Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Three enthusiastic children are not something I'm used to but they practically begged to go out this afternoon, lured by the Pizza Hut pay-off that is now a Christmas Eve tradition. Yesterday we got the North Devon Walks guide book out and this was their choice, not mine.

Parkham is a tiny villiage off the A39 between Bideford and Clovelly. There is nothing there but a church and a few pubs. We parked outside the church and followed the 3 mile route around the villiage past several farms, over fields and through woodlands. We even went through a tunnel under the road where all but one of us had to bend down to get through. If you are looking for an adventurous walk through very muddy countryside, this is it. The kids loved it, right up to the point where we had to walk up several VERY steep hills. Then they got a bit tired. And the second half of the walk was most on the road and this was a bit boring for them.

Fotunately no one fell over in the mud, although my husband had a few close calls, so when we got to Pizza Hut they weren't worried about letting us in. Thank goodness for that - all that fresh air and exercise and no pizza at the end of it and there really would have been a riot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Appledore Woods

There are probably lots of ways to enter Appledore Woods, but the way I know is through Limers Lane. Head towards Westward Ho! from the end of the new Bideford Bridge and take the first right. At the bottom of Limers Lane the road bears left along the river bank. Stop where you can and then walk. A footpath marked with one of those yellow acorns takes you onto National Trust land and into Appledore Woods.

Today it was very muddy, I put my walking boots on and rolled up my trousers, my daughters had their wellies, my husband had put two left feet wellies in the boot of the car and had to walk in his trainers!

The woods are beautiful at any time of the year but today, with all the autumn leaves, they were gorgeous. The path winds along the side of the bank of the river Torridge which is a long way below you and can just be made out through the trees. There is a circular route round which takes you back inland and through a farm and lots of fields but today we walked as far as the point where the path goes down to the beach then turned round and headed back. Three of us had a lovely time, daughter no2. found the experience less than happy when my husband suggested she take her wellies for a paddle through a stream and then got scared by the super-sinky mud. She got stuck on the wrong side of the stream and didn't want to come back again. Eventually we persuaded her, then retreated to my mums for a nice cup of tea.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Big Sheep at Halloween

I know I'm a little late posting this but things have been a bit hectic this weekend. The Big Sheep, which I have posted about before, is in Bideford. They have a Halloween Festival for three days at the end of October (naturally). I wanted to take the kids on the 31st to avoid the horid 'Trick or Treat' sweet scavenge but my middle daughter had already organised it all with her friends. So then I decided we'd go on the night before, but stupidly didn't think of booking tickets until they'd all sold out for that day. So we ended up going on Sat 1st Nov, which seemed a little weird seeing as how Halloween was over by then.

Anyway. Here's what there is to do. During the day they have all the normal stuff running plus their extra Halloween stuff and pumpkin carving. However, from 6.30, by ticket only, they have a show, a disco in Ewetopia (the soft play area), and the spooky rides they run through the day get much spookier because its DARK!!!! There is also a lantern parade if you've taken a carved pumpkin, and prizes for the best fancy dress.

We lucked out with show and got the very stupid Captain Coconut who did 'magic' tricks with bubble mixture, making giant bubbles, getting kids up doing things, making bubble chains. My kids were decidedly unimpressed. My sister went on Thursday and got Merlin doing stuff with fire - much more exciting.

After the show we hotfooted it over to the barn next to Ewetopia where the rides were running. The first ride is one there's queue for (hence the hotfooting), The Haunted Hayride. This takes you round the complex on a carriage pulled by a Tractor, about 30 people at a time. There is a scary commentry telling spooky stories about the sights you see as you travel round, skeletons, witches, spiders, etc. and from time to time horrible things jump out at you. My middle daughter was particularly terrified when charged at by a zombie weilding a chainsaw.

Next we ventured into the Haunted House where more grisley scenes awaited you. It was pitch black inside and this was the scariest thing. Unfortunately no one jumped out at you, which is what I was expecting. After all this trauma my children decided they couldn't face the Ghost Train Ride and we headed off to the Ewetopia to play.

