Thursday, December 27, 2007

Beam Weir

On Boxing Day isn't it more or less complusory to go for a walk? Well it is my family - a chance to let the kids blow off some steam and a chance for who ever is cooking the dinner to get on with it in peace and quiet. So when we all arrived at my mum and dad's this afternoon we were imediately shipped out the door again. We met my sister and her family at the Puffing Billy pub, just outside Torrington and from there walked down the Tarka Trail to Beam Weir.

There were lots of other like-minded people out and about, some with dogs, others with children and new bicycles. It's not a very long walk, but it is pretty, once you get past the old, rusty, graffiti-riden railway carriage behind the pub. The weir was seemed quite wild to me and full of muddy brown water. It is a popular spot with local wildlife, otters and kingfishers have been spotted on many occasions, but, not surprisingly, we saw nothing today. Still, the chance to stretch our legs in the sunshine was very pleasant.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Coddon Hill

Well, its Christmas Eve and time to get the kids out of the house for some fresh air and exercise before tomorrow's excitement. Of course all they wanted to do was go to Pizza Hut, they seem to think it's a tradition because we've been for the last two years. So the condition was - walk first, Pizza Hut afterwards.

I decided on Coddon Hill because its one of those places I've heard talked about lots but never actually been to. It's just outside the village of Bishops Tawton and the guide book I looked at said park in the village and follow the path to the top of the hill. Well, that's a 4 mile circular route and although I was all in favour of exercise that might just have finished us all off so we decided to drive up the hill a bit and see if there was anywhere to park. 10 minutes later we'd driven all the way round the hill through Bableigh and were back in Bishops Tawton! "Oh lets just go and park on the road up the hill a bit," I said. And what did we find on our second route round? A lovely car park. It's slightly hidden off the road a bit, but keep your eyes peeled for a dirt track to your left and you'll find it too.

It was quite wind up there. We followed the path out of the car park and up the hill and soon found ourselves right where we wanted to be, by the monument. This is a monument to Caroline Thorpe, wife of ex-MP Jeremy Thorpe, who died in 1970 aged 32. Around the monument is a stone compass with the names of the villages you can see from the 360 degree vantage point. You can see north to Exmoor and South East to Dartmoor and today we could just make out the shadow of Lundy Island to the West. We didn't have good visability at all today, hence the rather odd photo of a sheep with Barnstaple in the background. I think we'll come back on a clear day and I'll post some better photos.

After being blown about by the wind a bit we followed a sheltered path back to another hidden car park, then walked along the road til we got back to the car. We'd sucessfully blown the cobwebs away and worked off a few calories before piling them (and more) back on over the next few days.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reindeer Roadshow

For the last two years this has been held in Barnstaple. Last year my husband took the kids but I couldn't make it, so this year I was determined to go along. This year's Reindeer Roadshow was held in Bideford. The roadshow bit was Lantern FM, the local radio station, with a stage at the bottom of the High Street. The bit I was interested in was the Reindeer bit. They were lovely and surprisingly small (its no wonder Santa needs eight of them to pull his sleigh!)

We arrived in Bideford just as Santa was coming along the Quay and we followed the procession til we met my sister and her son. Then we wandered up the High Street for a look around, went into a shop and completely missed the turning on of the Christmas lights, much to daughter number two's disappointment (especially as she wasn't there for the Barnstaple one last week.) However, finding the reindeer on the Quay more than made up for it. We stood and watched them for ages, and she managed to touch on of their antlers, which are covered in fur. Then she cheered up even more when I lent her my camera and took a photo of the baby reindeers (well actually a baby reindeers bottom, but she wasn't bothered about that!)

There were lots of street entertainers around too and we managed to get one of them to make us some balloon animals, then it was off for a cup of tea before coming home.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Lights

I don't normally go in for this sort of thing, but as I had nothing much else to do today, and as there was someone reasonably famous coming to do it, I thought I'd make the effort and go and watch the Christmas lights being turned on. The someone reasonably famous was Joss Stone, a devongirlie herself, and a someone who is involved with local charity Amigos International. (She made a visit with them to Uganda, my daughters teacher went too and helped to make a video and educational pack that is going out to school across the county.)

