Places to Go

Family Holidays: A fat frog, a blue-tit, an armadillo and a Gruffalo

When staying in a baby-friendly holiday cottage, it's handy to find activities you can take a pram on.

On a rainy day in May we all went for a walk in Stover Park, near Newton Abbot, Devon. Unusually for us, we remembered to bring food for the ducks AND food for ourselves. After parking the car our first stop was the nature centre where my three children all enjoyed controlling the camera to see what was on the lake.  

I quite like a rainy walk but my children sometimes need to be convinced. Fortunately there were enough activities for them to do on the way round to keep them happy. After the nature centre we walked through some woods; the cue for my two year old to quote The Gruffalo: ‘A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood…’ We didn’t spot a Gruffalo but we were soon hunkered down in a bird hide looking out at a heron, a swan and plenty of mallards. We then started to walk round the lake which took about two hours but did include frequent stops and a lakeside picnic. Some of the stops were to read the Ted Hughes poems which were spread out through the walk. There is an official Ted Hughes trail to follow, but even the shorter walk round the lake includes lots of poems along the way. One is called The Lake and includes the lines:

‘Better disguised than the leaf insect, A sort of subtler armadillo, The lake turns with me as I walk.’

We couldn’t make head nor tail of the armadillo but did appreciate the idea of the lake turning with us as we walked. A short detour from the Lakeside path took us on a children’s trail which we really liked. Here the poems are much easier for a clod like me to understand and are accompanied by charming wooden sculptures including an otter, a worm and a fat frog.  The trail winds its way past rhododendrons and fallen trees, under stately oaks and shivering birches.

Stover Park is a walk that hits just the right balance between wild nature and organised activities. Our two year old could stay in his pushchair when he got tired, while my five and seven year olds could easily divert from the main path to feel like explorers a few yards from our watchful eyes.

The highlight of our day was a chubby little blue tit which pecked bread crumbs on the table next to us while we ate our picnic. We may not have spotted a Gruffalo but even my boy was rendered speechless by this charming bird. 

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