As we’re all under stay at home orders again and the cottages here at Stonehayes Farm are closed we thought we’d pick up where we left off with our Lockdown Lookabout, helping you to find things to do on your holidays in Devon. Something to look forward to when you’re down here staying, something to plan ahead for when days are brighter and we’re someway back to normal. So come along, come with us to Wildwood Escot, which in our opinion, is one of the best family attractions around.
Our self catering cottages in the West Country are hard to beat for family holidays and what makes it even better is that there are plenty of things to do on your holidays in Devon within just a few miles. Wildwood Escot is only a 15 minute drive away and it makes for a fantastic day out for all ages, so it’s one that really should be very high up on your list – and leave early because there’s a lot to fit in! It’s run by a registered charity called The Wildwood Trust who also have a centre in Kent, and is a Centre of Excellence dedicated to protecting, rewilding and conserving British wildlife. All good stuff.
Once Wildwood Escot was part of a big country estate so as you can imagine, the setting is wonderful, right in the thick of the beautiful countryside not far from Ottery St Mary and Honiton. It’s a very unique place too, and one that has a successful blend of having plenty to do and being fun, and serving a very good purpose. What we like is that it hasn’t been commercialised like most family attractions have so it’s more natural and the ambience is very relaxed so you feel like you can take your time to stroll around and see everything, from the wonderful woodlands and animals to the play areas, the Saxon Village, and the Coach House Café.
So go there. Follow the woodland trails, look around and look up at the different species, put your tree knowledge to the test; walk through the enclosures where red squirrels and otters live. The squirrels are elusive creatures so the best time to see them, as with any of the animals, is feeding times. Look out for the wolves, lynx, wild boar, Arctic fox and wildcat in their natural enclosures; go and see the eagle owls and have your camera ready if one of the resident free range Indian Blue peacocks is strutting about displaying its tail feathers – it’s an incredible sight! In the wetland habitat you’ll find Konig ponies grazing, and Soay Sheep with their curly horns and shaggy dark brown coats.
A visit to Wildwood Escot has to be one of the best ways to get your little ones out there enjoying the fresh air and exercise. You know what it’s like sometimes: “Let’s go for a walk, shall we?” and you’re met with “Oh Mum, do we have to!” Sometimes it’s hard to drag them away from their screens but here there’s none of that, it’s a chance to be how children should be, having fun, running about outdoors, getting a bit of colour in their cheeks. The brave among them will love the Traversing Walls, the Drop Slide, the 40 metre Zip Line and the Tree Top Slide; there’s an outdoor adventure playground and a trampoline, and all of you can have a lark in the Beech Hedge Maze; split up into teams and see who makes it to the centre first.
There’s a Saxon Village here too; now that’s pretty fascinating because you get to see how people lived in their small communities way back then. It’s like you’ve got in a time machine and travelled back – the costumes and the buildings and the way they do things, it's all very authentic. You can chat to the villagers and have a go at the hands-on activities, making things in the Greenwood Centre and the Forge, perhaps a piece of jewellery or a Saxon penny. It's not every day you get the chance to make one of those!
For the tinies there’s a Play Barn, with indoor soft play that makes things a little easier on rainy days, but even so, whatever the weather it’s worth wrapping up in the right gear and making the most of what’s here. If you’re thinking it’s something you might do, make sure you bring wellies and waterproofs because you know how unreliable the English weather can be. You might like to think about bringing a picnic too as there are indoor and outdoor picnic areas; fill your coolbag – salad sandwiches, chicken drumsticks, sausage rolls, hard boiled eggs and of course LASHINGS OF FIZZY POP! If that sounds like too much bother, don’t worry because you can grab something from the Snack Shack or head to the Coach House Café where they serve hot lunches and snacks, and the most awesome cakes. If it’s a tad chilly find a table inside, if the sun is out in all its glory, sit out in the courtyard. When you’re done, round off your trip with a browse in the gift shop where you’re bound to find something you like to take home as a little momento of a happy day spent at Wildwood Escot. You can even sign up to adopt an animal, and if you’ve someone who’s bonkers about animals in your family, it’s worth having a look at the experiences on offer, like Wolf Feeding Encounters that you can book for up to two people; a great idea for a birthday treat!
Parking at Wildwood Escot is free and though visiting times vary throughout the year, they are generally open from 10.00am every day except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. As none of us have a crystal ball and times are wobbly, we’d advise checking the website before you go in case of restrictions, etc. But do go, because it really is good and there’s nothing else quite Wildwood Escot round here.
All information correct at the time of writing