Anyway, me and my littlest one trekked down to Barnstaple's newly re-vamped Square, along with hundreds of other people, and were only able to squeeze our way to about half way to the stage area, hence the blurry photo. Joss came on and sang 'Son of A Preacher Man', turned on the lights then left again. There were some pretty spectacular fireworks (look and learn Chivenor) and then it was all over.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bonfire Night at RMB Chivenor

We've not been here for a couple of years and when we got here last night I remembered why - far too commercialised!

RMB Chivenor is three miles outside Barnstaple as you head towards Braunton. A couple of years ago, for the anniversary of Guy Fawkes' failed attempted at blowing up parliament, the Marines decided to team up with the Roundtable and hold a combined fireworks celebration. Then they just carried on doing it. In my opinion it was much nicer when they did it at Barnstaple Rugby Club. You walked in, watched the fireworks, which were done to music, then came home again.

At Chivenor, you drive onto the airfield through a shambolically organised ticket 'gate', then walk to what can only be described as a money trap. There's the stall selling the obligatory glow-in-the-dark toys which inevitably fall to bits after two minutes, numerous fairground rides, a whole row of fast food vans and, most strangely, a Santa sleigh playing Christmas songs!

So after negotiating with the children that they were only allowed on one ride, and letting them nag their Dad into buying them a multicoloured light sabre each, we stood to wait for the fireworks. It was a pretty average display that lasted only about 15 mins - no music. Shortly after this the bonfire, a large ship, was lit. We stood and watched it for a while then came home. Bring back the good old days when bonfires were proper shaped and you were allowed to toast marshmallows next to them!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween at Arlington Court

We became members of the National Trust back in July but haven't actually been anywhere to use our membership - til now; partly because of the lousy summer we had and partly because there really is only one National Trust place to visit in North Devon. So today we christened our card and went to Arlington Court for their Halloween Fun Day.

There was a bat trail around the grounds. We found a few bat cards full of information but the novelty soon wore off. They were more interested in the craft room where they sat for ages making bat masks. We then went off for a quick run around the grounds, managed to walk quietly around the inside of the house, and then came home again.

Tonight there is a Halloween Walk where the staff dress up and act out a scary story. Walkers follow them around the grounds through various scary tunnels and across dark muddy fields where witches and ghouls wait to jump out at you. We've done this twice in previous years so tonight we'll stay wrapped up in the warm. I can recommend giving it a go though - if your children are brave and you have a good sense of humour!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Torrington 1646

I dragged the children out of bed this morning. It was cold and grey and the middle of their half term but they were fine with that: even the teenager, given the option of staying behind, decided she'd come out for a visit with the rest of the family. We travelled 11 miles through the country lanes to Torrington, a small market town perched on top of some very steep hills, and there we visited the Torrington 1646 exhibition.

Centred around the the Civil War battle that took place there that year it is essentially an interactive experience that takes you through what it would be like to live during those times. The experience lasts two hours and the staff, all dressed in costumes and acting in role, take you through the exhibits on a guided tour. This was a bit worrying at first as I am generally used to allowing my children to wander at will but they were very good and the staff are obviously experienced in keeping young children entertained.

Our tour started in the costume room where a gentleman and his son were dressed in armour and then myself and a young girl from another family were dressed as mistresses of the day, much to the amusement of my middle daughter who thought it particularly funny that I had to wear a bumrole to make my backside look bigger (like it needed any help!). Then we were taken through the streets of Torrington at night while the battle took place. We visited the Barber surgeon who spared no gorey detail while telling us about his work. There is a Physic garden, but it was too cold to be shown around that so the lady brought her plants indoors to us. And finally we were taken into the garden for a weapons display. Several hapless volunteers were taken through their paces as pikemen, then we learn all about muskets.

