Finding Stick Man at Haldon Forest

Stick Man Trail in Haldon Forest, Devon - Near Exeter

I have to admit, we were late to the Stick Man party. We didn’t see Stick Man on TV over Christmas, instead it was our little one bringing Stick Man home from PreSchool, that introduced us to the character. Long story short, we soon had cries of “I’m Stick Man!” echoing around our house. When we realised there was a Stick Man trail at The Haldon Forest in Devon, we felt we had to go and find him.

As we both had a day off from work, we figured we would take advantage of going up to Haldon Forest on a quieter “school day”.  After a 20 minute drive from Exeter, we found ourselves in Haldon Forest on a damp January Friday. Much to the Little Ones frustration we didn’t run to find Stick Man, but fuelled ourselves up at “The Ridge Cafe”. (While Mummy also ran to pick up the “Activity Pack” from the rangers office.)

After food was eaten, we were off. Armed with a map from the activity pack… and help from the signs pointing us towards Stick Man, we went to find him. There were a number of characters from the book to look for, and challenges to take part in, while walking around the trail, (sadly due to the dampness we figured we should skip the challenges). After 10 minutes or so, we found ourselves with a giant Stick Man!

A giant Stick Man… who wasn’t too far way from a Gruffalo! In an attempt to show that the Gruffalo wasn’t something to be worried about, I ended up giving the children’s monster a giant hug. While our Little One still wasn’t impressed, I found the experience oddly relaxing.

We took her unkeenness at seeing the The Gruffalo (and the incoming storm) as a cue to go home. We’re planning on going back on a nicer day to really take a chance to enjoy it, and the play park equipment they have there.

If you or your Little One enjoys the adventures of Stick Man, I’d strongly recommend the Stick Man Trail at Haldon Forest. For more details of this, and other Stick Man Trails around England check out the Forestry Commission’s website.

The Stick Man DVD is now available from Amazon.co.uk – And its well worth a watch!

Exploring The Devon Railway Centre 

Do you remember what it was like to enjoy trains? Did you ever think of them more then just a way to get from A->B? Is there a little one in your life that still likes trains? There’s a little place called the Devon Railway Centre next to the gorgeous Bickleigh Mill, that can be found somewhere between Exeter, and Tiverton that might be the place for your little one.

The Devon Rail Centre describes itself as a popular Devon tourist attraction, and I can see why. The Devon Rail Centre isn’t on the largest site, but there are plenty of attractions squeezed in there. The main one that got our attention as we made our way in, was the steam train that takes you around the park, where the driver gives kids of many ages the chance to punch tickets, to be the train guard, and you are not just limited to one journey. Handy if you have a little one that’s keen on trains!

Within a couple of train carriages, you’ll find a number of model railways, and outside you’ll also find a model village. Both the village, and the railways have push buttons that activate trains, trams, and other things, which seemed very exciting to our almost 3 year old. There is also a stack of stools for the children to use to see the displays.

There is also a play area found within the train carriages, which has an area for the under 3’s-with ride on bikes, a brio train play area, a MASSIVE sand box, and (in the words of our toddler) a “deep” ball pit.

There is also a soft play area, which from the map looks pretty big, but we decided to avoid this, as by the time we would have considered it, it was highly likely to be heaving and the inevitable ‘being dragged around’ did not sound like fun!

There were 3 outside climbing frames, one by the entrance, one near the picnic stop half way through the stream train journey and one near the cafe. We only went to the latter one, which was definitely enjoyed by our little one, even if it meant repeatedly helping her get up via the more difficult routes.

It’s definitely worth a visit with a train fan, especially if they are under 3 years, so they get in free. If your child is really keen, but pennies are limited, then ask the retired grandparents to take them, so that they can OAP rate! There is also an annual pass, which looks like a good idea if you would consider visiting a few times. There are plenty of places to sit and eat a picnic, or there are a few basic snacks/meals for sale in the cafe.

The important thing about this place, is that it’s fun, and if you’re with a little one who finds it exciting, you may, just for a moment, also find trains exciting again.