By 9.30 we were all tired and headed home, but we did persuade them to try the Ghost Train before we went. My advice to you - don't bother. It was a complete load of rubbish, not scary in any way! Nevertheless, when asked if they enjoyed the evening, the children voted yes, with an average score of 8.25 out of 10. If you're thinking of going next year, book early.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Appledore Book Festival

This is St Mary's Church in Appledore and my eldest daughter and I came here today as it was the venue for a talk that was part of the Appledore Book Festival. Now in its second year it has managed to attract a fair few famous names to this week long event, including, Tony Benn, Roy Hattersley, Kate Aide, Jeremy Strong and Penny Vincenzi.

We purchased tickets back in May to see Jacqueline Wilson but due to ill health she has cancelled all her speaking engagements this year and we got what Nick Arnold, book festival director, author and Appledore resident, called 'the next best thing', Nick Sharratt, Jacqueline Wilson's illustrator. This was a disappointment to my two youngest daughters who then opted out of the visit. But daughter no.1 and I enjoyed it. He was a little quiet and nervous to start with, but he soon warmed up and it was incredible looking at the drawings he had done at a mere 10 years old. I couldn't do that in a million years!

Anyway - book lovers out there - keep an eye out for next years event. They do have a website, and things do get booked out early.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Famously mispronounced by Americans as Clove-ly, Clovelly lies on the North Devon coast between Hartland and Westward Ho! It is a privately owned village estate and as such an entrance fee is payable as you pass through the visitors centre. £15 for a family ticket (the woman on the desk agreed with me that family tickets should be for three children, but alas they are only for two.) So we paid for an extra child. We also collect two Fun Trail quizes. Oh no! I thought, not more questions we have to search for the answers to instead of just wandering around and enjoying ourselves, but this quiz proved to be both informative and Fun - just like it said on the tin.
I used to come to Clovelly often as a child (you didn't have to pay then), and it has changed little, but I saw places today that I have never seen before. And that was thanks to the quiz. There is a Fishermans Cottage set up as it would have been 100 years ago, complete with old fisherman to direct you to the correct places to look for the answers to the questions. And just next to this is Charles Kingsley's cottage, complete with Charles Kingsley (only a model this time). This cottage is where he lived whilst writing the book Westward Ho!

Clovelly is largely a pedestrian only zone and as you can see from the photo the walk up and down from Visitors Centre to Harbour is along steep cobbled streets. The residents of Clovelly use sledges to transport goods around, and donkeys, and the donkeys are around for the obligatory tourist shots and on certain days for people to ride. Today was their day off.
When we reached the harbour we stopped for an ice cream. There is a pub/hotel at the bottom of the hill and many people were sat along the Quay in the sunshine today drinking beer and wine. That seemed like a good idea to me but my husband was still suffering from a night out with the boys. So we strolled along the Quay walls while I had several small heart-attacks envisioning my children falling off the side, then headed for the long walk back up the hill.
Once back in the Visitors Centre we went to watch the 20 minute introductory video we probably should have watched at the beginning of our visit. I actually found it better this way around as we were shown things we were much better off discovering by ourselves. The video, narrated by Joss Ackland, a resident of Clovelly, answered some of the quiz questions we'd missed out. The quiz was then handed in to the desk, where the children were awarded their prize. I was convinced this would only be a small portion of chocolate by the children were allowed to choose from a selection of small toys. My youngest chose a bouncy ball and the middle one a hanging star mobile thing to put in her room. I was dead impressed. All in all Clovelly is definately worth a visit.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Braunton Burrows

After our meal at the Williams Arms yesterday a brisk walk was in order. So we took the turning just opposite the pub and followed signs to Braunton Burrows and Crow Point. The Burrows is the largest sand dune system in England and is an SSSI, National Nature Reserve and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There are several different ways to access it but the easiest is to follow the toll road. It cost £1.50 for cars. The single lane road is a mile and 1/4 long and is full of speed bumps but is well worth it for the amount of wildlife you can spot. We saw a white bird we didn't know the name of, moorhens, swans, ducks, and a heron, all in the stream that follows the road.

Once you reach the car park you can either climb the sand ridge over onto the beach or follow the boardwalk for a stroll through the dunes to the same beach but further out towards the estuary. We chose option 2. The landscape in the burrows is very strange with lumps and bumps everywhere. Lots of different vegetation grows. We particularly like the evening primrose. There were bumble bees darting in and out of flowers and lots of different species of butterfly flitting around.
And the beach there are fantastic views across to Appledore and over to Westward Ho! We followed the beach out towards the sea for a while then headed inland again to try the adventure of finding our way back to car park without using the boardwalk. We did eventually manage it and all that up-hill-and-down-dale effort was worth it for the photos I took. I'll post some of these on my PhotoJournal blog tomorrow - just follow the link.

