This weekend I went to River Dart Country Park with Nice Mum Raisa and our two boys who are both 2.
I had no idea what to expect so was very excited to see what the park had to offer. We filled my car with everything from wellies and waterproofs to bikinis and sun lotion and headed on our way.
We followed the sat nav which took us past a sign for the park raising much excitement in the car. About ten minutes later the sat nav announced we were at our destination, which appeared to be a dead end. We clearly were not the only ones relying on a sat nav as 3 other cars did as we did and turned around heading back towards the sign we’d seen. It wasn’t until we got back to the sign that we realised it was the actual park entrance. It had seemed to unassuming when we passed it and not grand enough to be the main entrance. We drove in and handed our tickets to a friendly staff member who gave us a map of the park and pointed us in the direction of the car park.
We parked up and headed to our first port of call – the toilets! We found the ladies but they had a step down to them and a sign outside saying they were not to be used as a baby change, so we ended up using the disabled toilet which was clean but not ideal. I expect they must have baby change facilities somewhere, but we couldn’t find them.
Our next stop was food. We opted for the on site restaurant, The Old Sawmill. The waitress who greeted us asked if we’d booked a table and when we said no she looked momentarily doubtful that they would be able to accommodate us, but moments later she found us a table and we were seated. In future I would call ahead and book as it clearly gets very busy in there. The menu has a good selection of choices for both adults and children. We ordered beef nachos, chilli bean nachos, a childrens burger which came with chips and peas, 2 x lime and sodas and an apple juice which all came to £29.00. I noticed after ordering that at the opposite end of the bar they were doing a carvery which I wouls have preferred, but there was no mention of it on our table or by the waitress so I didn’t realise until it was too late. The menu seemed quite pricey but the food was of high quality and thoroughly enjoyed by us. Antilop highchairs, my favourite kind of all, were available and a member of staff brought one to our table which I used when my son got fidgety. All in all it was a great meal, although if you’re after a cheap and cheerful day out I would suggest taking a picnic instead.
After fueling ourselves we decided to take a walk around the park before getting our things out of the car. Opposite the restaurant is a park which the boys enjoyed playing in, and there was a selection of owls on display which we had a look at. There was a sign offering the opportunity to hold an owl for £2 which I would have loved to do, but there was a bit too much of a queue for us to keep the boys waiting, but a great experience for those who got to do it.
We found ourselves wandering around quite a bit and had to go back to the car to retrieve the map which I’d forgotten in order to try to work out where we should be heading as there were no sign posts for anything. The map is very basic and we found ourselves trying to negotiate a lot of steps with 2 pushchairs and 2 toddlers which was far from easy. The steps took us to a narrow woodland path which is very bumpy and I found myself regretting my ill thought out footwear choice, this is no place for ballet pumps! I really struggled getting my Mclaren Quest stroller along the path and found it quite stressful , wishing I’d brought a sling instead. We later found a better path we could have used but with no signage we had no way of knowing about it until it was too late.
The first thing we found was the pirate ship which is a play area in a lake. We were not blessed with the greatest weather but I can imagine it looking fantastic in the sunshine. I instantly regretted leaving our towels and swimming things in the car but it was too far to go back and get them. Raisa braved the plank over to the ship while I stayed safely on dry land! Despite the grey day, there were lots of wetsuit clad children and adults enjoying the lake and its amenities.
The beach is a small sandy area perfect for toddlers. The water is separated from the big lake by a small barrier so you don’t have to worry about little ones going too deep and our boys loved paddling in the water and playing in the sand.
We then walked on through the woodland and discovered the fort and the Lilliput play area. Lilliput is a lovely park perfectly equipped for small children. There’s a great range of things to play on including a train, slide, seesaw and a childs zip wire which my boy thought was great. We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the park and the peaceful setting. It was great to see that there’s plenty for all ages to do here and not just for older kids.
After Lilliput we decided to try and find our way back to the car as it was starting to rain. We know there were lots of things we didn’t get to see or try there but lack of signage and time made it hard to get around everything, not to mention finding it hard getting around with strollers.
Before leaving we made a trip to the onsite shop which stocks a range of small camping equipment, gifts and snacks all at reasonable prices and the boys got treated to bug toys and lollipops before we set off home.
All in all we had a great day at River Dart Country Park. There was lots we didn’t get to see which was a shame and we really would have found it easier if the paths and amenities were signposted as that did make getting around for us very hard, but I would love to make a return visit on a sunnier day or perhaps for a camping trip as the park really does have a lot to offer all ages and is a lot of fun in a great peaceful setting. The site seems like its mostly aimed towards campers rather than day visitors, but you can certainly have a great time just going for the day.
We struggled to decide on a Nice Mum star rating for River Dart Country Park, with Raisa wanting 4 stars and me wanting 3 stars, so we’ve settled on a happy medium of 3.5 / 5 stars which would have been higher if there were baby change facilities and signage or better maps available.
More information on River Dart Country Park can be found on their website www.riverdart.co.uk and Nice Mum Card holders get £1 off admission up until 28th September.
Nice Mum Stars 3.5/5 ***