When we were looking for days out in Devon, Haldon Forest popped out at us as it had all the wildlife and woodlands of a forest with the amenities of toilets, a cafe and a playground so we loaded up the car and headed there in the morning. Entry is free but you pay for the carpark which was about £7 for the whole day and less for a shorter time, quite reasonable for a day out. In non-Covid times there is a Julia Donaldson trail and we were a bit upset that it was closed during our visit as the children would have loved it. The office was closed too but there was a map of the trails on the wall and a sign encouraging you to take a photo on your phone to use instead.
Everything was well sign posted and the queues for food and the toilets were socially distancing well/ We decided to do the mid length walk as the children have a tendency to go off path exploring regularly and so any walk takes us a long time. There were separate trails for cycling and running, everything colour marked along the way and some paths were available for either.
Our path led us through the woodlands and there was so much to explore as we went. The forest was full of man made dens of varying sizes and we loved discovering them as we walked through. You could go quite far off the tracks but there were boundaries in place to make sure you didn’t get completely lost. Along the way we found plenty to play with including a huge wooden xylophone which the boys couldn’t get enough of. The day we chose was overcast and misty with light rain at times but it didn’t bother them one bit.
At one point we found signs explaining everything in front of us including a beautiful white tower but the fog was so low we couldn’t see any of it! I imagine the views are beautiful on a clear day though! There was plenty of insects to observe along the way and spots of colourful flowers amongst the trees. In the main area all the dogs were on leads but as we went into the forest we realised that dogs were allowed to roam free which did cause a few issues for us as some super friendly dogs bounded over and two of the boys are very afraid. I would say the forest isn’t the best place for dog-fearing children as the most friendly dogs usually didn’t have an owner in sight. For most of our walk this wasn’t a problem as despite the main area being quite busy, the walks were not, possibly due to the number of choices.
The forest is really well looked after and some areas were cordoned off as the new trees are growing and need to be protected from humans and animals. There was also lots of information about how sustainable the forest was and how much timber is produced which was fascinating.