Dartington Estate

On the back of a family visit to ‘The Shops at Dartington’, we end up at this rather special place. I’d been sold the excursion as, ‘a manor house with nice ground’s’, so you’ll excuse me maybe for not being that excited initially by the prospect.

devon cream teas at dartington estate
my kind of place…

We arrive en masse, get stung for more parking tickets and head off. Quickly it becomes apparent that we don’t know where we are going, so I trot off to the Information Centre I’d spotted on the way in. I relieve the friendly lady of a folded information map and finally we are on our way with some purpose…

Dartington Estate is indeed a manor house with lovely grounds, but it turns out that there’s a lot more to it. It’s got it’s own pub and restaurant, accomodation, a cinema, and an arts school. They offer courses up to postgraduate level, have a community hub and are involved in refugee support. I would normally use the folded info pamphlet for the ‘you are here’ and you buy cake here’ signs but I’m getting pretty engrossed.

Large estates diversifying is not uncommon now, but I think the Elmhirsts (who bought the estate in 1925), must have been real pioneers in this. However, as I read I realise this is not the average landed genrty estate, begrudgingly allowing visitors to pay for an ever increasing maintenance budget. The Elmhirsts ‘Dartington Experiment’ looks to have been undertaken out of passion not primarily a need for cash – they were already seriously wealthy. My initial indifference has now turned to intrigue.

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Then there are the grounds. According to the guide, these are the successive works of several highly regarded landscape architects. You don’t need to be an architect to realise they are special though. The little girl who runs by me says it best,

”Mummy this is the most magical place we’ve ever been!”

There’s 500 year old sweet chestnut trees, clever vistas, deep multi-coloured herbaceous borders and a magnificent grass terraced ampitheatre.

I should mention at this point that with us today is Grandad Charlie, Huey’s Great Grandad. Charlie has already made me laugh once today with his heroic disregard of medical advice, (large fish and chips for lunch, followed by cake, chased down with a strong local ale).

I’m sat quietly admiring a view of the ampitheatre framed by Yew hedging, when a waving Charlie on his mobility scooter rolls from stage right directly into view. I’ve seen the ‘no scooters on the grass’ sign, but clearly Charles has not. Plotted on a graph the curves of care v age are going in very different directions and I’m laughing aloud for the second time today.

We only get a sense of how big this place is as we are driving home. We’ve only taken in the ornamental gardens and I’d like to come back to see the rest, not just in the day but an evening out to the lovely little cinema too. If your local I recommend a visit.

Going to Dartington with a baby?

Despite the no scootting signs we encountered no access issues at Dartington. The gardens we journeyed were largely accessible. Though we had Huey in a sling you could easily manage most of it with a buggy.

You pay for parking but entry is free to the gardens. It’s located a few minutes drive North of Totnes, TQ96ED.



Beach Hut

Family day out at Meadfoot’s modern take on the seaside chalet…

beach chalet views meadfoot beach
room with a view

I’ve noticed certain activities that the residents of tourist towns tend to partake in, only when visitors are staying over. Ferris wheel rides, open top bus tours and the local site seeing tram all come to mind.
For me, the guilty pleasure I have been waiting to indulge is the hiring of a beach hut. A lot of the Torbay beaches have them and for many weeks I have been the passer-by, nosily peering inside to check out the interiors.

With grandparent’s keen to visit this was all the justification I needed to get on to Torbay Council and hire a hut. During the phone call I quickly learnt that they are not huts at all, but beach ‘chalets’. I couldn’t contain my grin, but instead of laughing fell in line with the correct vernacular, ‘yes please I’d like to hire a beach chalet!’

Having now been I would like to say I believe they are worthy of chalet status as these are no tatty, shed-on-sea. The chalets at Meadfoot Beach were completely rebuilt I believe in 2015, at a cost to the council of 1.6 million pounds, some serious investment. They are a modern, heavy duty affair set in two tiers that follow the lovely, natural curve of the coast wall. A detail I particularly like is the use of colour. Bucking the usual multi-coloured trend the Meadfoot chalets have been painted in a restricted pallet of random blues, reflecting of course the adjacent sky and sea. Genius.
The exact chalet I booked was located on the upper deck. These are up above the main thoroughfare and as such have the effect of a private balcony. For the labour of climbing another set of stairs you also get better views. Entering from the back, these are presented to you only as you open the doors from the inside and they really are, magnificent.

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To begin with, the 5 of us shuffle out to the balcony and quietly take in the scene in front of us, for late September its pretty spectacular. Then, without introduction or guidance we are busy collectively doing what chalet residents do best, making ourselves at home and getting the kettle on. These views are best appreciated from the deck chairs (provided) and with a cup of tea.

Huey is also a happy chappy. He has grandparents as captive play friends and a bag of toys soon strewn about the chalet and balcony floor. Having spent a fair bit of time with them before our move he is clearly very comfortable in their company allowing Mum and Dad to go for a swim!

Hiring the chalet turns out not to be a self indulgence but a really lovely day out for everyone. The shelter, privacy and home comforts make it a unique day at the beach, a day with an end that comes too quickly…Who is coming to stay next?

How to rent / hire a chalet at Meadfoot Beach…

From the Torbay.gov.uk website it seems some people have these hired for the whole season. A number are also available for day hire at £28.oo a day, in my opinion, a real bargain.

email beachhuts@torbay.gov.uk

or call to book on 01803 208024

There is limited free parking along Meadfoot Beach Road and we have never had a problem getting a space here.

Other facilities nearby…

If you’ve not come prepared with food and drink, there is the lovely Meadfoot Beach Cafe along the same promenade.

There is also decent, clean public loo’s located on the roadside just above the cafe.