A no car adventure with 1,000 years of history, boats, pubs, crepes, fantastic park, museum, goat walk, bird watching and even a Gone With the Wind connection – Topsham Treasure Trail – family day out near Exeter.
Topsham is one of our favourite days out and we often hop on the bikes and head off for a play at the amazing Recreation Ground, lunch in one of the many cafes and a mooch around the Quay. Sometimes though it’s good to see familiar places with a new eye and I love the way the Treasure Trails get to you pay more attention to the things around you and really engage the children in the local area.
It’s been a couple years since we completed the Topsham Treasure Trail so we decided to base our Sunday family day out around it. The Trails are A5 booklets with a series of clues to follow, guiding you as you walk or cycle around a set route. It’s almost impossible to get lost and they have a simple story to engage the children (this one is a tale of stolen treasure and pirates). You don’t need any special equipment, just a pencil and sharp eyes.
There are over 1,000 Treasure Trails covering the whole of the UK and they cost around £8. The Topsham Trail is 2 miles long over buggy friendly ground and takes about 2 hours to complete. We were out for a whole day though as we included a trip to the museum and park.
Topsham Treasure Trail – family day out near Exeter
As we weren’t convinced about the weather, we decided to leave the bikes behind and jump on the train. The Avocet Line is really beautiful and takes you through some glorious country and coast all the way to Exmouth. Our Devon and Cornwall railcard comes in handy, though I did have to cycle over to St David’s early in the morning to renew it. With the railcard, it’s about £6 return for a family of 4.
We started at St Thomas Train Station, which thanks to the Bloom In St Thomas Group is looking much smarter now. The trains are frequent, there are some lovely wildflower gardens with mosaics made by local school children and a big new local info board.
The train zips you through Exeter and it’s amazing to see just how many new houses have been built in the last 10 years but it’s good to see the allotments are still there.
Topsham train station is one of the prettiest in the area, with lots of lovely flower beds, including the obligatory wooden rowboat planted up. Leaving the station behind us, we started following the first clues and headed into Topsham proper. (So as not to spoil the fun if you’ve not done the Topsham Trail, I’ll only give highlights of our walk.)
After wending our way through the pretty streets, hunting for clues as we went, we passed some of our favourite haunts – Pebblebed Wines, the Passage House and the new to us Boathouse Creperie. Sadly we didn’t have time for a galette this time but we will certainly be back soon as it looked AMAZING.
Next stop was the Quay to admire all the boats and look out to sea. There are loos on the Quay as well as some seats so it’s a good place for a rest if you need a short stop.
Topsham Museum family visit
We then when off map for a while, as we paid a visit to Topsham Museum. This free museum really is a gem of a find. There a is a pretty garden to sit in and admire the estuary and a whole host of rooms to explore.
There are exhibitions about Topsham’s seafaring past, complete with a swan boat, a scale model of the town in the 1900s, as well as rooms decorated in various periods, including the gorgeous 17th Century bedroom and wartime kitchen.
There are a variety of activities for children – we went rat hunting! and the volunteer staff were truly welcoming, making it such a pleasure to visit as a family. And you’ll find the Gone with the Wind connection in the museum too.
RSPB Bowling Marsh Green family bird watching
Leaving the museum behind we picked up the Treasure Trail again. We walked along the repaired Goat Walk, admiring the views out to sea, before heading down the lanes to the RSPB nature reserve at Bowling Marsh Green. We indulged in a few choccie biscuits whilst twitching at the estuary view point and then rejoined the green lanes (do watch out for cars) to find the last few clues back in Topsham.
As we had dawdled quite a bit, we didn’t have time to go into the main RSPB hide but we did have a look at the nature garden. I’m not sure when this was redone but it’s looking amazing! So much for the children to explore and discover. I love the bike racks!
As you come back into Topsham, you’ll walk through some very pretty roads, with the evidence of the many cultural influxes clear to see in the architecture and European flavour to the streets.
Having completed the Treasure Trail, we headed down to the Recreation Ground for a play and a picnic. This has to be one of the best parks in the Exeter area. Lots and lots of grassy space to run around on, pirate ships, zip wires, slides, exercise equipment and seating for the grown ups as well as lovely river views. It’s one of those parks that caters for every age from tiny to teen.
And finally it was a short run back up to the train station and back to Exeter in time for tea having helped Captain John Henry Tilte find his lost treasure.
We loved our family day out in Topsham and hope you enjoy it too.
PS – if you enjoy no car adventures you might like to try some of these: