Wildlife Walks at Stover Country Park Nature Reserve, Newton Abbot by Lauren heath
Since becoming a parent, as with many facets of life, your eyes are opened wider and your interests altered. Never would I have known that I would appreciate nature so much, but of course teaching your mini-me about the world and seeing it through their eyes, you begin to really appreciate the greatness of even the smallest worm, bird or animal. Then there are walks; I love a walk. The freedom it gives to the whole family is priceless, as there are generally no rules. None of the “don’t touch that”, “be quiet” and so on. It’s a no-holds-barred outing, burning off their never-ending energy whilst meeting the needs of our tired, work-trodden souls. Anyway – cue Stover Park.
Stover Country Park contains over 114 acres of woodland, heathland, grassland, lake and marsh and a substantial variety of wildlife. It is a site of special scientific interest meaning it is protected by law to conserve its wildlife and geology.
The Park features a Nature Interpretation Centre which is situated near the entrance of the park and consists of a visitor centre, classroom, rangers’ office and public toilets.
Additional recreation resources include interpretation boards, aerial walkway, a bird hide, a car park and picnic areas. There is also a wealth of historical interest. – © Devon County Council, Stover Country Park Page
Just off the A38, as you turn off the roundabout to Trago Mills, Stover Park is just along a few hundred yards on the left. As you enter, you’ll see the parking meters ahead of you, then you fork either left or right where you’ll find a good amount of forest parking spread out into a few sections. The meter takes coins, or you can pay with card on the usual phone app or number. It costs £1.50 for 2 hours or £3 for all day (sunrise to sunset). Permits can be obtained for £24 a year with revenue from car parking going directly to projects in the Park.
We find 2 hours is a perfect amount of time, although if there are a few of you, or the children want to play lots in the forest, you may need longer. There is a small visitor centre with good displays and toilets next door. These are the only loos, so if the little ones need to go, get it out the way first.
The walk is a natural path with minimal incline and is a lovely mix of forest areas circumnavigating a large lake full of water birds including the usual ducks, swans, coots, moorhens but also cormorants quite often.
Along the way, there are plenty of interesting small areas – an area of forest with wooden seating and carved animals, a pond area rife with dragonflies, and a gushing waterfall as the river runs out towards the perimeter. Then our favourite bit – the hanging bird feeder on the aerial walkway; if you follow the wooden boardwalk up into the trees, children will find interest in the many carvings in the wooden ‘railings’ along with some poetry. But the pièce de résistance is at the top of the horseshoe-shaped wooden platform, where you will find a bird feeder hanging high above the ground, inundated with blue tits, robins, nuthatches and finches. If you’re lucky enough, one of the many cheeky little birds (especially the very curious robin) will hop towards you if you sit still enough whilst admiring the busy goings-on.
If you look down below on the forest floor, you will see plenty of squirrels, well…squirrelling away. We have also seen mice and rats below along with a jay, woodpecker and birds of prey above. Again, if you can sit quietly enough, the squirrels will come up the tree trunks and onto the decking. People tend to bring bird food and peanuts with them to put in crevices or hold in their hands in the hope the animals and birds will brave it onto their palms. I honestly could sit here for ages just watching. The photography opportunities here are vast too, especially if you have a good camera and long lens.
The path is fairly level all the way around and, even though it doesn’t affect us, I have noted how it seems very accessible – for prams, wheelchairs and young or old legs. The only incline is the wooden boardwalk up to the bird and squirrel feeding area. This is a very accessible route for all, with benches placed intermittently along the way for resting if needed.
The map below is from the website, but I have edited it to show you the route we take. You don’t have to walk down to the waterfall and back (approx. an additional 10 – 15mins walk) but as it follows the river, you may see a kingfisher if you’re lucky.
The whole route is around 1 ½ to 2 miles I believe; it doesn’t feel long or strenuous thanks to the level path, beautiful surroundings and wildlife catching yours and the little ones’ attention.
The only thing to note is that, even though there are picnic benches, there is no food offering apart from the occasional ice cream van in the summer. So definitely pack a picnic, or plan to visit a great Devon pub or café nearby.
You can find out more information on Stover Country Park Page on Devon County Council website.
Stover Country Park
About the Author: Lauren Heath
Lauren moved to Devon in 2012 with her husband and their son. She is an admin professional by day and food blogger by night – being co-editor for Dining Devon as well as a guest writer for Crumbs Magazine. She was delighted to have been one of Exeter’s 100 Most Influential Women in early 2018 and prides herself on her excellent ability to network and connect people.
Lauren loves Devon for the local food scene of course, but also the fact you can literally venture anywhere, coast or land, and as a family they enjoy bike rides and beach walks, even in the winter! She especially loves the water, as it is reminiscent of her childhood in Cape Town, South Africa.Tags: Devon, family days out, stover park, things to do with kids