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).
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.
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.
Lydford 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 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, exploring the Tarka Trail at Puffing Billy, Dartington crystal, The Plough Arts Centre). You can get there by bus from Winkleigh – the stagecoach 5B service stops right at the gate. Continue reading “RHS Rosemoor gardens”
This walk starts in Bondleigh, crosses fields to a bridge over the Taw, follows the river, then returns to the village along Devon lanes crowded only with wildflowers.
You start near the church and set off along a footpath weaving between the houses and then crossing fields to the River Taw. There are some lovely country views, an old stone bridge, and winding lanes. This walk has a couple of stiles and some gentle hills but is not particularly challenging.
Bondleigh is about 5 miles from our cottage and lodges. This charming walk might make a good 1.5 hour dawdle.
Braunton Burrows, the core of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is quite unlike anywhere else in the region. It’s a weird dune landscape carpeted with flowers in summer and with a uniquely wild atmosphere in winter. Continue reading “Braunton Burrows dune system”