It was Leigh’s birthday over the bank holiday weekend, and in true super-Dad style he declared that there was nothing he would rather do than go to the Day Out with Thomas at the South Devon Railway. Not only would this involve some serious steam train action, but all the trains were promised to be dressed up as characters from Arthur’s favourite books. And the ticket would give us access to the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm (which we’d visited before and loved) and the Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary in Buckfastleigh (which I’ve wanted to explore for years).
We were all really excited about it, and looking forward to spending some quality time together as a family in the midst of Finals revision and election campaigning. Our day was very nearly scuppered when we had a massive leak after our morning shower (all sorted now, I won’t go into it…) but fortunately we decided to power through and make the most of the adventures that lay ahead.
Arthur ran ahead as we approached the station, desperate to get to the source of the steam he could see through the trees. And when we got to the platform, the very first train he saw was his namesake! (At least I think it was the Arthur train – it certainly looked an awful lot like him) It was enough for our Arthur to be immediately entranced by the magic of it all. And ok, us too…
The Arthur train was getting ready to leave, but as we’d just arrived we decided we’d pop over to the Rare Breeds Farm first to say hello to the animals. Arthur recognised the owl he’d met on the train platform before the season had properly started, and with his keeper’s encouragement went in for a very cute cuddle.
After that there were goats to be stroked, a tractor to be driven and a cow to be milked – though it wasn’t long before Arthur’s attention wandered back to the trains.
There was still a bit of time until the next train was due, so we took a look at the model railway. Arthur was fascinated by it, though it was all we could do to stop him from clambering up for a closer look!
Then finally it was time to board a train and head for Buckfastleigh. We picked up a couple of books to add to Arthur’s Thomas collection at the stall on the platform, and he spent the journey reading those and waving at people out of the window.
There was lots going on at Buckfastleigh: several more engines to admire, including Thomas himself, train tracks to play with and even a fairground ride!
There were the otters and butterflies too, and they were amazing! The butterflies flying around the hothouse were pretty magical, but it was the cocoons that really stood out for me. I’ve never seen anything quite like it – from a distance the racks they were on looked like they were exhibiting an exotic range of jewellery, but as you got closer their real purpose became clear.
Arthur didn’t quite understand what he was seeing. There was one slightly hairy moment when he reached out to touch and almost dislodged a whole row of chrysalises, but fortunately we got to him just in time!
The otters were super cute, and looked like they were having lots of fun, which is always nice to see.
After that it was almost time to begin the journey home, but not before sneaking in a ride on a vintage routemaster. It was almost enough to make me miss London! Though of course they don’t quite make them like that any more…
That was enough to finish Arthur off. He was asleep before the end of our ten minute round trip, and stayed fast asleep until we were on the train back to Totnes.
We said goodbye to Thomas for him though, and I have no doubt his dreams were full of wonderful things. There was certainly enough from our day out to keep him going for weeks!