The cafe was our next port of call for a hot chocolate to warm us all up. It was a very interesting and very entertaining visit, particularly useful if you are learning about the Civil War at school as my second daughter is. Family entrance is £21 for 2 adults and up to 3 children. My children learnt a lot and have decided they definately don't wish they were alive 35o years ago, far too many things involved urine!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tarr Steps

Its the last day of my holiday and I decided we would make the most of it with a picnic on Exmoor. The last time we came to Tarr Steps was four years ago so finding it was a bit of challenge - particularly as my husband is averse to using a map. We travelled out along the A361 and then turned through North Molton unfortunately the GPS route finder thing then directed us through Hawkridge, a windy road, tree-lined, very pretty, but one that led us to Tarr Steps on the wrong side of the river! Tarr Steps is a ford in the river and it is possible to drive through next to the stone bridge shown above - if you have a 4x4. We don't. So my children and I exited the car and crossed the river on foot while my husband took the car the long way round via Liscombe - the way we would have come if we'd consulted a map!

Well the September sun was shining and we had a lovely picnic (there was still plenty of it left by the time my husband reached us). Then the girls had a great time playing in the river. I advise taking a change of clothes, we took shorts for them all to wear in the river, and I was glad we did cos my littlest one got them very wet.

After that we went for a walk. There are a number of them sign posted. We took the circular walk that took us 3/4 mile upstream, across a little bridge and then back to the ford. It was very pretty. There is a cafe/restaurant there that does very nice cream teas, and they don't mind you using the toilets, and a little ice cream hut. We had an ice cream each then headed off for the long trek up the hill to the car park. It was a great day - shame it had to end and I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tarka Trail

The Tarka Trail stretches from Torrington through Barnstaple and out to Braunton. It used to be a railway line but has now been converted to a cyclepath. It is about 21 miles long.
I've been wanting to take the children along it for a long time now, and having given up on my youngest ever learning to ride a bike, decided that today we would hire a bike with an extra bit on the back for her to sit on and pretend to pedal. Unfortunately lots of other people must have had the same idea because when we phoned the Cycle Hire place next to the railway station in Barnstaple they didn't have any left. After a small sulk we solved the problem by resurrecting the cycle seat we used when she was a baby. She is just on the maximum weight limit for it. This meant my husband had to ride my old, rusty 3 speed bike, but at least we all got to go out together.
Finding the cycle trail was a bit of an adventure, but we made it eventually. We decide to go from Barnstaple railway station to Fremington Quay. This is not the prettiest stretch of the trail but its the closest to us and the shortest bit to get to somewhere worth going. Its about three miles and it was quite surprising how quickly we did it. The Quay is quite a popular place and the old railway station has been converted into a cafe. We had a drink, cake and ice cream then headed back again. There are some lovely views of the estuary. And when we got into Barnstaple we found our way onto the new bridge and came home that way, must easier than going through the town, although I did have to get off and push up the hill to the top of the bridge!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lundy Island

Lundy Island lies off the coast of North Devon and is visible from the coast on most days. I visited it as a child but don't remember much about it so for a while now I've been thinking of going back. So yesterday we went. It's a lovely place, wild and empty, but I won't be going back again.

The MS Oldenburg takes 267 passengers and leaves from either Bideford or Ilfracombe. When we arrived in Ilfracombe yesterday and joined the queue for the boat a cheery crewman walked up the line telling everyone that sea conditions were 'moderate to rough'. He lied, they were VERY rough. I spent most of the two hour journey on deck along with about fifty other people holding sick bags. I was very ill by the time we arrived.

Once you are finally allowed off the boat you then have to face the long walk up the cliff. By the time I'd done that I was ready for a lie down. Fortunately the sun was shining and we found a sheltered spot to have our picnic, so when the others had finished eating and I'd had a drink of water I felt much more able to explore the island. A handful of people live there permanently, and there is a campsite for people wanting to holiday on the island. There is a pub, a shop, a church and a toilet block, but that's about it.

The jetty where the boat docks is on the south of the island. Lundy is three miles long and half a mile wide. So after lunch we headed north to see what there was to see. We found the wild ponies, who didn't mind too much when my children stroked them. We saw some ruined cottages, and then, when we reached the Quarterwall, we headed across to the west coast of the island. The map said there were puffins there but we didn't see any, most of them are at the North end. There is also the chance of seeing some seals but we didn't.

