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Short Breaks from Bristol

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Ever needed to just get away, but you can't go for too long? Please tell us about your short breaks away (e.g. day trips, road trips or weekend breaks), whether it be for ultimate relaxation, or to be active and practice hobbies you may have (fishing,

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      23.08.2005 11:17
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      A good family fun day out near Bristol

      My Dad, my step-mum and my little sister came over to see us last weekend. Beth (ickle sis) will be five years old next month, so there are almost thirty-one years between us and in fact, my four children are older than she is! So Beth is Auntie to kids aged nine, twelve, thirteen and fourteen!

      So Beth is at an age where she really needs to get out and about and run off some of that energy, so we wanted to go out somewhere local for the day and were trying to find places that fulfilled certain criteria.

      1) They had to be fairly near. My Dad had driven for most of the day before.
      2) They had to be reasonably priced, as eight of us would be going.
      3) There had to be somewhere there to eat, as we’d need a meal there.
      4) There had to be animals there and specifically rabbits for my nine-year-old daughter, Viki.
      5) There had to be enough to do there for several hours.

      Looking on the Internet for attractions around Bristol (where we live), I discovered HorseWorld, which seemed to tick all the boxes.

      • It is situated in Whitchurch which is south of Bristol, so it wasn’t too long a drive.
      • You can get a family ticket (two adults, two kids) for £18.50, which was within our budget. (We needed two family tickets!)
      • There is a Tea Room where you can buy drinks, snacks and meals.
      • There are lots of animals! Besides the 160-ish horses and donkeys, there are cows, goats, sheep, an array of birds, a pot-bellied pig, guinea pigs and – most importantly! – rabbits!
      • It is open seven days a week in the peak season from 10am to 5pm, which means you can stay for a good few hours. The website also shows there are plenty of things to do, especially if it’s a dry day, as it was when we went.

      We ended up spending only three or four hours at HorseWorld as my eldest daughter had to be back by 4pm, but you could easily spend the seven hours there, to get the most out of your ticket money. We hadn’t really had time to do everything we wanted to and the kids weren’t ready to leave yet.

      So, how did our day go and what did we do there? More importantly, did we all enjoy ourselves and were all our varied needs catered to? After all, we had little Beth to please and at the other end of the age range, my Dad recently turned sixty, so how would the old boy fare? (Actually, he was probably the fittest adult in our group!)

      After paying, my Dad and husband decided to book a tractor ride too, which costs extra. We were given tickets for the 2pm one. Then we went into the main farm area and the first thing the girls dragged us to (Ha!) was the Museum of the Horse. This wasn’t a very impressive start really as the ‘museum’ was small, dull, uninspired and rather pathetic. It also smelled very musty, as though no-one had done anything with it for years.

      But things improved after that. We wandered around the farm and walked down a narrow alleyway where we came out near a couple of horses and the donkeys. (Later on, when we tried to take the short cut back again, it was blocked by a stubborn horse and we had to use a longer route!) There are some areas marked up with a sign which say you can go into there to touch the animals, so the four girls spent some time grooming the donkeys here.

      Afterwards, we wandered around looking at the other animals and went in to fuss the sheep (a favourite of mine) and then Viki found the rabbits, so went in there for a cuddle. Unfortunately, by this stage, it was almost time for our pre-booked tractor ride, so she didn’t get long with her favourite animal, but didn’t mind too much.

      The tractor ride was good and lasted almost half an hour. It isn’t the height of luxury though! The seats are plain benches and the roads are bumpy, so you get a bit banged around and will need to hold on. Children are supposed to sit down and keep their arms in, but both Beth and Viki found this almost impossible.

      The tractor takes you through all the areas where they look after the horses and donkeys. HorseWorld is a registered charity and they rescue, rehabilitate and re-home horses. The website tells us that they re-homed over a hundred horses in 2004. We saw their facilities in HorseWorld and the neighbouring Keynes Farm, where they train them, socialize them, treat any health problems and generally look after them to the best of their ability.

      I was very impressed with this aspect. There is a guide on the tractor rides who explains what you are seeing and what their job involves, which is interesting. Keynes Farm is large (170 acres) and at one point, the tractor goes into some of the big fields which can get a bit frightening, as it is quite high up and hilly. It makes for some amazing views though and I was clicking away happily on my digital camera here and was very pleased with how my ‘scenic’ photos turned out. (I’ll put some on this review.)

      The only gripe I have with the tractor rides is that you are asked for a donation on dismounting, even though you have to buy individual tickets to go on anyway. I understand they need the money to carry on their excellent work, but after paying to get in and again for the tractor ride, they didn’t get any donations from us, I’m afraid.

      By the time we got back, the pony rides had started so I had a sprint round the farm to wait in line with Viki. The rides cost £2.50 each, which seemed reasonably priced as each child got to ride round a large field and the staff seemed very good and attentive, as well as taking time to ensure each child was wearing the right size helmet.

      The only problem with this attraction was its strict height limits. While I can completely understand their reasoning, it did seem a bit harsh on the little ones who were too tiny and I saw a few go away upset. The height restrictions are displayed in a couple of places with a wooden stick, so you can be measured. Kids have to be between 3’3” and 4’11” to ride and unfortunately, my two eldest daughters are 5’2” so were too tall.

      While Viki and I were at the pony rides, the others caught us up and waited for us. Next to the field, there is an outdoor play area, an indoor play area and a kiosk selling ice creams, so the kids were happy enough! Beth was dashing between one thing and another with her elder nieces in hot pursuit!

      The outdoor playground is in the form of an adventure play area rather than the traditional park format of slide and swings. You can climb up and slide down and walk round various huts joined with bridges, walkways and so on. It looked well made, modern, clean and safe.

      Indoors is an astro-glide (large wiggly slide that you sit on mats to go down) and a ‘death slide’ (30ft high slide with a large drop) as well as a soft play area and a ball pond for the younger kids. All my children enjoyed this part and Beth certainly did too, complaining when we told her it was time to eat, as Big Sis Karen was getting a headache from skipping a meal!

      We didn’t eat in the Tea Room. Instead we went to the counter nearby and chose an array of sandwiches, fruit, pasties, cakes and drinks, which we ate outside in the garden, which is a lovely setting if the weather’s fine. The tables are well-spaced too, so my eldest happily took Auntie Beth off to sit with them, while we adults and Viki sat on the next table.

      The food and drinks were good quality, if slightly overpriced. The kids had their own Happy Meals too, which worked out to be very good value. Besides the fruit, biscuit and drink, the staff made up sandwiches to your specification, so they were fresh and – in our case – vegetarian. (You can never get a vegetarian Happy Meal in McDonald’s or Burger King!)

      After we had finished eating, it was time to go. You have to leave through the gift shop (conveniently!), so we let the kids choose a few things. The quality of the items sold there seemed generally high and although some things were expensive, there was a wide range of cheap souvenirs too – pens, stationery, postcards, coasters, farm animal toys, etc.

      There were still things we hadn’t managed to do. We hadn’t done the nature trail or spent much time looking at the smaller animals. I’m sure Viki would have liked to have gone back to see the rabbits too. We hadn’t watched the daily presentations, as we hadn’t got there early enough for the first one and the 2pm showing clashed with our tractor ride.

      Overall, we all had a really good day out at HorseWorld. All eight of us enjoyed it and have said we would like to go again and spend longer there – which is always a good sign. You might not enjoy it so much without kids, but if you have children, grandchildren or any you can borrow, go along and see. Hopefully, you’ll have as good a time there as we did.

      More details available at http://www.horseworld.org.uk/

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