Monday, 27 August 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, 22 August 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, 15 August 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, 11 August 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, 3 August 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.