The Byes riverside buggy walk/cycle path to Sidmouth beach (via the playground and Mocha Café)
Livvie’s at that awkward age where she can’t (or more often, won’t!) walk for any great distance, but looks like an absolute giant in the pushchair which we’ve almost retired. But not quite – sometimes you just want to get from A to B without having to give a ½ mile piggy back (cue muddy boots all over your jacket!), and the basket underneath the buggy is an undeniably handy storage trolley!
With all this in mind I still need to hunt out the odd buggy-friendly walk, or walk manageable with little legs in tow, and besides, the routes will soon become great territory to take bikes and scooters when the girls have finally worked out how to steer and brake without being an absolute hazard to passing pensioners.
This morning we tried the Sidford to Sidmouth seafront route, which follows a river through some seriously pretty parkland called The Byes, and it ticked all boxes – buggy friendly (tarmac path), bike/scooter friendly, dog-friendly (not that we have a dog but you might!); just under a mile in each direction with a playground, loos and the beach at the end (plus plenty of options for the obligatory coffee/snack stop).
Apparently you can make this walk a little longer if you park near the Social Club Hall (EX10 9QX) and join the cycle path to the right of the Salty Monk restaurant in Sidford, but a half-hour leisurely walk in each direction suited us today and we opted to start our walk a little further down the route from Livonia Road on the outskirts of Sidmouth. Parking here is free but it’s a residential road so I was mindful not to block any driveways etc, and we picked up the walk/cycle path on the bend of the road next to the wooden gates.
The route isn’t brilliantly signposted, but the trick is to find your way to the river – so take the right-hand pathway at the start point on Livonia Road – and just keep alongside the river the whole way as that will take you to the finish point at the playground right alongside the striking red cliffs at Sidmouth seafront.
On the way the river tumbles over rocks and there’s a waterfall at the weir near the Toll House as you near Sidmouth. It’s perfect territory for young scooters and cyclists (so long as your kids are relatively competent as I’d currently be a bit nervous of my two accidentally steering their way over the edge!).
At the Toll House just beyond the weir you cross the road and take the quiet street almost directly opposite - the only point in the walk that’s shared with traffic - then cross the wooden bridge over the ford (Livvie enjoyed watched the cars plough through the water!). From there you take a slight left alongside a terrace of houses in the direction of the sea – I think it was signposted ‘SW Coast Path Diversion’) - and you’ll arrive at the kids’ playground.
The playground is great for kids up to about age 12, with a zip wire, climbing frames, swings (including baby swings) and a slide, but after a rather cold 15 minutes in the rain I was ready to coax Livvie away with the promise of a snack and a glass of milk at a café.
We walked a short way along the seafront promenade (passing the public loos on the way) and found a café called Mocha on the corner of the highstreet. It was a great find - we had a really nice cooked breakfast and coffee, there’s a kids’ lunch menu (a bargain at £5.95 for age 12 & under), and highchairs/changing facilities for those visiting with younger tots - open 7 days a week.
That was us done for the day but if you want to extend your visit to Sidmouth there’s lots to do with the family – wander down to the far end of the prom and there’s great rockpooling to be had at low tide in between Jacob’s Ladder beach and what I’m going to call the ‘main’ Sidmouth beach that you can see from the main drag.
There are also some nice landscaped gardens to wander through at Connaught Gardens, and if you’ve not seen the cakes at The Clock Tower café yet then you really must, the chocolate cakes look like the massive one Miss Trunchbull eats in the film Matilda, and the views are pretty special. For a crafty / wet weather activity check out the newly-opened Something Lovely Pottery which occupies pop-up venues in the town - looks perfect for arty kids or for something a bit more structured.