borrow a bike, walk or drive – just take care not to park blocking the gates where the walk starts. Turn left out of our drive, go past the farm shop, then right, down towards Hollocombe (before you reach the main road). Enjoy the flowers in the hedges! You’ll see a footpath sign on your right. There’s room to park a car opposite it – you set off through the gate. If you’re taking a dog, take a lead too, because you’ll be going across pasture where there may be livestock. OS Explorer map 127.
You’ll set off across glorious grassland, rich with clover, and campion, sometimes awash with a snow of white dandelion clocks and in late spring dotted with stichtwort in the hedgerows. The path is well-marked though there are a couple of heavy farm gates.
Follow the map and the signs, passing a fallen down cob barn and another building that now seems to be just a chimney stack. You go down a lane between these 2 buildings and out onto another, turning right before strking off across another field.
In spring the flowers are like a garden border here in the hedgerows and fill them up with vibrant colours. Need a bit of garlic? Ransomes grow along one side of the track.
Look out for the laid hedges too – with young hedgerow trees left standing. Managing hedges this way is much better for wildlife, particularly blossom and the insects that depend on it.
You’ll come to a gate into woodland. There’s a lovely barrel of a path through a deep-sided track overhung with trees. And this is where the bluebells start in May. These are the beautiful delicate native bluebells, not the larger more robust Spanish incomers.
You’ll soon hit a path running close to the stream, Hollocombe Water. Turn left for a bit, continuing through woodland.
Then there’s another well-marked track heading back up the wooded hillside. It comes out on the road, past patches of primroses lighting up the bank.
On the road, turn left and head back up hill to the start point. A bit of a slog at the end here, but you’re nearly there. And you can always call in at Fiona’s farm shop for refreshments on the way home.
Here’s a beach trip for a day when the walk is part of the fun. This one won’t offer you miles of sand, and there are no ice cream stalls, but then there aren’t many people either (and you can always get refreshments at the pub on the way back).
Start your walk at Horn’s Cross, on the A39 between Bideford and Buck’s Cross. You can get the bus (more instructions at the end). Or you can drive. If driving, park considerately – this is a small hamlet. You can park at the pub if you’re a customer.
You’ll be heading off past the pub anyway, down to the beach through Peppercombe, owned by the National Trust. Where the track forks just past the pub, stay left (not through the 5 bar gate) and follow the path. In spring it’s alive with wild garlic, wood anemones, primroses and celandines. Later in the year you’ll find red campion and other woodland plants and butterflies.
The path takes you alongside a stream, past a couple of quaint little cottages, then across a field, down another wooded section and so to the beach. It’s about half a mile, and well signed at every turn.
The island you see on the horizon is Lundy, also part of the North Devon Biosphere Reserve.
The beach itself is stony, except for patches of sand at low water, so this is a walk and picnic lunch rather than a bucket and spade excercise. When you’ve had enough of building encampments with the cobbles, you can wander north east along the beach until you find a bit were the cliffs dip down and a brick-built dam holds back a small pond. From here you can pick up the coast path back up the other side of the combe. You’ll take a narrow, sometimes very muddy path along the top of the cliffs this time, coming out about half way up the combe. When you reach the main track turn left and head up hill.
If you don’t want to retrace your steps, keep left where the track forks and you’ll walk back to the start point along the other side of the combe.
Horn’s Cross is about 25 miles from your Devon self catering accommodation – you can drive or go by bus.
Car free Devon day out
Get the early 5B bus from Winkleigh to Bideford, then get the 319 service to Horn’s Cross (usually about 11.30 – check up to date timetables). These are both stagecoach services, so get a day rider ticket for North Devon that lets you get on and off stagecoach buses all day. Walk down to the beach for a picnic, but make sure you know the time of the last bus back! And for a really good car free day out, make Peppercombe the start of a lovely 2-3 hour one-way walk along the south west coast path to Westward Ho, then pick up a bus from Westward Ho back to Bideford in time for the last bus back to Winkleigh (about 16:30). This is a great day out – we’ve done it ourselves.
Designed between 1910 and 1913, it took 20 years to build. Sadly, Drewe died, aged 76, a year after it was completed. The family gifted the house and grounds to the National Trust in 1974. It was the first 20th Century property they took on.