Heading back south again we found the old lighthouse and my husband took the children up while I rested in a sunny spot. They were impressed by the views from the top. Then there was just time to visit the shop before heading back to the boat. The trip home wasn't quite as bad as the outward journey but I still didn't dare to venture downstairs.

The trip to Lundy cost £67 for a family ticket. If you are a good seafarer, or you are lucky enough to pick a calm day, it's worth a visit. I'd go again - if there was some other way of getting there!

For more photos of the island follow the link to my other blog - North Devon Photo Journal.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Torridge Pool

What to do when its raining? Lets do what everyone else does and go swimming. Well we tried Cascades at Ruda holiday park (see earlier blog entry) and the queue was out the door, so after lunch we headed in the opposite direction and tried Torridge Pool in Northam. I'd phoned earlier to find out what time thier 'Happy Hour' was, and arrived fifteen minutes after it had started to hear the lady pool-side yell through to reception, "We're full, don't let anyone else in". Fortunately she didn't mean me, she meant anyone who wasn't already in line.

'Happy Hour' is when they have the large inflatable octopuss and all the floatation mats out for people to play with. Of course you're not allowed to take photos inside but I managed to sneak this one before being told off by one of the lifeguards.

I've edited out the part of photo which had a boy who is nothing to do with me, lest I offend someone! I should warn you that you are also not allowed on the inflatable with armbands on (my daughter was told off for that just after the photo was taken) nor are you allowed to use goggles which cover your nose. We live in a world where health and safety rule, not the government.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Robber's Bridge

At 12.30 today I checked the online weather forecast and discovered that it was going to rain for the next four days. So in an attempt to make the most of the sunshine we all rushed out the door in about 20 mins for an impromptu picnic. We rushed to Sainsburys first to buy some food then headed off to Exmoor. We ended up here - one of my very favourite places.

Robber's Bridge is in Doone Valley and is linked in someway to the R.D. Blackmoor story 'Lorne Doone', though don't ask me how because I've never read it. It's accessed from the A39 between Lynmouth and Porlock via a very steep and windy narrow lane. It's worth the journey. It's an absolutely beautiful place. The water on both sides of the bridge is shallow enough to paddle in, and my children spent ages doing this - once they'd eaten their picnic of course. I sat back and enjoyed the sunshine. Then after a while we all did some painting. I won't show you the results - none of us are budding Rembrants!

If you are ever anywhere near this is a place you must visit. There are no facilities, only a car park; but even when it's quite crowded, as it was today, the peace and tranquility are enough to restore anyone's soul.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Exmoor Zoo

Exmoor Zoo hides down a little country lane in the heart of the National Park it shares a name with. But it is well signposted once you reach the Blackmoor Gate crossroads. We had lovely sunny weather for our visit and I was glad we arrived as the zoo opened at 10.00 because by lunch time most of the animals seemed to have zonked out in the sunshine.

The zoo is set out on a hillside. Once we'd reached the bottom of it my children moaned a bit about walking back up. And it's a bit of maze to negotiate. We managed to see all the animal enclosures quite quickly, but there are activities every half hour to fill up your time. At 11.00 the first activity was otter feeding, pictured here. This was quite popular so its worth staking your claim to a prime spot ten minutes beforehand. The otters let you know its feeding time by squeaking very loudly at least 30 mins before so there's no chance of missing it.

Other activities include 'Meet the Alpacas', 'Bug Encounter', 'Spider Phobia' and 'Cheetah Feeding', which presumably you watch rather than take part in. A feeding activity you can take part in is with the wallabies. The kids loved this; you can give them something resembling rabbit food which they eat out of your hand, or wave a branch full of leaves in their general direction if you don't want to get that personal. They like to be stroked too but there is a wallaby only enclosure where they can escape to when it all gets too much!

