We fancied a weekend in the country by the sea. It is nice to escape from city life and give our toddler some green fields to run around. At only 3 hours or so drive from London, East Devon fitted the bill. East Devon has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. So we were hoping for winding country lanes and stunning coastal scenery. And to make it even more exciting, we decided to make it our toddler’s first proper camping trip staying in a tent. Here’s what we got up to on a toddler’s weekend in East Devon…
A Toddler’s Weekend in East Devon: Where we stayed
We stayed at Coombe View Farm, just the kind of low-key campsite we were looking for. It consists of 3 gently sloping fields with some flat spots for tents and distant views of the sea. And basic facilities – toilets, showers, washing up spot, fresh eggs for sale. There were ducks and chickens for Daisy to look at and the owner’s Exmoor ponies came for a visit one day. The owner was helpful – he knew there was a storm forecast so tucked us in to shelter by a hedge. In calmer weather though I would have headed off into the distant third field to find a more secluded spot. It was perfect for Daisy – lots of other families and plenty of space to run around.
She was also super excited to sleep in a tent for the first time. We’ve been glamping before, but the tent was a whole new experience. It took rather a while to get her to sleep on the first night. So there went my visions of relaxing round a campfire with a drink, having an adult conversation while she slept!
A Toddler’s Weekend in East Devon: What we did
We spent some time in Lyme Regis. This ancient town is actually in West Dorset, but close to where we were staying. It is part of the Jurassic Coast, famous for its geology. This is the only patch of sand you will find on this part of the Devon coast. Imported from France apparently… It was a rainy day when we visited. Nothing like a picnic on the beach in the rain to make you feel like you are on a truly British holiday. One advantage though was that it was quiet. I dread to think how busy this patch of sand gets on a hot sunny day. Although there is limited parking available, so perhaps it is not too bad. Further along the beach past the harbour, you find big stones and opportunities for fossil hunting. Which may appeal to older kids, but Daisy just found it hard to walk on.
Branscombe beach is a mile-long shingle beach, set below the village of Branscombe. It is on the South West Coast Path, which heads off along the cliff top to the village of Beer.
This was almost exactly what we want from a beach. If it was sandy, it would be perfect. Although I must admit that the pebbles were pretty comfortable to lie on. And Daisy loved throwing them around. Which was much less messy than her throwing sand around. And Daddy had fun skimming stones. Apparently there are rockpools to explore, but we didn’t find them. I think they must be right at the far end of the beach. Again, it was a rather changeable day weather-wise, so the beach itself was quiet. The adjacent cafe / restaurant was busy though. But it was a useful place to escape to when it clouded over for an hour or so. Note that it is not cheap; if it is a bright, sunny day, a picnic may be a better bet.
There is parking at the beach. But we walked there from the campsite. I’m not sure that we found the best route though. The footpath we found was very overgrown, so we ended up doing a lot of walking on the road. Which was a bit hairy in places, as it is narrow with many blind bends.
The Donkey Sanctuary is near Sidmouth. They do work throughout the world to improve the lives of donkeys. Here you can visit their farm and see some of their UK residents. Admission is free and there is plenty of parking. We arrived early and had the place virtually to ourselves. It is very well maintained and pleasant to walk around. I think it was a real highlight for Daisy. She loved the donkeys and there was a little play area with a tractor to climb on.
Does anyone live in Devon? We’re thinking it might be a great place to bring up a family?