Watching a toddler develop and explore their world is magical – and exhausting. I’m loving sharing my passion for the outdoors with my two-year-old. Watching him giggle and wonder at the new things he is hearing and seeing all around him is really special. Here are my top five list of things to do on Dartmoor with your toddler. They’re all good fun and best of all, will leave you with a tired but happy little person!
1) The Miniature Pony Centre, near Moretonhampstead
I freely admit that I probably enjoy coming here more than Joseph does. As the name suggests, it is very pony-centric, but there are plenty of things, equine and non-equine, to keep even the most energetic of toddlers entertained for several hours. I love the barn where six or so donkeys wander freely, with kids allowed to come in and pat them. The animals are extremely safe and even-tempered and it’s a great way for kids to learn that large (to a toddler) animals aren’t scary and can be stroked and patted, if approached with gentleness and respect. There are several play areas which my little boy loved. His favourite spot was the tractor pen where he went on a mission to ride every one of the pedal tractors! There are pony rides for slightly older children as well as the chance to watch the ponies being fed. And there’s a really nice soft play area and café to boot. Toddler fun in spades!
2) Cycle the Granite Way
The Granite Way is an old railway line between Lydford and Okehampton that has now been turned into a lovely, flat cycle route with some cracking views of the moor. This year, I’ve just started cycling with Joseph in a seat on the back of my bike and have found it a really good way to share being outdoors with him. Because it’s flat it’s not too tiring and I prefer being off road with such a precious and potentially unstable cargo it feels much safer than cycling on tarmac. If you don’t have a bike, or a child’s seat/trailer/tagalong, you can hire them from http://www.granitewaycycles.co.uk.
3) Walk around Burrator
Will your toddler still go in his or her buggy? No? Join the club…it makes life even harder doesn’t it? If your little one will consent to be pushed in their mobile throne then make the most of it with a trip round Burrator Reservoir , near Dousland. There is a five mile circular walk around the reservoir that is mostly flat and with a good, tarmac surface which makes for relatively easy pushing. When Joseph would agree to go in his buggy I used to take the dog with us and enjoy the views across to Sheepstor. At the moment, you can see traces of the village that was flooded to create the reservoir as water levels have dropped as a result of this year’s dry summer.
4) Go for a train ride on the Dartmoor Railway
While there are scheduled services to Exeter from Okehampton Station in the summer, there are also the heritage shuttle services to nearby Meldon which are much more fun and atmospheric. Staffed by volunteers and offering a glimpse back in time to the golden age of the railways, this is a fun trip for adults and kids alike. The station is like something out of the 1940s and offers a lovely nostalgic feel while the station tea room has some lovely, old fashioned cakes. There is also a little café in an old carriage at Meldon that we enjoyed stopping in. It has colouring in books for kids and really friendly staff.
5) Pick a spot and have a wander
I can’t wait until Joseph is old enough to go for a ‘proper’ walk on the moor but, until then, I’m enjoying just taking him out with the dog for a brief walk and letting him enjoy the different sights and sounds. Our most recent trip out was near Lydford where he loved paddling in the river, watching the ponies and the sheep and clambering over stiles. It’s a low key, easy visit that’s completely free and means that we can both enjoy being out on the moor without any sense of having to do anything beyond just being there.
That’s my top five for this year so far but there are plenty more things to do on Dartmoor with a toddler. What have you enjoyed doing with your little one?
See http://www.visitdartmoor.co.uk or http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk for more information about activities on the moor.
Written by Mabel Adventures http://mabeladventures.co.uk