There is also a cafe where you can get hot or cold food, but be warned - they don't accept credit/debit cards. The exit is through the gift shop, of course, but there are quite cheap choices for those whose children, like mine, rarely listen to the word 'no'. My six year old must have spent at least half an hour trying decide what to spend her £2 on and must have changed her mind about five times.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Rock Park

The sun is finally shining in North Devon, so everyone rushed outdoors to make the most of it today. I took the children over to Rock Park at lunch time for a picnic and to meet a friend I haven't seen for a long time. We had a nice chat, and a beer (a picnic isn't complete without one). The kids played, or slept in the pushchair in the case of her little one.

There are two parks in Barnstaple, Pilton and Rock. Rock park, named after Mr Rock, some famous Barnstaple person (I only know this because there is a statue of his head somewhere nearby), sits on the bank of the river Taw. It is larger than Pilton park, has some very pretty grounds and a big field used for sports at the weekends. It is in the process of being re-vamped with a new children's play area and new toilets. Lets hope they finish soon because what was on offer today was rather old, and there wasn't much for the kids to play on at all. The old toilets were locked so we had to water a few trees. Still, the picnic was nice, and its worth a wander through if you like some pretty views.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Appledore and Instow

We've just 'done' Appledore and Instow at school. That is to say, we visited them and studied them from a geographical point of view. I'd forgot there was more to these to towns than just the beach or the quay.
In Appledore we walked through the little park at the back of the car park and into Irsha Street, a quaint windy little road full of pretty cottages. Half way along there are two lovely looking pubs (which of course we didn't go in) and in between them is a slipway. It leads down to the muddy beach you can see in the photo. The children sat and did some sketching and we showed them the sand bar where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet. Then we let them loose on the pebbles and rocks. They loved seeing what they could find, and lots of shells, stones and even crabs legs went home in pockets as treasure.
Walk to the end of Irsha Street and you find the Life Boat Station. The crew members very kindly let us go in and even showed the children the room where they keep thier uniform and wetsuits. Outside there is fantastic view of Westward Ho!
In Instow we walked along as far as the old train station where the Tarka Trail goes through the town. More on that in a future blog, I hope. (I'm waiting for my husband to teach my youngest how to ride a bike.) Then we went back round to the sand dunes and made sand sculptures. Some of their creations were very good, I recommend trying it sometime. Mermaids were particularly popular, three dimensional and fully equiped with shell bikini tops!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jazz Train

It's still raining here in North Devon, so with umbrella's waving we headed off to Barnstaple train station last night for a little jaunt down the Tarka Line to Eggesford. We were advised to arrive half an hour early to ensure buying tickets as they couldn't be bought in advance, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that if there are more than four in your party you can get a group rate of 50% off adult tickets and children travel for £1. So our return trip cost a grand total of £7.50! Bargain!

And the reason for our trip? Once a month from April to September there is a Jazz Train running out of Barnstaple. A band plays on the train down to Eggesford where passengers alight and take the short walk up to the Fox and Hounds Country Hotel for dinner. The band also plays in the pub, and on the return train journey. On our trip the band was The Steve Tucker All Star Jazz Band, and they were brilliant.
The meal at the Fox and Hounds was also fantastic, although I ate rather too much and had to waddle back to the train station. The children loved going on the train, although the countryside views were spoiled a bit by the weather. I especially enjoyed the champagne provide by my friend for the journey. And despite my teenage daughter asserting that the music was "gay", even she was smiling by the end. I'd definately go again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Oceanfest 2007

This years Oceanfest was a bit hit and miss as far as the weather goes, but we were lucky and hit all the good weather! Friday (schools day and free for everyone right into the evening) was a complete wash out - we gave that a miss and went in on Saturday afternoon. Lovely. We were going to camp there but by the time we thought about it everywhere was booked, so my advice for next year is too book early.

The ground was packed and there's plenty to keep everyone occupied - bike and skateboard displays, lots of stalls selling everything from jewellery through to surfboards, and of course my favourite, the music stage and beer tent. There is nothing better than sitting in the sunshine with beer and listening to live music (I might have mentioned that last year.) The Lantern FM Radio people were there with their big purple bus, they had a dalek with them and Dr Who even came out to have his photo taken with my children.

Other things for children to do include the climbing wall, trampolines and bouncy castles.

This year you could even paint a bus!

