Category Archives: Tourism

Tarr Steps, Dulverton ancient stone bridge

A cheap half day out for the kids

Tarr Steps, "clapper" bridge.  According to Wikipedia The name "clapper bridge" comes from the Medieval Latin "claperius" which means "pile of stones".

Tarr Steps, “clapper” bridge.
According to Wikipedia The name “clapper bridge” comes from the Medieval Latin “claperius” which means “pile of stones”.

It’s just  in Somerset, but it is within an hour’s drive of Ilfracombe, going through Combe Martin and across Exmoor.

The Tarr Steps is not made of tar, and it isn’t steps. It is actually a bridge made of large flat stones.

Wellies or crocs recommended, plus a change of clothes or some towels at least.

Wellies or crocs recommended, plus a change of clothes or some towels at least.

The bridge is approximately three thousand years old. Originally built by the Devil for a bet (at least according to legend)

It has been damaged by flooding several times most recently last year (2012) after which is was rebuilt by a team of seven men, and in 1952 when it took fifty sappers from the Royal Engineers to rebuild it. The advantage of modern heavy lifting equipment presumably.

Here’s a short video about the rebuild.

The stones are all numbered so that future rebuilds will be less difficult.

The bridge crosses the river Barle which is a tributary of the Exe, The water is shallow during dry weather and passable by off road vehicles.

Visitors are directed to park in a car park (£2 flat fee all day) which is a short (1/4 mile) walk from the river itself, although there is a blue badge car park at the bottom of the hill, and people can also be dropped off and picked up if the walk is too much for them. There are toilets at the car park.

My wife fell in but unfortunately I wasn't filming her. It was a hot sunny day so the puddle she is standing in is all from her. She had to put a blanket on the seat for the drive home.

My wife fell in but unfortunately I wasn’t filming her.

There are no litter bins at all here, nor are there any dog poo bins. Visitors must take litter away with them but there is no problem at all with dog poo providing it is not bagged, or deposited near the paths or in the river.

There is an ice cream kiosk, we didn’t dare ask the prices, and a tea rooms with pleasant garden. Sorry, but again we didn’t enquire about prices. We decided that it was bound to be expensive and so we brought a picnic lunch.

As well as the bridge and the river, which the kids enjoy splashing about in (wellies or crocs are strongly advised as well as a change of clothes for when it all goes wrong!) there is also a very pleasant footpath and bridleway through the woods which eventually reaches Withypool .

View Tarr steps in a larger map

Quince Honey Farm – South Molton

Learn all about bees and honey
at this long running attraction

Entrance to Quince Honey Farm, South Molton.

Entrance to Quince Honey Farm, South Molton.

My daughter has been nagging us to take her to the honey farm for ages now, and with the summer holidays more than half gone it was high time we did.

Location and contact details

Quince Honey Farm,
North Road,
South Molton,
EX36 3AZ
Telephone 9am to 5pm:
01769 572401
Email:
info@quincehoneyfarm.co.uk
Watch people working on each stage of the process.  This lady was making frames for the honeycomb.

Watch people working on each stage of the process.
This lady was making frames for the honeycomb.

There were mixed reviews on Trip Advisor ranging from five star to one star and some of the comments almost put me off. As a result we decided, since money is tight right now that I would just take Ellie, and keep the costs down as much as possible.

To be honest, Trip Advisor is a dangerous tool, sure you can get forewarned about possible holiday disasters, but you are going to take on board the opinions of people who may be completely different to you.

A lot of information is presented on display boards but it is well written and laid out, and is not the only source of information.

A lot of information is presented on display boards but it is well written and laid out, and is not the only source of information.

One of the negative comments said  “It is so old fashioned and the way the information is delivered i.e. posters and displays on walls does not engage with young children. ”
Well when we went there, (only one month later) we found there were flaps to lift to find answers to questions. I doubt very much if this was added recently so, presumably, they missed that as they rushed round.

There were several different types of beehive and some of them could be opened by pressing a button which controlled a motor. Exactly the sort of thing kids love.

