Last week I had some running around to do, and on the way back from Moretonhampstead with my sister and our three littlies was wondering where we could take them for an hour or so as we had stuck them in the car for a while and felt bad about it. Having missed the signs for the miniature pony centre I remembered The House of Marbles. I had visited last winter to take Abi and a friend to Santa’s Grotto. On that occasion we didn’t really venture outside as the weather was frigid but I remembered the handy play area and thought it was worth a visit.
The House of Marbles is a working glass and games factory that offers lot to do and see, and I calculated that as long as we could get the kids safely past the glassware it would be fun for them, interesting for us, and cheap as there is no entry fee (just a shop chock full of temptation!) The site is just a small part of what used to be a pottery, and there is a pottery museum on site which includes a model showing what the whole site used to look like. Some of the kilns remain, and the architecture shown in the photo I used for Silent Sunday (left) has generated a lot of interest. There are also collections of glass, games and marbles, with the last being my favourite of the museum collections. They have some gorgeous and some less attractive but impressively old marbles on display.
The kids adored the various marble runs, especially the ones they could press the buttons to set off. Abi was also fond of the giant marbles inside. The sign asked that no one sat on them but no mention was made of hugging them!
The most nerve-wracking part of our visit, but very interesting and worth trying to herd the girls through the showroom without knocking anything over for was Teign Valley Glass shop. You can watch the craftsmen (and women) creating beautiful items in the glass workshop from a mezzanine above it. The heat was a bit much on a hot summer day but watching the glass blowing was fascinating, and it was hard to leave the shop without a purchase in hand. I might have to go back and buy some of their beautiful Christmas tree ornaments.
The inside was negotiated with the promise of a play outside if they were good. The outdoor games garden is attractive and a lovely spot to have a drink or something to eat from the restaurant. There is a giant floating marble centre piece, a couple of games involving marbles, giant chess and jenga and the most beloved part, a play park structure. It’s all set out on a suitably bouncy play park surface and is pretty well contained so we could stand back and let the girls play for a while as we enjoyed the sun!
My sister and I were able to spend a bit of time browsing in the shop, which stocks a range of beautiful things from clothes and furniture to toys and games. Of course the main attraction in the shop is the display of marbles, and there was no way we could leave without buying the girls some. Armed with a small amount of money each we helped the girls choose some marbles and they were very proud of themselves taking their selections and their coins to the counter and paying for them themselves.
As a kid I had loads of marbles and always looked out for really pretty ones, but they were nothing compared to the offerings here (I know that for sure as I still have a lot of mine and have compared) They offer a range of sizes and so many beautiful styles and colours. This picture simply doesn’t do them justice! Marbles are such a simple pleasure and there are lots of games you can play with them that I’m more than happy to encourage a collection of them.
It turned out that visiting The House of Marbles was a bit of a brainwave on my part. We were there for well over an hour, there was plenty to hold the girls’ interest but also things for us mums too. Had we arrived around lunchtime and had something to eat too we could have killed most of the afternoon there. It’s rare to find somewhere that offers such a range of things to do without having to pay an entry fee, and if you don’t get pleas for the more expensive toys you can escape with only a small dent in the wallet for a few marbles. We’ve definitely put it on our list of places to visit with the kids.