A favourite occupation of many teenagers we saw, mine included, was to see just how many freebies you could collect from various stalls. We managed a t-shirt, four bags with various goodies inside courtesy of the Devon recycle people and EA games, a magazine and a frisbee.

My husband enjoyed the ladies volleyball on the beach!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Northam Burrows

OK, technically this is still Westward Ho! beach, but we're at the Northam Burrows end. Entered via a toll road in the village of Northam between Appledore and Westward Ho! the burrows are now a site of special scientific interest. Behind the pebble ridge is a large expanse of grass land peppered with sheep and golf courses.

We went to Mum's today to say 'Happy Birthday' to my grandad. Blink and you missed him: so after a cup of tea and a slice of cake, minus the birthday boy, we headed off to the beach with my sister and her family. The tide was in so the only possibility of finding sand was to go to this end of the beach. It was lovely - nice and warm, with a cooling breeze and the sea just a stroll down the sand, not a five mile hike. The water was even nice, once you got used to it. And when the kids had had enough of jumping waves, digging in the sand and climbing the pebble ridge, it was off to the other side for Hocking ice-cream. Excellent!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dartington Crystal

Dartington Crystal has been making glass in Torrington for forty years now. They have a lovely visitors centre, a huge shop and a restuarant that sells fresh, made on the premises, food. We spent a couple of hours here today, mostly 'doing' stuff. There are factory tours where you can see wine glasses, vases, etc being made and the bonus is that kids go free! Having said that, the visitors centre is set up with activities for the children to do that will hit your wallet more than an entrance fee might have done.

Today I took four children, my three and a friend: three decided they would paint a glass, and one wanted to make a necklace. Both activities cost £5 per person. The glass painting was fun, and took about 30 mins. They have to paint on an outline, then heat it, then paint the glass and heat it again. The necklace making took slightly less time but was fiddly and definately required adult help. My recommendation would be to paint the glass then leave it drying while you do the factory tour.

The factory tour is not so much a tour as a walk through two rooms on an elevated corridor. The first room is the most interesting. You get to see the whole process from taking the molten glass out of the furnace to blowing and shaping it and then the final product going off somewhere to be finished. All four children watched in fascination before declaring that they wanted to be glassmakers when they left school! The second room is just a packing room. The kids weren't impressed with that.

Other activities we didn't have a go at today were glass blowing, and making a hand cast in glass. We've done the hand casting before. It's a great keepsake, but it is popular so you have to book that one.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tapely Park Gardens

It's Bank Holiday Monday and the weather man got it wrong. It didn't rain! So we seized the oportunity to go out for a few hours in between late Spring cleaning and ended up here at Tapely Park. I have driven past the entrance to this house more times than I can count and this is the first time I have ever been in. It's situated on the top of a hill just outside Instow and the views out over the estuary are stunning.

In its advertising Tapely Park describes itself as a sustainable stately home in the making. I'll have to take its word for it, I spotted little evidence, but then I wasn't really looking. It cost £4 for adults and £2.50 for children, so is relatively inexpensive, but then it doesn't really have that much to offer. It's a nice walk around the gardens and there are a few cows, sheep and pigs to look at but that's about it.

We started our visit with a walk around the lake, which was quite pretty, then went on to explore the formal gardens. The tea rooms are quite pleasant, and the cakes very yummy. Then it was off to find the play area. When they said 'tucked away' they really meant it, but the kids had fun once we found it and it was sheltered enough for my husband to lie down in the sun and go to sleep!

Before we went home we tried to find the monument, erected in memory of one of only three officers to survive the charge of the light brigade (I had to smile when I read that he was killed in another battle only ten days later - sorry). But a distinct lack of sign posting meant we had to give up. We could see it in the distance, trooped across a field full of thistles and horse poo, found a gate into a field full of sheep but with no obvious path across. Shame really, cos the monument used to have a granite obelisk on it, but when it was shattered by a thunderbolt in 1931 they make a labyrinth out of the pieces. It looked quite nice in the brochure - just too far away.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ilfracombe Aquarium

The long dreary winter days are over (not that you'd know it from the weather today) and I'm back and blogging, having missed all the glorious early summer sun over Easter by being in wet and windy Florida! (I kid you not!)