The Williams Arms

This is where we started our last day of the school holidays jaunt yesterday. The Williams Arms is a very popular pub/restaurant in Braunton. You can't miss it (although my husband did nearly drive straight past in his usual I'll-just-follow-the-car-in-front mode), it's to your right just as soon as you enter the village from the dual carriageway. What you see in the photo is the pub half of the building and the restuarant is off to the right on a right angle. The restuarant was fulled booked today so I'd advise booking if you want to eat there.

We arrived fairly early at 12.30 and were able to get a table in the bar, by the time we left it was squashed standing room only as people waited for tables and ours was nabbed very swiftly. In the bar you are able to order from the bar menu and eat from the carvery in the restuarant. We all had carveries. My teenager moaned at this so I only ordered her a children's plate at £4.95. Half way through the meal she then decided that this was OK after all and wished she'd had the adult plate in order to fit more potatoes on. However, when asked which they prefered English roast or French creperie (we've just come back from France) she was the only one to say French creperie!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Launceston Steam Railway

Photo courtesy of Leslie Nicholson. (Many thanks)

This is straying somewhat out of the realms of North Devon, but I thought I would blog about it anyway. Launceston is in Cornwall, but only just! It took a while to get there this morning but eventually we made it and three generations of us boarded the steam train. There were three carriages on the train and we opted for the fully enclosed one. The train runs from Launceston to a hamlet called Newmills and the journey takes around 10 mins through leafy green countryside. Tickets are £25 for a family (2 adults and up to 4 children - a much more sensible number than 2) or £8.25 for adults. This allows you unlimited rides on the train, you could go up and down all day if you wanted to.

At the Launceston station there is a cafe and a museum (old barn with cars, bikes and things steam engine related). At Newmills there is a farm, entry to which is £10 for a family ticket. This farm has nothing to do with the Steam Railway other than its shared location. There is lots to do here for small children and my two youngest ones and thier small cousin had a great time there today. There are trampolines, a slide, lots of ride around trikes, swingball, a badminton/tennis net and racquets, lots of picnic benches, a cafe, and lots of wasps. This last caused lots of hysterical squealling from the two youngest members of our party so a visit planned for earlier in the year might be advisable.

Another big hit at the farm was the pets corner where my two spent ages cuddling the baby rabbits. We spent about three hours there, and did a bit of celebrity spotting (Tamsin Greig from Love Soup was there with her family - another photo I lost), then caught the train back again. This time we went for the open carriage which was very nice and to be recommended as long as its not raining - which just for a change it wasn't!

Still majorly annoyed about losing half of my photos - this is the only one of Newmills that survived.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hartland Point and Lighthouse

We haven't been out for a while and the cobwebs definately needed blowing away after the night before, so out we went despite the weather. I consulted the walkers guide book and Hartland point, it said, was an ideal family walk largely on level terrain. Ha! The walk out of the car park nearly finished me off.

But I get ahead of myself. Hartland is on the edge of North Devon, almost in to Cornwall. The village is some 2 miles away from the coast and directions from the main road to the lighthouse take you around the village on some very narrow, very windy roads - this was most definately the worst part of the journey, especially after the aforementioned night before!

So, having made it down the windy roads, and up a very steep path out of the car park, we then stood on the edge of the cliff for the photo opportunity: beautiful rugged cliffs, lighthouse perched precariously amongst them, Lundy island in the back ground - howling gale and rain! The rain did pass however and the rest of the walk, although bracing, was very lovely. The path takes you down into the next valley and past a waterfall which turned out to be little more than drizzle the size of my bathtaps (apparently there's a better one at Spekes Mill which we will visit on a dry day). We then followed some country lanes, over stiles and through fields and farms until we reached the car park again.

