“ East Budleigh, Devon, EX9 7BJ. tel = 01395 568465 „
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, is a great visit, be it for an hour or 2 on a rainy miserable day or a whole day out on a nice day.
You arrive at the park near Sidmouth near Devon, there is plenty of parking spaces, and if you need to drop a member of your party of at the entrance you are able to do that, and they also have disabled parking, as well as overflow parking. The park is well sign , and easy to find.
You pass the entrance desk (which does have some pushchairs and wheelchairs for use) and you arrive directly into the gift shop, it sells a vast range of gifts, from toys, books, precious stones, hand made items and so on, though be prepared these items are over priced.
As you leave the guest house you come across plants and pots for sale and also a bookable children's party room.
In this top area you will also find a ice rink, though note this is synthetic ice and isn't as easy to skate on and keep upright as it is on a normal rink, i find the skates don't grip/grove the ice.
You will also find a railway station, the train will take you all around the park with one stop at a picnic area, kids love this but there is an additional charge for this.
There are beautiful ponds and gardens on site suitable for all ages.
You will discover the indoor play area, which has a bouncy castle, a large(ish) soft play are with slide ball pool and min death slide, there is also an area for under 5's, you can buy hot drinks from the vending machines and you can buy ice creams and milkshakes from the counter, and please note that you are not allowed to eat your own food inside this play area, only food and drink that you have purchased on site, this area is run by teenagers and don't tend to say anything to you anyway. This area can get very noisy and crowded and at peak times there isn't enough seating.
Outdoor play area with miniature houses, a maze, swings slides etc, loads of ground to picnic on as well as some picnic tables.
Bicton can appeal to all ages, go there for a stroll and feed the ducks or go their for the children's facilities, go there for an hour or spend the day.
If you local buy a membership, after going a couple of times you have got your moneys worth out of the membership fee.
Bicton also organises Music events.
Its not a theme park, but its a great day out for the kids.
Visiting & Membership
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens welcomes day visitors and also offers exceptional value annual membership packages.Daily Admission prices 2009
* Adults £6.95
* Children £5.95 Children under 3yrs free
* Concessions £5.95
* Dogs £1.00
* Adults £14.00
* Couple £27.00
* Concessions £12.00
* Double Concessions £23.00
* Family £38.00
* Grandparent Family £38.00
* Small Family £27.00
* Children can be added to family, small family and grandparent cards for £10.00
* If children become 3 years old within a membership year the cost to add them on will be £14.00 and expires on the end date of that membership.
Eco-friendly Ice Skating £2.00
Bicton Woodland Train Ride
Children 2-16 £1.30
Mini golf £1.00
Guided tours for groups by prior arrangement and at extra cost.
Bicton Park is easily found by following the brown tourist signs. From Junction 30 on M5, take the A3052 as far as Newton Poppleford, where you turn right onto the B3178. One mile (1.6km) beyond Colaton Raleigh, the Botanical Gardens are on your right, just past the Bicton College entrance.
Open all year
10am-6pm summer & 10am - 5pm winter
Shorter opening hours may apply during the Christmas/New Year period, and we are closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day
The other week we were on holiday in Devon, the weather was mostly horrible and having a 3 year old who hates being stuck indoors we knew we would have to find something interesting to do even if it meant we would would get wet!
I did a search on the internet and over and over I was finding that people were recommending Bicton Park which I had heard of but had always thought of it as somewhere for older people not young families!
When we got to the park we found a very large carpark, there is a designated area for disabled people and an overflow carpark.
There was a path leading to the main entrance which was very well sign posted. The first thing I noticed when we went through the doors was there were notices saying that people with picnics were welcome but you were not allowed to eat your food indoors in the cafe or in the Indoor play area.
We did not have to wait long to get our tickets and we went through the entrance which lead us straight into the gift shop, the cafe and toilets were also in the same area.
With it raining quite hard we decided that we needed to find either the indoor play area or the museum.
