• With Kids in the Westcountry

Pick Your Own fruit and a quintessential cream tea at Royal Oak Farm, Cotleigh (nr Honiton)

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

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Updated for Summer 2020: COVID-19

Pick Your Own fruit is BACK, at Royal Oak Farm near Honiton, 10am-4pm Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays - the perfect family outing to avoid the crowds and make the most of this beautiful rural location. Visitors are asked to bring their own containers and sanitise their hands using the hand sanitiser on arrival, and to respect the 2m social distancing rule at all times. Strawberries and gooseberries are available from Sat 13th June 2020, with blackcurrants and raspberries following a few weeks afterwards. Visitors are advised to check fruit availability before they visit, especially early in the season, in case they've all been picked! Send them a message via their Facebook page.

The tea room and shop are currently closed (June 2020) but cream teas are available to pre-order, collect and takeaway - soon to be joined by an afternoon tea takeout offering in time for Father's Day.

Looking forward to later in the year, PYO pumpkins will be ready in autumn!

Original post: June 2019

Sitting in the pretty garden with a cup of tea in a dainty china teacup this morning, I really couldn’t have felt more English if I’d tried. After a very busy Saturday (TWO kids’ pool parties back to back with two non-swimmers, mannnn – they were amazing but lifeguard duty can be a tense affair!), we were ready to escape the crowds and enjoy a slice of peaceful Sunday heaven at Royal Oak Farm today.

Set just off the ‘seven mile straight’ (Old Chard Road) in the Blackdown Hills between Axminster and Stockland, this is one of my favourite places to visit in June/early July because, alongside the tearoom, café and mini farmshop, it’s also a Pick Your Own fruit farm. There's lots to pick throughout the year including strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants according to what’s in season – check the Royal Oak Farm website to see what’s ready to harvest.

Evidently not put off by my experience of strawberry picking earlier in the week (I posted briefly about Livvie deciding to wash the first crop of our own home-grown strawberries in the water of the downstairs toilet…) we set the girls loose in the polytunnels with the challenge of seeking out only the best, juiciest and ripest strawberries and raspberries, which they took very seriously and helped stretch out the activity for a good twenty minutes. You can bring your own containers or take one from the little shop, but remember not to gobble too many (any) on your way around as that is cheating!!

Besides, you need to save yourself some room for treats from the café afterwards. Punnets full, we paid for them in the shop, which stocks a range of farm shop produce including meats, veg and preserves as well as a variety of potted plants, before heading into the beautiful tea gardens for a refuel.

(First two photos above - credit Royal Oak Farm)

Lunch is served from 12-2 seven days a week, with a daily special (mainly sandwichey-type things – today’s special was a crab sandwich), toasties, baguettes and ploughmans on offer. Since it was only 11.20 we settled for one of Royal Oak Farm’s highly reputed cream teas which came with generous helpings of cream and two different types of home-made jam (only fitting for a fruit farm) – and it was delicious! Not massive though, it was dainty like the chinaware.

The gardens are beautiful and feel very traditional and quintessential with climbing roses and tables under shady trees, as well as a marquee with extra seating for cooler/rainier days or for those who want a break from the sun. You can also sit inside in the traditional tea room – lovely and cosy next to the huge inglenook fire in the winter – or a cooler place to eat on a hot day. I noticed that most of the indoor tables were reserved today for lunch so booking is advised.

The girls made some friends and had fun climbing trees and doing handstands in the enclosed garden for a refreshingly long time, giving us a chance to enjoy the beautiful countryside views and a silver cafetiere of coffee.

Whilst there wasn’t a specific kids’ menu there was plenty of safe lunch favourites to choose from - we shared a couple of toasted sandwiches between the four of us (£6.45 each), and children have plenty of space to play on the lawn, though I wouldn’t describe the indoor tearoom as particularly child-friendly as it’s small and enclosed. Better to visit on an outdoorsy day if you’ve got energetic younger ones, I’d say.

Baby changing facilities are available next to the ladies’ toilet. Thinking about it from an access point of view, you could easily take a pushchair over the grass in the fruit picking areas but there’s a set of about 5 steep steps down into the shop and tea garden – but once you’ve lifted the chariot over those, you’d be fine from there on.

The girls had picked approximately ten thousand strawberries so when we got home, we set about whizzing them up with the blender and made strawberry ice cream milkshakes to make best use of the fruit, sticking the leftover mixture in a couple of those make-your-own ice lolly moulds and chucking them in the freezer for tomorrow.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the crowded coastline this summer and want to discover a hidden bit of Devon, do check out Royal Oak Farm – you can follow them on Facebook or visit their website to stay up to date.