Tag Archives: South Devon Railway

Birthday fun with Thomas and Friends

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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The otters were super cute, and looked like they were having lots of fun, which is always nice to see.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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Adventures on the South Devon Railway

Last weekend we finally took a trip on the South Devon Railway. I’m not sure why we haven’t done it before actually, what with Arthur’s general train obsession, but we’re a bit spoilt for choice down here when it comes to steam trains. We’ve been on the Kingswear-Paignton line lots, but having had a peek at the goings on at Totnes station when we visited the Rare  Breeds Farm we were definitely keen to come back for a proper visit.

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The excitement started building even before we got to the station – Arthur heard a train whistle in the background and suddenly realised where we were going. Once he saw the train tracks he really couldn’t contain himself, bouncing up and down in the sling as the train came in.

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We found ourselves a compartment – naturally gloriously vintage – and settled down for the journey to Buckfastleigh. It wasn’t only Arthur who was excited – there’s something so magical about being transported by steam, and the beautiful countryside views just added to that.

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It was brilliant to spend some quality time as a family. Leigh’s been working super hard recently, and Arthur really misses his Daddy when he’s not around. I do, too.

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As we pulled into Buckfastleigh station, it was clear there was going to be lots to explore there. There were so many different types of trains – Arthur was in his element trying to match them all up with his favourites from Thomas the Tank Engine.

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He loved the little museum too: pretending to be an engine driver, and finding some actual Thomas trains to play with.

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There was even a fantastic garden model railway, being tended my some older railway enthusiasts. I think Arthur would have happily watched the trains going round until it had got dark if we’d let him.

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But we did have to get back, so we made our way to the platform to find a train big enough to carry us.

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The light was beginning to fade as we journeyed back along the river, but somehow that only made the whole scene more beautiful.

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When we arrived back at Totnes there was one more treat in store. The Rare Breeds Farm is currently closed for the season, but an owl had come out to say hello to people at the station. He was incredibly tame and friendly. Arthur was able to stroke him and give him a cuddle, and when he waved goodbye the owl flapped his wings in return.

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Suffice to say when we headed back to the car it was with one very happy little boy. All in all it was a fantastic family afternoon – we can’t wait until our next trip on this very special railway.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Trains, goats and autumn leaves

This weekend, we managed to tick something else off our South Devon bucket list. We’ve been past the Rare Breeds Farm in Totnes countless times on the train to London, the vintage-style platform of the South Devon Railway looking like a gateway to another world. Having finally made it there on foot I can confirm that those first impressions really are quite accurate.

From the first steps beyond the station car park into the woodland path you feel like you’re onto something special, a sensation made even stronger once the bridge across the river comes into view.

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I think Arthur could happily have stayed right there, watching the mainline trains speed past mere metres away, but little did he know the other treats in store.

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To get to the farm you have to walk along the steam railway platform. Everything is beautifully maintained, and we were lucky enough to arrive just as a special service was pulling in. Arthur was captivated by the comings and goings, eagerly ‘choo choo’ing as Leigh explained the mechanics of the steam engine to him. Once again we could have ended our trip right there and they both would have been very happy.

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We managed to tear ourselves away, and headed over the tracks to the little farm itself. After picking up some feed in the cafe we went through the gates – and immediately came face to face with a row of owls.

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I’m not sure Arthur believed they were real at first, but then we found a very little owl called Flitwick just waiting to be stroked.

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After a gentle stroke of Flitwick’s feathers we continued further on, coming across some very lively red squirrels. I’m not sure Arthur knew quite what to make of them!

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And then we found the goats. I don’t think Arthur’s met goats before, and these ones were very friendly. One of my favourite moments of the afternoon was him giggling ‘Fingers! Fingers!’ as they greeted him enthusiastically through the fence. He even had a go at feeding them, and when we ventured inside was quick to make himself at home.

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There were some beautiful sheep too, though Arthur was happy to let Daddy take the lead on feeding those.

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After meeting all the larger animals we came across the guinea pigs, and Arthur sat himself down for a little cuddle. He thought it was a ‘baby dog’ at first, and got very confused when we said it was a sort of pig…

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All in all it is a very special place, and we will most definitely be back. It’s just a shame we discovered it so late in the season! Though that did give us the excuse for a bit of frolicking in the autumn leaves – the perfect end to a perfect afternoon.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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