As we headed outside we found a garden centre where you could purchase plants and ornaments, we quickly went past this and headed for the museum.
I was not really expecting my son to enjoy the museum but he really surprised me and took a great interest in the old tractors and steam engines. There were also wagons, hay making machines and lots of old tools. I think what we all found very interesting was a 1831 hand-operated fire engine which my son thought was awesome!
Near the entrance is a train station it costs :-
* Children age 2-16 £1.30
* Adults £1.80
* Concession £1.50
The train station is really good it looks like a small train station and even has a ticket office which my son found very exciting as he was able to pay for his ticket. The train was blue in colour there were quite a lot of carriages and in each carriage is disabled access. The seats were wooden, the only downside to it was you could get wet as there was no glass in the door windows.
One thing that we really liked while waiting for the train to go was the old style adverts and on the platform was a luggage trolley which had some old style suit cases
The ride lasts 20-25 minutes and you get to see quite a lot of the park, we went past a big lake which was filled with ducks, the outdoor play area, lots of trees and the hermitage from a distance.
==Indoor Play Area==
Outside the play area is a covered seating area where we ate our lunch or at least tried to as my son decided he wanted to play! So we went inside where we found lots of seating, coffee and soft drinks machines and of course the play area!
My son took his shoes off and the first thing he did was play in the ball pit, then he noticed a twirly slide so he quickly went up the steps and down the slide.
One thing that my son really wanted to try was a very very big slide which had a steep slope, but for him to get to it he had to go over a little rope bridge, now my son hates any sort of rope bridge and at first refused to go over but eventually after watching other children he gave it a go and thought it was very funny to scare mummy whilst he went down the slide! After that he went on the slide at least 6 times until I said it was time to go and do other things.
It says the indoor play area is for under 12`s I would say it is more for the under 7`s and in fact there were a few older children there who were not impressed. There is a place for children to put their shoes, again notices all over the place saying that you are not allowed to eat your food inside and if you do you will be asked to leave.
There is also a bouncy castle which was not inflated and the snack bar was also closed.
==Outdoor play area==
There is a really good outdoor play area where you will find swings, slide tunnels and a really neat climbing frame with a slide. My son was too young to go up the climbing frame though he tried his hardest!
He did like climbing over the pirate ship and he loved playing in the little thatched play cottages. There was also a maze which we all went through but my son was not really impressed with it.
There is a self service cafe which sells everything from drinks, cakes and meals, we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful.We was expecting the cafe to be expensive but we bought a Milkshake, Ribena, pot of tea, ice lolly and cream scones for £7 which I think is very reasonable. We sat by a window and wow there was a wonderful view of the gardens and water fountain, even in the rain it looked so beautiful!
If you like gardens you will love Bicton as it has 62 acres which are full of flowers, beautiful lawns, a lake, waterfalls and fountains, statues and trees.
The Fernery & Shell House - this is a stone garden which had lots of ferns,stones and a little water fountain, we climbed some steps into the Shell House which I was a little bit dissapointed with as it was so dark! The lights just were not bright enough which is a pity as there were some wonderful sea shells all around the room.
You will find The Tropical House, The Arid House, The Palm House and The Temperate House. Each of these glasshouses look really awesome and are full of character and look just right in the gardens.
The Palm House - was built in the 1820's and has over 18,000 small pieces of glass pane. It of course contains some beautiful palm trees and I really recommend that if you visit Bicton to take a look in these glasshouses.
We had a look in the gift shop on our way out and I have to say it is quite expensive, you will find all sorts of things ranging from greeting cards, toys, mugs and books.
I was very impressed with the toilets as they were so clean you could smell the disinfectant!
==What do I think?==
I was very surprised at this park as I did not think there would be much there to keep my son entertained but we all loved it even in the rain!
