This week Addi and I are down in the Devonshire countryside; we’ve headed off for a week and boy do we need it. We left it late for our holiday this year and decided on a staycation in one of my favourite parts of the country. Our base for the week is the amazing Great Gutton Farm and our 400 year old farmhouse is roomy, well equipped, right in the heart of the countryside, has acres of space to roam free and an amazing indoor swimming pool.
As holiday breaks in the UK go this is a good place to be; within an hour you’re on some of Britain’s best beaches and there is a lot to do in the local towns and villages and yesterday we headed to the Miniature Pony Centre in Dartmoor. Addi is getting into horses now (much to my delight as I was a keen rider), and we’ve just started horse riding lessons so she was excited to see what a miniature pony was and from the website there looked a lot to do and so on a sunny day it was the perfect day out.
The centre has ponies, donkeys, lots of hands on petting animals and the beautiful dressage Lippizaner horses which do a show every day, sadly we missed this as it was on after we left, but they are amazing if you get to see them. Prices are reasonable to get in, under £18 for the two of us and I paid the extra £1.50 for a pony ride. Children are given a free ‘spot the animal’ sheet and a pencil which if they find all the animals they get a poster from the shop (nice touch).
As soon as we walked in Addi gasped in amazement at the huge paddock in front of us where people were openly roaming the field petting, stroking, hugging and just sitting watching the gorgeous array of miniature ponies and their foals enjoy the sunshine. I was amazed. This was the first horse centre I had been to where children were openly invited to get up close to the animals, enjoy them, cuddle them, learn about them first hand.
We were handed an itinerary of activities that were happening throughout the day and there was so much to see; from animal petting, to magic shows, pony rides, feeding time there was pretty much something every hour to get involved in – a great way to keep little minds busy (which means tired bodies later on so happy parents).
We began with cuddles from the donkeys, nice soft donkeys sitting on their hay having an afternoon rest. Ten people at a time are allowed into the barn and you are given free reign to stroke and get up close to them. Children are really good, even really young children and it’s wonderful to see the delight on their faces as they get up close to these gentle creatures. A quick visit next to the little soft play area, which is lovely as it is zoned into under 5’s and over 5’s so no big kids getting pushy with the little ones. Clean, tidy, well kept and spot toilets with baby changing facilities – lots of good things to make a day out with the kids stress free.
Petting time was next and we treated ourselves to a gorgeous ice-cream to climb the hill (technically this makes it guilt free right?) and find our way to the petting paddock to meet Daisy mouse, the chipmunks (thankfully not the annoying singing ones), rabbits and guinea pigs. All the kids were bright eyed, happy, well mannered and so happy to be up close to animals – it makes you realise that it is the simple things that they love so much. We headed off then to one of the huge fields that you can muck about in. This one had three or four giant trampolines and a zip line – cue 30 minutes of bouncing happiness in the fresh air, making friends and giggling with other kids.
Pony rides at 3pm are well organised and a hit with the kids. The stable hands make the children feel at home whether they are confident riders or it is their first time on a pony. The giving out of the rosettes at the end of the riding session is a really lovely gesture that makes the children feel like they’ve done something very grown up.
We then spent at least two hours on some of the best outdoor play equipment we’ve come across on our travels. Huge forts, rope bridges, slides, swings, tractors to drive, houses to play in – everything was well maintained and just great fun for the kids. Loads of benches for the parents to sit and enjoy the sunshine. Tea and cake in the cafe just before 4pm was scrumptious and just what the doctor ordered at the end of the day and we snuck in an extra cuddle with the ponies again just before we left after spending a good 6-7 hours in the centre.
Addi loved every moment of the day; she was blown away by how small the ponies were, loved looking at the new foals and found it fascinating that she could get so close to the animals and enjoy their company.
If you’re heading down to Devon then I high recommend you check out the Miniature Pony Centre as it offers a fantastic family day out and is brilliant value for money.