There's a small picnic area in the car park and a kiosk selling lots of yummy food, hot and cold drinks and ice cream. The man at the counter, mistaking me for a mad tourist determined to enjoy her vacation at any cost (as opposed to a mad local who chose to come out when she could have stayed at home and waited for a nice day) gave me a brouchure and told me I should visit Hartland Quay next. The brouchure has a free car parking voucher inside. It also boasted Hartlands Super Service Award as Most Welcoming Community. The two workers inside the Kiosk were certainly most welcoming. I think we might come this way again - perhaps when we haven't haven't had quite such a party the night before.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bideford Water Festival

This was a blast from the past. Many years ago, when I was a mere slip of a thing, the Bideford Water Festival was a big thing, a fund raising event run by the Rotary Club that drew people in droves. Then for some reason unknown to me it ceased. Today, after a gap of 25 years, it was back, pretty much as I remember it, but with a few twists.

Pictured above is the Greasy Pole competition. It does what it says on the tin, and people have to try to get to the end of the pole without falling off. The new organisers haven't quite got the measure of it yet, as half way through the competition they had to re-grease the pole because it got too easy to reach the end. I used to love watching the Greasy Pole (although I have to admit I remember it mostly from the Appledore Festival) and my kids loved it too.

There were plenty of other events organised for the river - a display from the lifeboat people, a gig race complete with the teams coating each other in flour after it was all over (known for some reason as Miller and Sweep - if someone can tell me why I'd be most grateful), and a raft race. I was expecting home made rafts but these were little inflatable boats. Teams of eight had to row from one side of the river to the other and back again, stopping on the east side to get out in the mud just to prove they'd made it. Nobody sank, but several people fell over trying to get back into their rafts, much to the amusement of the crowds.

There was due to be an East v West tug-of-war across the river but health and safety put a stop to that on the grounds that one team would obviously be pulled into the river. Another slight change to the traditional was the Pram Race. In my youth the Pram Race involved grown men, dressed either as babies or women, rushing from pub to pub, with the baby being pushed in a pram, and downing a pint in each pub. Today this became the Sedan Race, the reasoning behind which was that not many people have prams nowadays. The pub thing and the drinking stayed the same: we didn't stay long enough to see if the contestants still dressed up. I hope they did though.

As well as all this there were the usual stalls designed to part you from your well earned cash and - I was most impressed with this - THREE Hockings ice cream vans! All this and the sun actually shone for once.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Woolacombe Sandcastle Competition

I've been trying to get to the Woolacombe Sandcastle Competition every year for ages now but I've always had something else on or its been rained off. It was looking a bit dodgy this morning and the sandcastle building didn't start until the afternoon because of rain. We drove over and paid the exorbitant £5 parking fee then went for a look round. Thank goodness they can't charge you for walking on the beach.
There were some truly amazing creations. Some of my favourites are above. I also liked a very realistic dolphin and a reindeer. Each team of six gets about 3 hours to finish and the entrance fee goes to the North Devon Hospice. We had a good look round and stopped for an ice cream, but didn't stay long cos of the weather. Just look at the people in the photos - they're in jumpers and jeans. It's July! We should all be wearing shorts and t-shirts, sitting on the beach in wind-free conditions sipping beer and eating strawberries and turning slowly brown (not blue) !

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Landacre Bridge

We've just come back from a barbeque on Exmoor. I decided we'd go out at 12.00 today when it looked like it was finally going to be a nice day. So we all piled in the car, headed for Sainsburys to stock up on burgers and buns and then travelled down the link road (A361) to North Molton. A few miles outside of this tiny Exmoor village, and just outside the Devon border, is Landacre Bridge. It's an old medieval bridge (according to the guide books) which crosses the River Barle.
Today it was very windy and my children were glad that Daddy had brought so many jumpers so that they could wear them as well as the ones I'd made them bring. We went for a walk while Daddy cooked, then afterwards we got the kite out. It was a fun way to spend a few hours, but be warned - although Landacre is very picturesque and a nice place to go to stretch your legs, there are no facilities except the occassional ice cream van that stops on its way to somewhere else.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ilfracombe Victorian Week

I've been to Ilfracombe four times in the last ten days. Not through choice, but because my children have had dancing rehearsals and exams at the Landmark Theatre. All week there have been people wandering around in Victorian costume and yesterday saw the final day of the town's annual Victorian Week. So we took the opportunity of a nice day and an enforced wait to have a wander around.

