Regular readers of this blog (hi both!) will know that a review is completely uncharted territory for me, but having just got back from a really enjoyable staycation holiday, WITH A TODDLER, it felt wrong not to share!
We’ve not had much luck on our previous attempts; Miss O went on sleep strike during our first holiday (cue hours of bleary-eyed despair whilst watching endless In the Night Garden episodes on repeat – if I’d wanted to spend my summer with a truckload of oddbods riding in circles around the countryside, I’d have taken a sodding coach trip), and we managed to bring a highly contagious vomiting virus along with us on holiday two – you can imagine how that played out…
So, to be honest, I was rather apprehensive about what was in store for us this time around!
Flear Farm is a collection of gorgeous baby-friendly cottages set in a private country estate in Totnes. When we arrived, we were really taken aback by how beautiful the grounds were, and loved exploring all the hidden-away picnic spots and woodland paths. The lovely owners, Barney and Camilla, were on hand to give us a tour of all the key areas, and also left some ridiculously tasty homemade scones with jam and clotted cream for us, which was a welcome surprise after a four-and-a-half-hour car journey!
What really sets this place apart from everywhere else though, are the amazing facilities for families, including:
Giant indoor playbarn – I’m not sure what I was expecting here, a couple of foam mats and a plastic Wendy House maybe, but blimey, this was immense. Soft play, trampoline, climbing frame, swing set, pool table, two storey play house…the list goes on and on. And it’s open 24 HOURS A DAY people!! When you have a child that’s up with the dawn chorus, having a facility like this 30 seconds from your door is invaluable. Although they might rethink the piano now we’ve left; Miss O was a big fan and frequently treated the rest of the visitors to her 20 minute rendition of ‘smashing the bejesus out of the keyboard – in A Minor’, which is an acquired taste…
Pool and spa complex – a fantastic indoor heated pool, treatment room (sadly not something I got around to trying) and an outdoor hot tub. Thoughtful touches poolside include baskets full of floats, swimming noodles and water toys. We clubbed together with other family members and stayed in the main house (Flear House) which also has its own heated outdoor pool, and as the weather was so amazing last week, we got a lot of use out of this!
The pony paddock – the kids loved feeding the ponies and getting up close and personal with the chickens (not sure the chickens were as thrilled…). One of the newest additions to the Flear Farm menagerie is a peacock, who apparently just rocked up one day and decided it was his kind of place. Now, this is slightly embarrassing to admit, but I have a HUGE peacock phobia, I can’t even look at them without feeling a bit nauseous (no idea why) so this was a bit of a challenge for me. Also, he’s the biggest fecking peacock I’ve ever seen, he’s clearly living off the local cats and half-eaten Soleros…but, he is incredibly tame, all the kids were absolutely fascinated by him, and I’d made a decent bit of progress with my phobia by the end of the week, so an unexpected extra there!
The honesty shop – what a brilliant idea this is. You can just walk in at any point and pick up what you need (includes things like homemade ready meals, ice creams, crisps and snacks, swim nappies etc.), keep track of what you’ve taken on the form you’re given at the start of the week, then pop the money in an envelope at the end of your stay. It was slightly dangerous having such easy access to the ice cream (husband is a bit of an addict), but this place came in handy so many times.
And there are so many other things I could mention; the pitch and putt, the tennis courts, the outdoor playground…there were a couple of days when we didn’t even leave the grounds, because there was plenty for us to do right on our doorstep. There’s a lovely town with lots of nice places to eat a short drive away, but in the evenings we tended to self-cater, barbecue or order-in. I would definitely recommend the local Chinese and pizza delivery places, the menus for which you can very helpfully find in the playbarn!
We were able to tear ourselves away eventually though, and found lots of fab local attractions. We really enjoyed Paignton Zoo, and my nephew loved being in charge of the map there (although his chief interest was locating the nearest available sausage roll vendor…) The Flear Farm guidebook was very useful for finding local places to eat; the Seven Stars was recommended as the nearest ‘child-friendly’ place (I was a bit dubious as ‘child-friendly’ and ‘tasty food’ don’t always go hand in hand) but we had a gorgeous alfresco lunch here – the chilled seafood platter was a real highlight on a hot day.
The book also had a great round-up of local beaches – we opted for North Sands and certainly weren’t disappointed.
Also have to give a quick shout-out to Salcombe – we had a lovely wander through this picture postcard town, which had stunning harbour views every time you turned the corner, lots of boutique shops and deli gems, and the rather awesome The Kidz and Co Soft Play Cafe. Keeping children entertained when you’re eating out can be a bit of a nightmare, so this was a real lifesaver!
I’m not sure it’s possible to have a completely relaxing holiday with children (no amount of ponies and peacocks will prevent the witching hour from rolling around every evening), but Flear Farm comes bloody close. The kids had an amazing time, our stress levels were remarkably low, and there were plenty of moments to just drink in the views (and the wine) and enjoy the moment.
We will definitely be back!
(All photos are my own or published with permission from http://www.flearfarmcottages.com)