There were several different types of beehive and some of them could be opened by pressing a button which controlled a motor. Exactly the sort of thing kids love.

There were numerous different types of beehives, with active bee colonies, some of which had buttons that you could press and a motor would open the hive for you to see inside.

There was also a film that you could sit down and watch although we didn’t bother.

I even learned stuff myself, because I was there talking to my daughter about it, and reading the information to her. She had a booklet with quiz questions to answer, as well as mazes and puzzles etc, a really well thought out booklet, although she isn’t much into writing so that ended up being done mainly by me. Did you know the honey is extracted from the comb in a centrifuge? I didn’t.

Soft Play area.  Fairly substantial play area with no time restriction. Socks must be worn  but can be bought in the shop for £1

Soft Play area. Included in the entry price.
Fairly substantial play area with no time restriction.
Socks must be worn but can be bought for £1

Sure it wasn’t the science museum, and certainly not Legoland; but there was enough to keep my seven year old daughter occupied for the best part of an hour, and that is not counting the soft play area which was pretty extensive and included in the entry price. (£5.25 children; £5.95 adults) I might add, the soft play area had no time limit.

Soft play is quite large, as you can see, I couldn't get it all into one shot.

Soft play is quite large, as you can see, I couldn’t get it all into one shot.

The cafe smelled wonderful but I avoided the temptation to eat there as prices were typical for this type of attraction. I did have a decent mug of coffee (£1.90) and I got a jug of squash for Ellie which filled up at least four glasses (£2.05)

 

20130821_130054

I also learned that humans have been climbing up to collect honey since before written history. Of course I should have known this since most primates do so, but I didn’t realise there were cave paintings and carvings dating back thousands of years depicting the activity.

In the shop they sell a wide range of honey and bee related products, as well as socks, which is thoughtful, because many children will arrive in sandals, but have to wear socks on the soft play. My daughter included.
We bought socks, a large jar of heather honey (£4.50) a jar of honey marmalade (£3.50) very nice, and a beeswax tea light 65p.
I wasn’t willing to pay four quid for a candle shaped like a Christmas tree, but then I wasn’t buying gifts for friends back home.

All in all, I would say it is certainly worth a visit with most age groups of children. It is tolerable value at just over £22 for a family of four (children are ages 3-16) although, if you are on a tight budget, make sure you feed everyone before you go, so they aren’t hungry; and maybe show them the price of a jar of honey in Tesco for comparison first.

 

Ilfracombe’s Verity looking green about the gills

What was the point of the polish?

Verity looking very green. Photo taken 1st August 2013 Samsung S3 camera unedited.

Verity looking very green.
Photo taken 1st August 2013
Samsung S3 camera unedited.

Damien Hirst’s controversial sixty foot bronze statue, “Verity” was polished up to a gleaming shine when she was installed, at the end of the pier, last October.

There was a great deal of talk about how she would revive the town’s fortunes and I, for one, thought that she would; however the jury is still emphatically out, despite the enthusiastic cheering by the North Devon Journal about increased use of car parks which conveniently ignored the fact that there was a corresponding increase in other towns which had not added a statue recently.

So now as I look at this vision of …. well this …. sight, for want of a better word, I wonder what was the point of all that polishing? She now looks almost completely green from verdigris. Not an attractive visage in the glorious Devon sunshine.

Surely a quick coat of varnish would have saved the need for a twice yearly polish at great expense, of this monstrous cabbage coloured object.

Visit to Tunnels Beaches July 2013

Review of a visit to Tunnels Beaches

One adult and three kids July 2013

tunnelsbeachentrance
Yesterday, which was a Sunday, I decided to take the kids to Tunnels Beaches. I hadn’t actually got around to going there myself since moving here and, since I have been recommending it to people, I thought it was high time I checked it myself.