To be honest there didn't seem a lot that was out of the ordinary of a typical village fete, apart from the obvious costume thing. There were bouncy castles, trampolines (which I refused to pay for my children to go on as they have one in the garden which is free!), craft stalls, and Victorian fairground rides such as the galloping horses and a heltersketler. The Punch and Judy show was nice, we took advantage of that whilst eating the obligatory Hockings ice cream. There was a brief blink-and-you-miss-it parade complete with a po-faced Queen Victoria, but appart from the fairground rides the most fun my children had was in the Amuesment Arcade. Good job it was nice weather!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lynton and Barnstaple Steam Railway

A couple of months ago I reported that we'd gone out on possibly the coldest day of the year and all nearly frozen. Well today was possibly the hottest day of the year so far and I decided we'd all go out in Victorian costume. We boiled. Still, we weren't out for long.

The Lynton and Barnstaple Steam Railway was today celebrating its 110th anniversary with a Victorian themed weekend. The railway now only has a bit of the old narrow gauge track left, and this has been restored in recent years. It runs from Woody Bay station, to Killington Lane, some ten minutes away. The cost for this return trip is £5 for adults and £3 for children or £13 for a family ticket. Today, anyone wearing Victorian costume got a 20% discount. Hence our attire.

There is nothing at Killington Lane station, but you get to walk up and down the platform while they move the engine from one end of the train to the other. Then, once back in Woody Bay, you get to avail yourself of the tearooms. We sat in the garden in the blistering sunshine and enjoyed our tea and cake whilst listening to two Victorian gentlemen tell a tale of Martians on Bodmin Moor. Very entertaining and even the audience participation wasn't too bad.

In case you were wondering, my oldest daughter stayed behind on the pretext of revising for her mock GCSEs hence avoiding dressing up, and my husband was a party-pooper and wore jeans and a t-shirt. Boo Hiss!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Valley of the Rocks

Ordinarily this is a lovely place to visit. Today we had a bit of a bad day. When I looked out my window this morning it was lovely blue skies and bright sunshine everywhere. By the time we got here it was cloudy and windy. Plus the whole point of the visit was to take some nice photos to put in a frame I've just bought and getting out of the car I discovered I'd brought my camera but no memory card, so I only managed a few photos on the internal memory.

Anyway, the exercise was good. The Valley of the Rocks is just outside the town of Lynton on the coast of North Devon. It is very rugged and beautiful and today there were loads of wild goats everywhere. Most people come for a walk round and follow the many paths along the cliffs, other come to climb. My husband decided we would go down to the beach despite the fact that the sign said the path was closed. We saw others coming up the path so we thought it would be OK. Well teenaged daughter was up for it, smallest daughter didn't know any better, but middle one was rather worried so when we got near the bottom of the steep, windy and precarious little path on the edge of cliff and the path had collapsed she decided to stop where she was and I waited with her. The others made it to the bottom without incident and ran round on the sand for a while. Of course that meant they had further to climb back up. My husband is now paying for this, moaning about his aches and pains! Ha!

If you do go for a visit, stick to the paths that are open. And make sure you drive round to the toll road so you can see the White Lady, a hole in the rock formation that looks just like a lady in a white dress.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bideford Park

Time to get out in the sunshine again. My children had friends round this afternoon so I loaded them all in the car and took them down to Bideford because a) it really is the best park around and b) its the only park with a Hockings Ice Cream Van right outside!

There are two children's play areas (the one shown says for 4-8 year olds on the gate but it didn't stop the older ones from going in) and they all ran wildly from one to the other to play leaving me out of breath somewhere in between the two trying to keep up. There are slides outside the play areas, grassy banks to roll down, the fort and cannons to play on, and thats without even going near the paddling pool mentioned in a previous post - it was too cold for that today.

When they'd exhausted themselves we found a sheltered spot to eat our ice-creams in. Yum, the first one of the year, now I know summer is on its way!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Gnome Reserve

Out in the middle of nowhere, between West Putford and Bradworthy you will find The Gnome Reserve. Started 30 years ago in the owners garden the gnomes have grown and grown in number and the publicity likewise. £2.95 will get you entry, £2.50 for children. It seems a little over priced to me for what is essentially a walk round someones garden, but the children seemed to like the hour we spent in the spring sunshine.

