Sunday, July 30, 2006


Every good town has one and Barnstaple is no exception. We went there last night for a drink or two with some good friends to celebrate my husband's birthday. If you're wondering about the name it comes from Barnstaple Pannier Market which is in the street just opposite, panniers being the large baskets they used to store the produce in.

Our Weatherspoons serves the best plate of Nacho's this side of the M5, a visit isn't complete without some. I'd like to recommend the Tex Mex platter but we ordered one and something completely different arrived. None of us noticed until the food was nearly all gone. Copious amounts of beer, vodka, red wine and the Weatherspoons equivalent of Southern Comfort later and we all managed to stagger out and find our way home.

They are a child-friendly pub during the day with a special area for families and I can recommend the roast dinner on a Sunday. So far we've always got what we ordered there.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Milky Way

Travel out of Bideford along the A361 in the direction of Cornwall and after about 9 miles you'll reach The Milky Way. It's another one of those farms-converted-into-theme-parks, like the Big Sheep. Inside is the obligatory soft-play and death-slide area, but there is more too it that this. There are displays of historical farm equipment, archery, dodgem cars and a ride/experience called The Clone Zone which claims to be scary but didn't worry my five year old as much as the plastic spider we have at home. A pet's corner, where you can go and feed the lambs and goats, is actually a huge barn where today there were also vintage motorcyles on show. Opposite the bikes are small pens holding two or three sheep or goats. These you are allowed in and all of my children had great fun petting the animals who are quite tame and friendly (more than you can say of my children at times!)

Two cafes offer fast food and traditional food but this is not one of those places that serve overpriced rubbish and force you to eat it. There are plenty of picnic areas scattered around and they don't mind you bringing in your own food. A hand stamping system allows you to go in and out to your car at will.

Outside attractions are the Bird of Prey centre, mini-golf, a train ride, a maze (although this is still growing) and another play area. The Bird of Prey display is outside in nice weather but there is also an Indoor Arena where the birds are flown on days like today. They also have a ferret show.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Saunton beach, about 2 miles out of the village of Braunton, is a popular destination for tourists and locals. Car parking, at £4 a time, is fairly expensive, but worth it if you're going to spend all day there. The sands stretch out for miles and there are plenty of sand dunes for the children to play in when they're fed up of making sand castles. There are also rock pools and a couple of caves in the side of the cliff to explore.

Facilities include a toilet block, showers, shop, ice cream kiosk (not Hockings I'm afraid) and a cafe/bar. The beach is privately owned and the owners decided recently that they would not employ life guards so it's not quite as safe as next-door Croyde, but that hasn't seemed to deter anyone. The car park fills up just as quickly as it used to so it's wise to get here early.

We took a risk today and didn't arrive until 2.00. A rather nice young man waved us into a spot with his yellow flag and we found a spot on the sands which was wet enough to build sandcastles on but not so wet that we couldn't sit down. Sixty-five sandcastles and one sand-car (which rather more closely resembled a boat) later and my children decided it was time to make the long trek to the sea. Well two of them did. Grumpy teenager decided it would be more fun to lie about and listen to something vaguely musical on her MP3 player.

We played 'Count the dead crabs' on the way down to the waters edge then decided there were too many of them to bother. The water was lovely and warm and the waves not too high. Just right for us but annoying for the surfers. Half an hour later we made the long trek back up the beach and warmed up in the sunshine. A great afternoon.

Point of Interest:This was the beach where Robbie Williams filmed the 'Angels' video.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Pilton Green Man Festival

Pilton Festival is held on the third Saturday of July and draws thousands of visitors into this normally quiet suburb of Barnstaple. The festival is opened with a parade which starts in the centre of town and makes its way across to Pilton Street complete with Morris dancers, the Pilton Worm, several loud bands and local school children dressed as trees.

Twice during the day you can see the Pageant of the Green Man, a symbol of nature and fetility, in the grounds of Pilton House. There are three other stage areas where live bands play, plenty of strategically placed beer tents, stalls along both sides of the street, two pubs and the local chippy all doing a roaring trade. There are also more than enough bouncy castles and fairground rides to keep the children busy and empty your pockets.

We arrived at 12.00 today and didn't leave until nearly 5.00. The sun was blazing, and sitting on the grass in the grounds of Pilton House with a mini-picnic (scrounged off a good friend) and a nice cold beer was just perfect.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Big Sheep

The Big Sheep is in Bideford, just over the new brigde and straight over the roundabout. It's been getting bigger and better each year. This is Ewetopia, one of those ever-popular ball pit and death slide room, except that this is more in the way of a very large barn than a room. When it first opened ten years ago all they had was a small ball pit - how things change!

As well as this there are plenty of outdoor attractions; duck trials, sheep races, sheep sheering, lamb feeding, pony rides, horse whispering, dog trials, pot making, trampolines, and more. There's enough to keep you busy all day, and for the cost of a family ticket you'd need to go all day. A standard family entrance will set you back £30. It is a good day out though and they offer you discounted tickets if you return up to a week after your first visit.

We went down for the evening, just to do Ewetopia, as you can hire the play area out privately from 6.00- 9.00 after the attraction has closed to the public. This is popular with schools, and in our case ballet schools, as a treat for the children or to raise some money for school funds. It was a bit like sitting in a sauna but we survived and our littlest one finally got brave enought to come down the big death slide by herself.