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!