Beardies & bouncy pillows: The perfect recipe for family fun
It wasn't the nicest of days, but I had promised the kids a visit to Cockfields Farm, and never one to break a promise (Okay, I just couldn't face the moaning), we headed along to see what was on offer.
When my eldest two children were young, we spent a lot of time at the farm. There's something about getting kids and animals together that makes for an exciting and somewhat unpredictable day out. I have to admit though, that now they're both at school, farms seemed to have dropped off the radar. Keen to rectify this, I brought my now 11, 9 and 5 year old (who has not had nearly enough farm visits in her little life) along to Cockfields Farm to see what we had been missing.
It turns out that we've been missing quite a lot. Despite the weather, it was half term and there was a Harry Potter event on too, so the farm was very busy. Happily, there is a good sized free car park at Cockfields Farm, so we were able to park straight outside and head on in for some animal antics. At the till, we could pick up some animal feed and I would definitely recommend doing so, as feeding the animals was definitely a highlight for my three. The most important thing to point out is that a lot of the fun is undercover, so never let the weather put you off visiting. Even when it's raining, there's still plenty to do at the farm.
The reptiles are housed in the main building, along with a huge tortoise, which the kids can help wash with a toothbrush. You won't want to miss that, as the kids really enjoyed it. Also to be found in the main building is a large cafe, a toddler area with a few ride-ons and a lovely pretend play area, with shops and a small reading area; perfect for the little ones. It's warm too, so if you want to thaw out, it's a great place to settle down for a coffee whilst the kids play.
When you first get to Cockfields Farm, make sure you check the board which can be found near the entrance leading to the main barn. Here you will see the various activities kids can get involved in during their visit; from holding the reptiles and grooming the rabbits, to meeting a hedgehog. If you're planning on visiting, make sure you get there nice and early to make the most of your visit and to ensure you don't miss out on any of the activities. I found the staff to be knowledgeable and ready to share facts about the animals with the children. It was plain to see how much the staff cared about the animals there.
My kids were impatient to use their animal feed, so we sprinted straight on through to the goats, llamas, and pigs, who were all housed in the main barn. We spent a happy half an hour there, whilst my littlest bonded with the goats. She loved watching their cheeky antics and my son thought that one goat was particularly hilarious, as he had a penchant for eating their paper bags.
Learning everything there is to know about Bearded Dragons
For those who prefer the cute and fluffy animals, there were lots of smaller animals to see too in the pets' corner, and throughout the day, families can get hands-on with rabbits, goats and guinea pigs. My 11 year old's favourite thing ever was getting up close and personal with Bernie the Bearded Dragon; I honestly thought he was going to bring him home with us.
In the outside area, there is a huge bouncy pillow, which my kids all loved and spent absolutely ages jumping away all that excess energy. In fact, the only way I was able to get them off was with the promise of some food. Also in the outside area was a play area and little ride-on tractors which proved a hit with all ages. Yes, even my 11 year old was determined to have a go.
The cafe is large and offers a range of basic food which is perfect for kids; from paninis and toasties, to hot dogs and jacket potatoes. Lunch bags are also on hand too if you want to keep it simple, or if you're really hungry, you can pick up a full English breakfast. When the weather is nicer, you might prefer to bring your own picnic and there is an outdoor picnic area which you can make use of too.
When you leave, you exit via a shop, which offers a good range of pocket-money toys, ideal for a little souvenir of your day.
The perfect place to take a break from the animal antics
When I asked the kids at the end of the day whether they had enjoyed themselves, they all answered with a resounding yes. Despite all the Harry Potter events available on the day we visited, which were fabulously creative and well organised, when I asked what their favourite things to do was, I was surprised that it was the simpler things they enjoyed the most such as holding the bearded dragon, riding the tractors, feeding the goats and jumping on the bouncy pillow. A day at the farm is a must for all ages, and a great chance to teach children about caring and respecting for all animals, so matter how big or small.
At the time of writing, admission to Cockfields Farm costs £7.95 for adults and children, and under 1s go free. Special events cost slightly more. They also offer children's parties, and run special events throughout the year, including their incredibly popular Christmas event, where the children can meet Father Christmas and his elves and take part in some exciting festive activities. Families can also hunt for Easter eggs at its Easter event and pick and carve their own pumpkins at Cockfields Farm's Halloween events. For more details about these events and more, check out the Cockfields Farm website here.