On Saturday I set off on a day trip with my 13 year old daughter Vicky, who is my photographer for some of my reviews to visit Wildwood at Escot in East Devon.
Before the visit lots of my friends looked puzzled about Wildwood as they haven’t heard about it, until I mentioned two words – BEAUTIFUL DAYS. Which is a festival held at Escot every August by the Levellers band, and probably what the estate is most famous for today.
Escot House is situated between Exeter and Honiton near the village of Feniton. The house dates back to 1678, when it was designed by Robert Hooke for Sir Walter Younge Baronet, who sold the estate to Sir John Kennaway of the East India company in 1794. However after a fire the current house was built in 1838, with gardens landscaped by Capability Brown, 2016 saw the 300th anniversary Capability Brown. The estate is still owned by the Kennaway Family today, and other than Beautiful Days Festival and Wildwood it has segways, quadbikes and plays host to weddings and conferences.
Anyway, I digress, Vicky and I set off from home to catch the 8.14am train from Torre Station in Torquay to Feniton, which should take about 2 hours and was great value at just £13.40 return for both of us, however once we were on the train going along the breathtaking Rivera Line passing through Teignmouth, Dawlish, past Powderham Castle onto Exeter, it started snowing – which is a very rare occasion here in Devon. While we were on the train I called the two taxi companies I had phone numbers for, the first said they were too busy to collect us from Feniton to take us to Escot, and the 2nd told me that it would be £20 for the 2.5 mile journey as the taxi would have to come from Honiton. So Vicky and I decided to walk instead, which was no biggie to us as we don’t own a car and I can’t drive so we are pretty used to walking distances. Once we arrived at Exeter St Davids to change trains, we found out we had to take a rail replacement coach, which was a luxurious Mercedes coach. the nearer we got to Feniton, the more it was snowing, which was worrying as I was concerned that if the snow settled they would stop the coaches and we could be stranded.
We arrived after at Escot after 45 minute walk from Feniton Train Station, feeling a bit chilly and a bit wet, although the snow had turned to rain, and did stop eventually. We made our way into Wildwood through the walled garden, to the sound of lots of children obviously having fun in the Beech Tree Maze. Our first stop was the Saxon village which was really interesting to see with buildings, with animal skins hanging up and a glimpse into what life would have been like.
After that we took the path through the woods to see the animals, unfortunately we didn’t see many of the animals as they were all hiding from the rain and the cold, so we were a little disappointed, but there are Lynx, Wildcats, Wild Boar, Red Squirrels, amongst others that are all native or former native species, but we did get to see the birds of Prey, which were pretty spectacular. The children’s play areas also looked like they would be great fun in better weather, although I couldn’t resist having a go on the pirate ship! Another lovely part was seeing the spring flowers coming out, and contrast of the silver birch bark against a background of red rhododendrons coming into flower.
After a good explore, the cold and wet got the better of us and we made for the cafe to warm up with some lunch (sausage roll and chips for Vicky and cheesy chips for me) and Hot Chocolates with cream of course! The cafe was busy with some of the families we had seen in Wildwood as well as some other groups who had obviously been on the quadbikes. but the staff were friendly and attentive and the cafe was good value.
By this point, with our wet feet, and still rather concerned about the journey home, we decided it was probably best to make our way back to Feniton and the train home. The journey home turned into another interesting event, as we were pretty cold from our wet feet, we decided to see if we could hitch hike to the rail way station (well we’re in the middle of nowhere and it was only 2 miles to the station). We were picked up by a nice lady who was in a rush to go to Honiton so she dropped us off at Honiton Railway Station and we jumped straight on the coach back to Exeter and Molten Hot Chocolate from Starbucks #JustWhatWeNeeded!
So plus points of Wildwood are that:
- It is great for families, especially with their great value monthly membership
- Great day trip for school groups
- Its uncommercialized (so kids aren’t asking you to spend money every 2 seconds. Any parent will know what I mean!)
- The Yurt Camp which is great for school/youth groups for stay for residential trips
- The wildlife (when it comes out to say hello!)
- The native species planting
- The maze
- The Saxon village
- Signs of spring arriving on a cold and wet day
The downsides for us, was definitely the weather, and that it isn’t too easy to get to by public transport, however Vicky and I both agreed that it would be great to go back on a drier and warmer day!
So Wildwood we will be back! But with friends in a car on a drier day! However that said, sometimes the days that don’t go quite to plan are always the more memorable ones!