One area of the 4 acre grounds is the designated gnome reserve where over 1000 gnomes live and can be seen engaged in activities such as the traditional fishing, to playing instruments, flying helicopters and even going to the toilet. To enter this area visitors are encouraged to wear the 'almost compulsory' gnome hats that can be picked up in the admissions area. My oldest daughter asked, "Do you think she washes the hats?" I should state at this point that I was quite prepared to leave my oldest daughter at home, thinking that this was not the place a teenager would be interested in, but as soon as she found out where we were going she was dead keen to come too. Who would have thought?
The other part of the grounds was the wild flower garden. We were given a quiz to answer as we went around which involved counting fairies amongst other things. There are not so many of these, but we had fun counting, although we seemed to count more than there actually were.
We stayed for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. The children had fun playing on the grass. Then we made our way back home. I went today with my dad and was glad he came along, not just for the company but also to give directions. It's not the easiest place in the world to find. Watch out for little gnomes pointing the way planted in the hedgerows on white card.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lambing at Kipscombe Farm

We ventured out today on possibly THE coldest day of the year to visit Kipscombe Farm. This is a National Trust property and, as a working farm, was open only for today as a free event.

We met in a car park on Exmoor (the lady I booked with over the phone gave me the grid reference but we found it more by luck than judgement, having been given only the vague direction that it was just outside Lynmouth) and climbed out of the car into a howling northly wind that made the outside temperature feel artic. Our guide led us down into a valley that was a tiny bit more sheltered, but only a tiny bit as the farm was built overlooking the sea. It did ofter fantastic views of the Bristol Channel and over into Wales, you could even see the snow on the Brecon Beacons.

Our tour took us into the sheep barn where we met the farmer who was very informative about the ins and outs of breeding and lambing sheep. He had been up at three that morning as several lambs were being born then. We were lured here today by the guidebook's promise that it may be possible to witness lambs being born whilst on the farm. The farmer showed us a sheep he thought might be about to lamb, but nothing transpired so we continued the tour, looking into the cow shed and walking over the fields to see more sheep and thier newly born lambs, becoming ever more frozen as the minutes ticked by.

Back in the sheep barn the children were allowed to hold some of the lambs that had been born that morning, which they loved, although my littlest one was quite surprised at how heavy they were. Another sheep went into labour and was ushered into her own private pen - with about twenty onlookers all holding thier breath. We waited, and waited.... Sheep labour, it appears, it akin to human labour, it just goes on and on. So eventually we could stand the cold no longer and decided to give up and head for somewhere out of the weather serving hot chocolates.

It was a shame, all of us wanted to see the sheep have its lamb, but the elements defeated us. If only they'd served hot drinks we might just have made it. Six hours and later my nose is only just returning to normal.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Knightshayes Court

This National Turst property is not actually in North Devon, its at the Tiverton end of the A361, but its only 40 minutes out of Barnstaple so not too far to go if you feel like a visit, or only a few miles out of your way if you are on your way into the area for a holiday. We've nver been before and decided to go today for their Easter Egg Trail.

On arrival the children were given a leaflet each (at a cost fo £1.50 per child) and instructed to search the ground for ten animals which laid eggs. The animals were also hidden in a wordsearch so my children had found several before we'd even visited the toilets! It was fun though. They raced through the walled kitchen garden and found five. We stopped long enough to look at a few plants, although they found the chickens and geese more interesting. Then it was off to the main house.

The other five animals we found hidden around the terraced garden at the front of the house. The grounds at Knightshayes are lovely and carpeted in thousands of daffodils. There are also some fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. We did a trip around the inside of the house too. We were given another trail to follow inside, although there were no prizes for completeing this one. In every room we had to find certain animals and plants. There were guides in several of the rooms, some of whom were more helpful than others. When we got to the end and my youngest daughter realised we'd missed some of the things she insisted on going back around to find them.

It was a pleasant afternoon out, we collected our Easter eggs on the way out and we even had a few flurries of snow to add a bit of excitement. Being towed back home by an AA truck fnished off the day nicely. "Cool," said daughter number two.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Heddon's Mouth

Heddon's Mouth is on the Devon coastline on Exmoor. It's only a tiny little bay but the walk down to it through the woods follows the river and is very picturesque. You can walk to it from Trentishoe, or take the cliff path to view it from above (on a good day you can see across to Wales - the cliffs are the highest in Devon), but the easiest way to get there is to park at the Hunters Inn . From Barnstaple take the A39 towards Lynton and Lynmouth and about three miles past the Blackmoor Gate crossroads Heddon's Mouth and The Hunters Inn are signposted to your left. A long, single track road brings you out to the Inn and its surrounding National Trust land. There are public toilets and a National Trust shop there also.