The only downside is the notices about picnic food, I agree you should not eat your own food in a cafe but young families like us are more likely to turn up with picnic food knowing that cafes can be very expensive yet what are you supposed to do when it is pouring with rain? We were lucky as it was not busy the day we visited and so we are able to find a table outside the indoor play area which was covered, but had it been a bit busier we could have had a problem.
There were notices in the entrance but maybe the park needs to make it clear in their leaflets and website!
Admission prices 2009
* Adults £6.95
* Children £5.95 Children under 3yrs free
* Concessions £5.95
* Dogs £1.00
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
Tel: 01395 568465
Bicton Park is situated in East Devon, close to Budleigh Salterton, in the Otter Valley. Readers of some of my previous reviews will know that I'm keen on quieter (not too rowdy!) days out, and this seemed like an ideal outing. This sunny weekend just gone, we decided to take a picnic and explore the gardens.
On arrival there was plenty of free parking, admission to the park is £5.95 for children and concessions, and £6.95 for adults. This seems to be good value compared with other local attractions. I'm happy to tell you that Bicton are currently accepting Tesco Deals vouchers, meaning that this was another bargain day out for us!
When you have purchased tickets you are straight into the shop, which we decided to leave till later, and headed through out into the park itself. We were first greeted with an area in which a good range of garden pots were for sale, and a smaller range of plants. (Perhaps there would have been more plants if it had been another time of year, rather than the end of the summer season.)
The gardens span 62 acres of privately owned grounds, which are divided into several areas. One of the first gardens that we reached was the Italian Garden, which was laid out in 1735. Much of the other Historical Gardens date from the 19th Century. Not being avid gardeners or plant enthusiasts, we appreciated the surroundings from a very amateur standpoint - it certainly was beautiful, and peaceful too. Being a sunny weekend, the park was relatively busy, but out in the gardens it was possible to revel in the tranquility of the countryside. The cafe and play areas were noisier though!
Some attractions of note include the glasshouses, (especially the very attractive Palm House, in which it is possible to hold civil marriage ceremonies), St Mary's church (Queen Victoria is said to have worshipped there), and the Shell House. This last is a small rocky building, which houses an impressive collection of shells, collected in Victorian times. It was disappointing that all but one of the spot light bulbs needed to be replaced, we could see by the daylight, but the shells would have been much better showcased under spot lights.
After wandering the gardens for some time, we made our way to the picnic area situated next to a children's outdoor play centre. Picnicing is only encouraged in designated areas and absolutely no barbeques are allowed on the grounds. Had we not brought our own food, there was a snack bar here too, and a coffee shop serving light meals back next to the shop at the entrance. There were picnic tables provided, this area was fairly crowded. My son scrambled on the wooden adventure playground. There was also an all weather football pitch, but we did not investigate this, lured instead towards a trip on the park miniature train.
The train station is close to the entrance of the park, and there is an additional charge for this trip, of £1.80 for adults and £1.30 for children. Here too is an 'ice-less ice rink', where you can hire skates and rattle around on a small rink. This didn't appeal to us but there were some children, and one or two adults too, enjoying themselves. The train runs around the gardens and is reasonably entertaining, young children in particular might be impressed. There were no real surprises on the trip, and no voice over to explain any of the scenes we were passing. To be honest, if there had been we were unlikely to have heard it, as the train itself was very squeaky, and a lot of the children on board were squeakier still.
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens is open all year round, other than on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I do think it would be nice to visit at different times of year and see how the gardens change, this might be a good argument for buying a year pass. Although it describes it self as lots of fun for children all year round I think a rainy day would be a disappointment. The play areas would have limited appeal, especially the outdoor ones, and the rest of the park would not be much fun!
This is a place that I would recommend particularly if you need an outing for several generations of family, as there are things to interest all ages, but if entertaining children is the priority you'd be better off somewhere with more to do. Hiding amongst the trees and having acres to run about on does have it's advantages though! For us, we'll go back sometime, but a park with animals is more entertaining for my son, so we much prefer Escot or Cricket St Thomas.