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By Hettie Eggleton Ideas to keep the children occupied

It always seems like we are looking for wintery things to do with children to keep them entertained and busy during the long cold months. In the first of a series of columns, here are a few local ideas to try, whether you are a grandparent, parent, baby sitter, or for anyone else who may have children in their care.

A LOVELY LOCAL PARK is the one at Stoke Fleming, where the parking is easy and free, there is a huge, relatively mud-free field to run around in and the play area is fantastic. The absolute favourite for little children is HMS Iggle Piggle, but there is a challenging climbing frame for the older ones, with a really huge slide. We love this park because it is not too muddy or dirty, there are nice places for parents to sit, you can see little ones from pretty much the whole play area, and the toilets are within sight (on the edge of the field). Why not take a flask, as there is no café nearby and let the children sit in the little wendy house and pretend it is a café and get them to order their drinks from you!?

MUD FREE WALK WITH FANTASIC VIEWS I spend the whole of the winter battling with mud. In the house, in the car, on the dog, on the buggy wheels, on coats and boots - basically everywhere. So here is a mud-free, off-road walk for a winter day, with fantastic views: Start Point. Drive up to the car park at Start Point and walk through the gate to the left hand side of the car park. Then take the tar- mac path all the way down to the lighthouse.


takes about twenty minutes to walk down and half an hour back (allow well over an hour to dawdle and look at the views). I think it’s manageable for a four or five year old, and definitely easy with any type of pushchair. The views are phenomenal. Don’t expect the lighthouse to be open though, it only opens in the summer, and even when it does open if you have really little ones, then don’t get too excited about climbing to the top as you are only allowed to go up if your child can climb unaided – apparently it is quite a climb and amazing if you do achieve it! On the way back home a great place to pop into for coffee and something to eat is Stokeley Barton Farmshop, on the A379 near Torcross (open daily from 9-5). A family-friend- ly place with delicious food and drink in a lovely setting. They were very helpful showing us where the toys/highchairs were, telling us it is no problem to make a smaller meal, eg a roast for a child, and also the pizzas sounded delicious. It’s on the drive back to Dartmouth from Start Point.

TERRIFIC TODDLER GROUP One of the best resources for anyone with children is the wide range of toddler groups in the area. The most friendly that we have come across is at the Baptist Church in Townstal on a Tuesday morning from 0930-1130. It is such a wonderful group. The ladies that run it are so supportive and the other parents and carers who attend are very approachable.

They serve tea, coffee and toast for the adults, and milk or water

for the children, and then they provide a

fabulous snack (that my son thinks is a meal – he is usually the first to sit down and the last to get up). They have a wide variety of toys and books, and they are really focussed on the children: playing, singing and reading with them. This really is a group that should not be missed. It costs £1 - which goes towards the running of the group - and it also runs in school holidays.

A FEW MORE IDEAS FOR COLDER DAYS: Visit the library and read their huge array of children’s books, or borrow a really affordable DVD from their great selection (membership is free). Then have coffee or a babyccino in the Arts Café at The Flavel, and take the library books you have just chosen and sit and read them in the café. They also have pens and pencils for kids to use.

Head to Dartmouth and Area Children’s Centre for their varied range of activities that run throughout the year. They do themed events according to the seasons, or baby/toddler drop in sessions, child health clinics and all sorts of other courses for families. Lots of these activities are free/very low cost and the staff there are amazing and friendly. Ring 01803 833164 for more information.

Parking is free in the winter at Blackpool Sands, so make the most of it, and dogs are welcome on the beach there too. Wrap up warm and dry off/warm up in the café afterwards. They have colouring activities on the children’s menu to keep little hands busy while you wait for your order and a massive log fire on cold winter days to keep you warm. Make sure you collect Loyalty Points for great discounts with a Friends of Venus card (order this card from, and click on About Venus).

Have you been to the toyshop at Dartington? While we usually avoid toyshops at all costs, this one is worth a visit, because they have some great toys to play with in a fairly separate area to the rest of the shop, thus avoiding the usual arguments! The books are in good condition, the marble run is amazing, the wooden cakes and café were good fun, and the shop itself has such a good selection of toys for all budgets. After the toyshop visit the Venus Café at Dartington for a meal from their children’s menu, and collect more points on your Venus Loyalty Card, as mentioned above. A lovely trip out on a cold day. •


Illustrations by Lisa Wyman

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