Tunnles1
One rather important fact is that you have to pay to get onto the beach.
It cost £8.50 for me and three kids. (Adults £3 kids £1.50) there are season ticket options and various other prices that you can check on their website.
tunnels2

The tunnels were excavated over a hundred years ago to allow access to the beaches which are otherwise in an inaccessible cove surrounded by cliffs.

tunnels3The small rocky tunnels are adorned with lots of information about the history of the beaches, and bathing. There is more info about Victorian bathing machines, and all sorts of other stuff.

tunnels4There are actually two main beaches although one, known as the gentlemen’s beach is often closed for weddings. In earlier times, gentlemen and ladies were required to bathe separately hence the two beaches.

The ladies beach has the tidal pool which is surely one of the main attractions here, and one of two reasons why it is worth paying.

tunnelsbeachfromcoastalpathA long low wall links from one side of the beach to the other enclosing a fair sized section of seawater which remains after the tide has gone out. On sunny days this can warm up quite a bit more than otherwise at low tide and has the added advantage of being free of waves, and therefore ideal for mucking about in inflatable boats, and rubber rings.

The other nice thing about the beach is that it is patrolled by a lifeguard during high season. Litter is cleared daily so this is also probably the cleanest and safest beach anywhere in the region.

Tunnels-beach-panorama

Panorama shot of the beach. Click for higher resolution.
(copyright this website. Samsung S3 panorama setting)

tunnels5

tunnels6The downside however is that there is no sand
This is the case in all of Ilfracombe’s beaches. The rocks are mainly slate and it just doesn’t make good sand. You have to travel to the west facing coast, Woolacombe, Croyde, Saunton etc for the best sand.

tunnels7Another downside is of course that you have to pay to get in.

Is it worth it?

Well I would say, if you have small children and you want to be able to relax a bit more, knowing they are safe, then yes.
You will still need to keep an eye out but there are far fewer ways they can get into trouble than on a more open beach. There are toilets here, and a cafe, as well as an indoor play area (separate charge for this)

It is also worth it at least for one visit to explore the history and see the tunnels so can tick it off the tourist list.

If you just want to explore the rock pools or lie on the shingle, topping up your tan then it is definitely not worth it. There are just as good rock pools at Wildersmouth beach and any of them is fine for catching the sun, and none of the others charge to get in.

Wildersmouth is right by the Landmark so has similar facilities, and the Harbour beach is also well provided with the added bonus that the food outlets are a bit cheaper. There is even a reasonable amount of actual sand.

Petorama at Stowford Farm Meadows

Facilities at Stowford Farm Meadows

Bags of fun for the kiddies, and camping too

 

Stowford Logo

Stowford Logo

Yesterday, I took my two youngest kids to Stowford Farm Meadows. This is an expansive business just outside Ilfracombe on a turning off the A3123.

The object of our trip was, specifically, Petorama; although there are numerous facilities here. The business itself is mainly focused on caravans, caravan sales, holiday lets and storage, as well as camping and even holday lodge sales, in North Devon, with another section in Wales.

As part of the facilities at the Stowford camping and caravaning site there are several attractions to keep the kiddies amused. Petorama, Kiddie Kars, Indoor heated swimming pool (it’s a drive to the nearest beach) Pitch and Put, Crazy Golf, sports and entertainment facilities.

I totally forgot to take any pictures whiel I was there. So this is one from Stowford's own website.

I totally forgot to take any pictures while I was there. So this is one from Stowford’s own website.

Entry to Petorama is £2 per person, adults and kids alike. I didn’t mind paying even though I have seen baby chicks and calves before. However, it is also another pound to buy a bottle of milk for either the young goats, or the calves, and 50p per cup of grain for feeding to the other animals. When you consider that you are effectively paying for the feed that they would otherwise have to give the animals anyway, this seems a bit of a con.

Not that I jibbed at paying it, as my two little darlings poured milk down the two goats at a rate of a bottle in sixty seconds. They then twisted my arm for grain which was duly bought, paid for, and scattered to everything from chickens and guinea-fowl to sheep, goats, calves, and also some in the bucket for the small ponies, which we were warned would bite.

The little cherubs sat with baby rabbits in their laps (a feat they could achieve any day of the week at their aunt’s hotel, but I will let that pass) and held a small mouse until it pooped on them, at which point it had to be scooped up and returned to it’s case.