The torrential downpour outside today nearly kept us in but we decided instead to visit an indoor attraction - Ilfracombe Aquarium. It's not what is says on the tin! Although the leaflet I'd picked up said it was the best small aquarium this 'guy' had visited I wasn't expecting it to be quite so small! If you happen to be in Ilfracombe and have nothing better to do then it might be worth the £10 family ticket to get in, but when the journey there is longer than the time it takes to walk round then it probably isn't! It is nicely set out and takes you on a journey from the source of the local rivers, Exmoor, down to the coast and out to Lundy island, but the tanks of fish are quite small and you have to squash through the spaces in between too.

On a slightly upbeat note, once back in the car and munching crisps, we did vote it better than Quince Honey Farm!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Heritage Centre

Its half way through the half term holiday and we're all going a little stir crazy. I had to pop in to Barnstaple to go to the post office so I decided to take the children into the Heritage Centre, mostly under protest I should add. I ignored the whines of "Can't we go to Playtime Adventure?" and bribed them with a trip to the cinema tonight instead.

The Heritage Centre is situated on The Strand, the road that runs along the river Taw. The area directly in front of it is home to the Millenium Mosaic which charts Barnstaples history back 1000 years to when it was made a borough by Athlestan. It is generally also home to large groups of skateboarders, but the weather today must have driven them away.

Inside the centre the tale of Barnstaple's history is also told, starting in Anglo-Saxon times, focusing quite a lot on Tudor times, mentioning briefly the Civil War and ending in the 18th Century with Barnstaple born playwright John Gay. Adult tickets are £3.50, children £2 and under 7's go free. The children were given a quiz on a clipboard and a pencil to record their answers but finding these answers involved listening to the recording of the models telling their stories and once they'd pressed the button to start the recording they generally lost interest in this. Much more interesting was the task of looking for the 15 white plastic mice that were hidden in the exhibits. When we got to the end and had only found 10 we had to go round again. We still only managed to find 13.

Other points of interest were remaking the broken pottery plates magnetised to the wall, dressing up in costumes, and doing a brass rubbing. By the time we'd finished my nine year old daughter said, "OK this isn't boring after all".

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Yes, I know I've written about this before, but its worth another mention. Today was a glorious day and as we haven't been anywhere for a while (the whole of January in fact) we thought we'd stretch our legs. It must have been a good idea because well over one hundred other people had the same one. There were loads of them on the beach, surfers, dog-walkers, parents with children clutching nets, etc. And it could've been April the temperatures were so good - brilliant sunshine and not a breath of wind.

Our main reason for choosing Saunton, and not somewhere I haven't blogged about yet, was The Sands cafe. Owned by the hotel you can see in the photo, and situated at the end of the car park, it serves the most wonderful hot chocolates. Unfortunately it's shut until March (this wasn't the case last winter) so my children were a little disappointed. However, there is a little kiosk next to the beach shop between the car park and the beach, and they serve hot chocolate and hot doughnuts, and it was so lovely no one minded sitting outside on a picnic bench (see new blog for proof - link opposite.)

PS. Car parking in winter is a mere £2!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bideford - New Years Eve

There is nowhere better to be on New Years Eve than Bideford. It often ranks in national newpaper polls as one of the best places in the country to be on New Years Eve. One poll for the Independent rated it as one of the top ten in in the world. Thousands of people flock here from all over the country. And everyone wears fancy dress! The pubs are packed to the rafters, the streets are full and there is such a fantastic atmosphere that even the weather can't dampen it.

People gather on the quay at midnight. The clock at the end of the old bridge chimes in the new year but it is also announced by the DJs on the music stage which blasts out dance tracks all night. Then follows a great fireworks display which lasts about 15 minutes.

We had a bit of rain last night - it managed to fall while we were in the pubs, luckily for us. Then there was a bit at 11.50 as we made our way to the quay. Miraculously it completely stopped by 11.58. Someone up there was smiling on us. Lets hope our luck holds for 2007. Here are a few of the photos I liked the best. Happy New Year everyone!