There’s something about places run by enthusiasts that is incredibly alluring, and both the South Devon Railway and the Rare Breeds Farm draw you in because of the dedication of the staff and volunteers. Together they make for a very enjoyable day out.
At Buckfastleigh station, staff will happily get out the ramp for wheelchair and small powered scooter users to board the steam train. There’s some commentary on the thirty-minute journey which takes you along the beautiful valley of the river Dart, passing fields of happy looking cows and even a bank of pixies! Assistance dogs can ride on the trains at a cost of £1 per dog. Once at Littlehempston it’s about one hundred yards along the platform and over the track to the Rare Breeds Farm. The welcome at the farm is instant and visitors are encouraged to get hands on. Children will love the ample opportunities to feed, pet and closely observe many animals including owls, rescued hedgehogs, seaweed-eating sheep, chickens and goats. Visitors can go into some of the enclosures too. This is not a massive site, and the paths are level and typically surfaced with bark chippings or short grass. Knowledgeable staff will happily give blind and visually impaired visitors more information about the animals. The pens have wide entry gates to accommodate wheelchairs and pushchairs: assistance dogs cannot enter the pens but can remain in the Garden Café area.
Back at Buckfastleigh station there’s a miniature railway, an accessible railway museum and a shop selling gifts and kit for model train enthusiasts. There is disabled parking at the station. It is possible to visit the Rare Breeds Farm directly, but you’ll have to pay to park at Totnes mainline station and then walk over five hundred yards along a tarmac cycle path to reach the site. There’s an accessible toilet in the Buckfastleigh station restaurant and another at Littlehempston station. There are no toilets at the farm, so remember to use the one at the station when you arrive or you’ll have a two-hundred-yard trip there and back.
Food & drink: The Garden Café at the farm is accessible and serves local produce whenever possible. On the train, certain coaches now have wheelchair access to the buffet car, and at Buckfastleigh station The Refreshment Rooms are accessible and spacious.