To reach the coast path you have to follow the road past the Inn. Once on it its an easy stroll down to the beach on more or less level ground, with the odd patch of mud and several slopes of scree that the children enjoyed climbing until my littlest one found it rather tricky coming down from. "I'm not going on the stones again," she said on the way back.

Signs of spring were everywhere and the daffoldils were lovely - see my Photo Journal blog for more photos. Once at the beach we threw a few pebbles in the swift-flowing and noisy stream then ambled back to the Hunters Inn for a hot chocolate before making our way home.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

North Devon Museum

Its February half term again and time to visit another museum. I've got loads of ideas for things to do and places to go this year, but practically nothing is open until after Easter. Today was cold and grey so it called for an indoor activity (after I'd done a bit of shopping in Barnstaple of course.)

North Devon Museum is situated at the end of the old bridge in Barnstaple. A lot of the displays are the same year in, year out, but they do update things occassionally. The children liked the Tarka room with all the stuffed animals and the river exhibit. They were also fascinated by the skeleton that was found in Saunton and dates back to the mid 17th century. "How did it die?" and "How do they know its a boy?" were questions that were discussed at length. They were less impressed with the Underwater Room, which I thought quite facinating. Apparently it was scary (it was dark and made strange noises!)

We spent just under an hour looking around - entry is free - and then my youngest one took the opportunity to do a painting. There were special workshops being run in the entrance hall because it was half term - painting with mud! Yes, really; the artist who was there had harvested various local clays and mud and the children were able to paint with them, six different colours ranging from dark black to pale yellow. All the works of art will be displayed in May - so we'll have to go back then!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Abbotsham Cliffs

The sun came out today for the first time in ages, so after I'd finished painting the woodwork on my stairs I loaded the kids into the car and rushed down to Mum and Dad's to drag them out for a walk. Dad came along, Mum, I suspect, had a quick forty winks!
We drove down to Westward Ho! and went down past the rock pools, the Elizabethan, and all the holiday homes and beach huts til civilisation ran out and all that was left was the wild sea and the edge of the land. A path, that used to be the railway line from Westward Ho! to Abbotsham, runs along the cliff edge for about a mile and the views of the bay are fantastic. Today, despite the brilliant sunshine, it was a bit hazy in the distances but you could still make out Saunton Sands, Lundy Island and all the way round to Hartland Point.
The sun, shining low at 4.00, beat straight into us as we walked west and made taking the picture of the pebble beach above a bit tricky. We didn't follow the path all the way down, as little legs were getting tired by then, but its quite fun to go clambering on if you've a mind, and the cliff paths go on after that if you are interested in a longer walk, or you can turn left and follow the path inland to the village of Abbotsham where I believe there may be a pub!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Mill Adventure Centre

If you are after exercise and don't want to go out in the winter this is a great place to get it. The Mill has been open for over a year now but this was our first visit. Although it calls itself an adventure centre it is really only a climbing centre with about ten fixed ropes, a traversing wall and several routes for lead climbing. It also has a bouldering room. But it does boast the fact that it is the largest indoor climbing wall in Devon.

We confined ourselves to about six of the ropes, as the other routes looked far too difficult. The holds are colour coded and the routes graded so you can make it as difficult or easy as you want. It wasn't too busy today and once the kids got the hang of it they were well away, going up some routes four or five times. They also loved the bouldering room. We never had to wait for a rope and even recieved some free tutition from one of the instructors.

You do have to be an experienced climber to just walk in off the street and use the place though. We signed up as members, which costs nothing and then we were in, but if you are a complete novice you have to book a session with an instructor in advance. And when I say experienced, I don't mean very experienced, just as long as you can tie a figure of eight and know how to belay, which is good cos that about all I can manage!

Entrance cost £7.50 for adults and £5 for children and you can stay as long as you like. If you are not climbing, just belaying, then you don't have to pay at all - also good, as the larger, more unfit, one of us (mentioning no names), decided HE wasn't going to climb! There's a nice cafe, which serves home-made food at a reasonable price and is in the same room as the wall so you can sit and watch other people exerting themselves whilst enjoying a nice rest. We had fun and the kids want to go again, so definately one to recommend to all you budding climbers out there.