Drogo was special because the Edwardian building was designed by Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens was arguably Britain’s greatest 20th century architect. It’s a thoroughly modern castle he designed here – no dungeons! Yet it’s an awe-inspiring piece of design, with touches like interior courtyards to give natural light and internal windows build to suggest an older rambling building that has been built onto. I think my favourite room was the switch room, with all the old fashioned wiring. The wooden fittings in the kitchen, in use up to the 1960s, reminded me of my grandmothers’ house, though hers was somewhat less grand…
The formal garden is one of the highest in England – Drogo is so high that although a fig tree cloaks one of the castle walls, its fruits don’t ripen.
But there are plenty of flowers in the borders,and you can play croquet on the enormous circular croquet lawn (hire equipment from the visitor centre – June to September).
But if other people’s grand houses are not your thing, exploring the grounds may be. Drogo is perched high up on the northern fringe of Dartmoor, overlooking the Teign Valley. You can hike down to the river, maybe even walk to popular Fingle Bridge if you’re feeling energetic. The visitor centre sells leaflets with details of walks if you don’t trust our own nose. You can’t take your dog into the house or the formal gardens, but elsewhere dogs on leads are welcome.
The Trust, of course, has a cafe as well as a shop on site. There are often optional extras such as tours of the roof or boiler rooms (and an explanation of how Castle Drogo is hoping to go carbon neutral) or seasonal trails for children. The house sometimes has a cast of actors explaining what life was like in this Dartmoor mansion.
Winter opening: Castle Drogo grounds and tea room(but not the house) are open at weekends in January and February, and on extra days (sometimes including the house) around the Christmas break
Summer opening: from mid March to the beginning of November Castle Drogo is open most days.
Castle Drogo is about 17 miles from our Devon eco lodges and cottage.
You can get a good taste of Dartmoor around Meldon Reservoir, yet choose how adventurous you want to be. Walk around the reservoir, head for the High Willhayes (the highest point in southern England), walk down to the viaduct or explore the geology of the valley.
The area around Meldon is a SSSI. There’s a hazel wood with bluebells in spring (and a good population of dormice) just north of the Meldon Viaduct.
Here’s a link to a circular walk from Okehampton to Meldon and back.
Meldon Viaduct now carries the Granite Way cyclepath (going from Okehampton to near Lydford).
Anglers can fish for brown trout during the season. It’s free, but you need an Environment Agency rod licence for anyone over 12.
Meldon Reservoir is about 17 miles from our Devon cottage and eco lodges. There’s a car park, which has public loos.
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
This is a good one way walk through a wooded combe and along a fabulous stretch of the South West Coast Path. Take the bus out and walk back….
You start this day out from either the bus stop at Winkleigh or the bus stop on the Quay at Bideford (there’s a car park nearby). After a short journey you’ll walk along wooded paths, see Lundy Island out to sea, dip down to a beach, and catch cliff top views. The walk is narrow and steep at times. You can’t get lost though – just keep going and you’ll arrive in Westward Ho! feeling smug about not just lounging around on the beach. Allow 2-3 hours.
Bus: Get a morning bus – the 5B – usually around 9am, but do check the timetable! If you don’t already have a weekly route ticket buy a North Devon dayrider ticket so you can get on and off stagecoach buses all day. Get off at Bideford Quay. You’ll probably arrive with some time to kill, so enjoy the Quayside, admire the long bridge, or visit the Burton Art Gallery (free entry, interesting history of the bridge upstairs, plus cafe and loos.) It’s in the park just beyond the Quay.
Be back on the Quay (on the river side) to get the 319 stagecoach bus to Horn’s Cross (approx 11:25 from the Quay in summer). If you stay on the LHS of the lower deck you’ll see the sign for Horn’s Cross in time to ting the bell. The bus stop is by the pub. Walk through the pub car park, down the lane, then turn right through a gate signed Peppercombe. Follow the path downhill until you reach signs for the coast path, then branch off. From here you can’t go wrong!
There are glorious cliff top scenes, wonderful butterflies and flowers in summer, and views of Lundy out to sea. You’ll dip down to a beach (good for lunch) before heading up and down quite a few times more…
You’ll come out by the colourful beach huts – this will feel like a different culture after your walk!
If you walk along the front, then turn up towards the church, you’ll come to Nelson Road where you can catch the First 1 bus back to Bideford Quay. Because this is a different service, you’ll have to buy a ticket. The last bus back from Bideford to Winkleigh is usually about 16:50 (again – check the current timetable).