Take the kids to … The Miniature Pony Centre, Devon | Travel

Take the kids to … The Miniature Pony Centre, Devon | Travel

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In a nutshell

This former cattle farm in Dartmoor national park is home to 69 equines and a host of farm animals, birds and creepy-crawlies. You don’t have to be horsey to enjoy it as there’s stacks of stuff to do, much of it – the mini ride-on tractors, soft-play centre, and playhouse – geared to primary-aged children and younger. This went down well with my kids (five and eight). Every half hour or so, a wellie-wearing staffer rings a bell to invite visitors to activities, such as pony-grooming, a gymkhana display or petting time with guinea pigs, mice and rabbits. This gave our day structure and momentum, and the kids – who’d not studied the chalkboard schedule as I had – pricked their ears for the “surprise” activity each time they heard the bell.

Fun fact

Shetland pony Rosemary, the smallest equine on site, has dwarfism and measures a mere 26 inches (66cm). At 70 inches (178cm), draught horse Harris, a Suffolk Punch, is the centre’s tallest resident.



Neigh bother … kids can get close to the animals at the centre

Best things about it

The prospect of a homemade cream tea (£4.65) at the cafe, while taking in views across Dartmoor, already had me champing at the bit. For my children, the close-up encounters with the animals and the freedom to explore the playground apparatus dotted around the grassy site, satisfied their curiosity – and need to run off some energy. They were particularly taken with the zip-wire, trampolines and the indoor climbing centre in a converted barn near the entrance. A stabled white pony dressed up as a multi-coloured unicorn drew only a passing, baffled look, however.

What about lunch?

You can picnic at benches around the site. However, we had simple, tasty food at the on-site Paddock View Cafe. Its low prices added to the homely feel of the place: beans on toast (£1.75) and a cheese sandwich (£1.80) arrived swiftly and sorted both kids out. The grownups went for jacket potatoes (from £4.95). There are also wraps, panini and baguettes served with crisps and salad (£4.75 to £6.25). All of it can be washed down with lemonade produced at Luscombe, just across the moor.

A children's entertainer performs to crowds of visitors at the Miniature Pony Centre, Devon, UK.



The centre has picnic benches, and children’s entertainers across the site

Exit through the gift shop?

The shop is also the ticket office, so there’s no avoiding it. There’s a proliferation of small plastic ponies and fluffy pink unicorns, which my five-year-old was quite drawn to, but there are also attractive sticker books and spotter’s guides that might occupy children for longer.

Getting there

The centre is on the B3212, close to Moretonhampstead, about 45 minutes’ drive from Exeter and around an hour from Torquay and Plymouth. Bus services are limited and the nearest railway station is Okehampton, around 20 miles away.

Value for money?

We had a day’s worth of stuff to do, so felt it was fairly priced. Children under three go free, while it’s £7.95 for 3-16s and £8.95 for adults. A family ticket is £32 (two adults and two children). The £2 pony rides are rather underwhelming, although my children loved the rosettes each rider receives. Rain during your visit entitles you to a free return (within seven days) – just ask for a ticket.

Opening hours?

From late March to late October it’s open seven days a week, from 10.30am to 4.30pm (10am-5pm in August).

Verdict

The friendly centre, with its cheerful, green environment to run around in and lively choice of indoor and outdoor activities, impressed us. “I will never get bored of it,” my five-year-old declared. We are now season card holders. For kids aged 2-10, it’s a 9/10.

miniatureponycentre.com


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