The Devon Railway Centre Website

Free and Cheap Things To Do With Kids This Summer Around Exeter, Devon

With Summer about to hit, its good to get the kids out and about. If for no other reason – they seem to have so much energy that they need to burn. As we were wondering around Exeter the other day, we decided to come up with our mini list of things to do with kids around Exeter this Summer.

Orange Elephant

Orange Elephant is one of those hidden gems, that is easy to talk about, but needs a certain amount of want to actually get there.

Its worth the trip for the ice cream, play equipment, the butchers, farm animals, and ice cream. Found within the Haldon Valley, this all looks beautiful on a nice day. You need to be a member to access some of this, but that only costs a family £10 for the season. Oh and yes, the ice cream is good enough to mention twice.

(The Maize Maze is also worth getting lost in, if you’re there at the right time of year)

The Orange Elephant Website.

Museum

Exeter’s, Royal Albert Memorial Museum is found in the town centre, minutes away from the High Street. There are many things to do, walk through / around, eat, and look at.

Its not open on Mondays or Banks Holidays, but feels like its open the rest of the time. Its free entry, and a great rainy day activity.

Exeter Cathedral.

 Or more accurately, the Cathedral Green. The Green around Exeter Cathedral is large enough that you can just let a toddler run, while you work on luring your toddler back with ice cream from one of the near by shops. The Cathedral Green is a hub of all that is a good about the south west. Want to let your kid run? Do it. Fancy a Pasty for lunch, there’s a few places nearby that sell them – and cakes for dessert. Fancy good food? Well you have Michael Caines @adobe. Thirsty? Well check out the Well House…

Whilst its not particularly cheap, if you can find the money for the entrance fee, try and have a nose around Exeter Cathedral.

If you live within EX1 – 4 areas of Exeter / Devon, ask about their Resident Cards for free access. (Just remember to donate!) Theres also loads of events on over the summer months, check out their website for more information.

The Quay / The Canal

 Do you like walks along a lovely river, leading in to a canal? Do you like pubs that come with a great taste of Devon? Do you like food? Like History? Like cycling? Kayaking? Are you a fan of cream teas?

If yes to any of the above, then take a wonder around the Quay.

Saddles and Paddles – Bike / Kayak Hire.

Walks!

If The Quay feels a little far, try taking a wonder around one of the many parks dotted around Exeter. Or (if you can get there), Haldon Forest is great for a wonder around. (Or any of the other random activities they have).

 

The Twisted Oak

We went to The Twisted Oak back when it opened, and we kinda liked it. Here’s our thoughts at the time.

I can imagine a trip there being as pricey or as cheap as you want it to be.

Exeter Central Library.

A great place to hide during one of those wetter days. The Central library in Exeter has a Childrens section with loads of books, blocks, and a great big rocking horse to climb on. Theres a nice size cafe, with entrance to the gardens behind. The thing to look out for is that to get to the childrens section, you have to walk through the main library, and as its not contained, wondering toddlers are possible!

Oh and no, you dont have loads of people saying “Shhhh”

King George V Playing Fields

Quite simply this is a massive set of playing fields in the Countess Wear area, near the Swing Bridge over the River Exe. These playing fields maybe of note, if you have kids that would appreciate the “accessible and inclusive playground” that they have. See theplaypark.co.uk for more details.

The Blue Ball.

The Blue Ball, near the M5 motorway/Sandy gate. It’s got a climbing frame in the beer garden & lots of grass to run around on/kick a ball. Decent beer (Its part of the St Austells chain of pubs), a good looking menu, and possibly within walking distance from the Newcourt area of Exeter. 

Go Further Afield

One of the nice things about Exeter, is how it acts as a base to visit other areas of the South West.

Fancy a trip to the beach? Exmouth is only a 30 minute drive, or a cheap train ride away (Even cheaper with a Devon and Cornwall Railcard). Not a fan of the beach? It worth the trip to hunt down the battered chips. Like moorland? You have Dartmoor to your west. Fancy a trip to Cornwall? Thats only a 60 minute drive away.

Well thats my list.

For those who live in or know Exeter, are there any ideas I’ve left out that should be included? Please mention it in the comments below.

(I might leave the top list of Pubs for another day)