Wake up! It's time to give the animals their breakfast

The grown-ups want a break, the toddlers want action. In Cornwall, Jason Nissé finds that both are possible
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The Independent Travel

The animals start moving across the field around 8am. The two donkeys, four sheep and a small herd of highland cattle vie for the best positions next to the fence. They know that soon the morning ritual of animal-feeding at Glynn Barton Cottages will begin.

The children arrive just before 9am. Even outside the peak of the tourist season, the eight cottages on this estate in Cornwall are chocka with families, tempted by Glynn Barton's mix of child-friendly facilities - from an indoor pool, to a playground, to a games room, and a collection of toddler toys and videos. But perhaps the pièce de résistance is animal-feeding.

Andy Orr, who runs the place with his wife, Lucy, emerges with a bucket of feed in one hand, and his son, Duggy, three, clasping the other. Andy puts the bucket down, and eager mites dig in. The sheep and cattle will eat the food from a child's hand. The donkeys need to be treated with a little more care - tiny fingers look a lot like food pellets to them.

Once this mixed herd is fed it is a short tramp up the hill to the pigs and chickens. Two kunekune pigs from New Zealand squeal with delight as the gaggle of toddlers approaches, clutching pig nuts and apples which are dispatched over the fence into the animals' field. Then it's on to the poultry - ducks and chickens scamper around as small children throw bird feed at them. After that comes a search for new-laid eggs in the chicken coops. Any spare ones are handed to the tiny guests to take home to Mummy for her breakfast.

The animal-feeding takes only about half an hour. But it transforms the whole day's routine at Glynn Barton. The children are taken out of the cottages just at the point when their parents are desperate for a few minutes for a shower and to pack the bags for the day's trip out. Having said that, one parent should go too - it is not advisable to send your toddler on his or her own; Andy has enough trouble keeping Duggy in check.

Once out of the cottage, you can easily tempt your offspring into another half hour running around the fields or swinging in the playground. The daily ritual cuts down the stress of holidaying with small children.

The same can be said for Glynn Barton as a whole. The cottage complex, overlooking a stunning valley at Cardinham, about five miles outside Bodmin, has been completely renovated by the Orrs since they arrived from London four years ago. The cottages have always been popular with families but now Glynn Barton is being targeted specifically at the under-fives market.

This is a fast-growing, but still rather undernourished sector. Groups such as Luxury Family Hotels, which includes the superb Moonfleet Manor in Dorset, are tapping into a lucrative vein, providing crèches, toys and all manner of entertainments (though a week at one of the group's hotels would probably cost so much you'd have to sell the child). But if you are looking for the sort of charm you get from English Country Cottages, with an added something to entertain the kids, there is still little to chose from.

For a parent, Glynn Barton is almost ideal. Bodmin is bang in the middle of Cornwall. Half an hour's drive will get you to the beaches of Rock, Polzeath, Gorran Haven or Par, the culinary delights of Padstow, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the Bodmin and Wenford steam railway, Bodmin Moor or the Eden Project. It is only 45 minutes to Newquay with its surfer dudes and (more importantly for children) a small but well-stocked aquarium. St Ives and the famous harbour at Mousehole can be reached in an hour.

But what gives Glynn Barton the edge is not what you can get to if you go out - it is what is there at the complex. Large, comfortable and newly renovated units can sleep up to seven, cots can be provided, babysitters can be booked. The Orrs have even arranged for Tesco.com to deliver to the estate. And if you are too lazy to cook, outside caterers can be booked to provide such delights as salmon en croûte and fisherman's pie.

Scenic grounds stretch to 13 acres - Andy was a garden designer back in south London. Two barbecue sites have been provided. This leads to a great deal of socialising among the guests, who will sit out drinking wine on warm evenings, while cocking their ears to their baby monitors.

For less clement conditions, a good selection of videos can be found in the games room, which features pool and table football, as well as a selection of toys. Better equipped is the "vehicle park", which has toddlers' cars, tricycles and a digger to ride on. A playground with swings, slides and a climbing frame has just been added. And recently the Orrs have built a roof over the swimming pools, so that when it is tipping it down outside (as it is wont to do in Cornwall) you have a good alternative to the beach.

So are there any downsides? The place is a little polite, though if you have small children do you want raucous? It may also be a bit off the beaten track for some. And then there is the cost. Regulars say that because the Orrs have upgraded the facilities, the prices have more than kept pace. A week's stay during high season at the large cottages will set you back £1,200.

But tired and happy children are what you get for your money. Which, as any parent knows, is the perfect combination.

GIVE ME THE FACTS

Where to stay

Glynn Barton Cottages (01208 821375; www.glynnbarton.co.uk), Cardinham, Bodmin, Cornwall, cost from £320 per week to hire.

What to see

The Lost Gardens of Heligan (01726 845100; www.heligan.com).

Bodmin and Wenford Steam Railway

(0845-125 9678; www.bodminandwenfordrailway.co.uk).

Bodmin Moor (www.bodminmoor.co.uk).

The Eden Project (01726 811911; www.edenproject.com).

Newquay Blue Reef Aquarium (01637 878134; www.bluereefaquarium.co.uk).

Further information

North Cornwall Tourism (01208 76616; www.north-cornwall.com).

Cornwall Tourist Board (01872 322900; www.cornwalltouristboard.co.uk).

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