We saw an egg containing a chick which had already managed to crack the shell and would, by the end of the day, be free to join its siblings and cousins under the warmth of a red heat lamp in the hatchery.

After two more bottle of milk, this time for the calves, we were pretty much ready to go, having spent an enjoyable … almost an hour with the animals.

As I forgot to take pictures, Here's the website's photo.

As I forgot to take pictures, Here’s the website’s photo.

A good hand scrubbing later, and we were ready to whizz round the tarmac in two souped up go karts. Well, they were swift enough for both kids to crash emphatically, at least once each. The cost of the”Kiddie Kars” was £1 for a token which gave them enough laps of the track to make it worthwhile.

Here’s a run down of what I spent.

  • £6 entry (three persons)
  • £4 Milk (3 bottles) and grain (2 cups)
  • £2 Kiddie Kars x 2

Total £12 for two kids happy for a couple of hours, actually pretty good value on holiday. I managed to talk them out of crazy golf which let me off another £3 although if I was on holiday I would definitely have gone for it.

On the way home I quizzed my two about what age ranges they thought would get the most out of these things, and they both agreed that Petorama was ideal for children aged between about three or four, up to about ten or eleven. The Kiddie Kars were better for five or six years up to about ten or eleven.

http://www.stowford.co.uk

Using your satellite navigation be warned that Google maps places the location slightly off. The approach road is a turning south off the A3123 about 300 metres west of Berry Down Cross.

 

Top ten (or so) tourist attractions in and around Ilfracombe

NOT IN ANY ORDER

Watermouth Castle 
Situated on the outskirts of Ilfracombe, in Berrynarbor this imposing 19th century castle houses a slightly eclectic mix of animatronics, models, Victoriana, etc. The dungeons contain some moderately grisly displays that may frighten younger children. Outside in the attractive grounds there are various areas including Gnomeland, and Fariground rides, which will appeal more to younger children.
Tunnels Beach 
You have to pay to go onto this beach but it does boast a tidal pool with lifeguard cover, daily cleaning and no dogs, rock pools, play hut (additional charges apply), cafe and beach shop.
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park 
Close to the village of Combe Martin, a short drive from Ilfracombe, is the Wildlife and Dinosaur park; featuring a range of animal exhibits, including lions, wolves (made famous by the “Wolfman” documentaries featuring Shaun Ellis) as well as animatronic dinosaurs and other attractions.
Chambercombe Manor 
An 11th century manor house which, it is claimed, is one of the most haunted houses in England. The house boasts many original features and antique furniture from various periods. The grounds are free to visit, although donations are welcomed.
Walkers Chocolate Emporium 
“It’s just a shop” exclaims one detractor on a popular tourist ratings site. Well what did you expect from the word “emporium”?
Anyway, it is not just a shop, there is a life-sized chocolate man and a number of other exhibits related to the subject of chocolate. Also they make the stuff on the premises and sell a wide range of chocolaty things to satisfy even the most ardent chocoholic.
Ilfracombe museum 
An eclectic collection of natural history, such as butterflies, bats, skulls and bones. There is a Morse code machine and brass rubbing that the kids can get involved in, and a local family history section, as well as a gift shop and much more besides. Great for a rainy day.
Ilfracombe aquarium 
This small but well managed aquarium displays aquatic life in various sections representing a river system, from the small fast flowing bubbling brook at the top of the watershed, right down to the harbour area and out into open ocean. All laid out so that you walk in a logical order following the river downstream to the sea.
Bicclescombe Park (FREE) 
The largest park in Ilfracombe, with landscaped grounds, a children’s play area, Victorian flower beds, sensory garden, a restored corn mill, tennis courts, and a pond AND lake. And it’s all free. There is also a tea rooms which obviously isn’t.
Hele corn mill and tea rooms 
16th Century Grade II listed water mill, now a working museum with guided tours. A fully restored Blackstone mill is used to grind corn and there is a fully working 1920s National Engine. There is also a gift shop and tea rooms. All weather attraction.