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A lovely day out
Cogges Manor Farm Museum (Witney)
Member Name: kerrypanda
Cogges Manor Farm Museum (Witney)
Date: 17/07/09, updated on 18/07/09 (102 review reads)
Advantages: Helpful staff, friendly animals, lovely setting, reasonable price.
Disadvantages: None that I can think of.
Last week I accompanied my son and his autism teacher on a trip to Cogges Manor Farm Museum in Witney. Children with autistic spectrum disorders are often more comfortable and relaxed with animals, as they don't feel under pressure to say or do the right thing at the right time. We went on a school day as my son finds it hard to cope with crowds.
Cogges Manor Farm Museum is described as 'a unique, working museum depicting Oxfordshire rural life in Victorian times set in an historic manor house and Cotswold stone farm buildings'.
Once we were in Witney, we had no trouble with directions as it was well sign-posted for what I thought was going to be a small basic museum. There is only disabled parking on the actual museum site, the main car park is behind a local primary school. We walked down a path next to the school, and correctly guessed to turn left because we could hear bleating in that direction. (It could benefit from a small sign so pedestrians don't have to guess whether to go left or right) It was less than a five minute walk in all.
At the entrance there was a board showing coming themed weekends, including a dinosaur dig. We walked over a mat to clean our shoes, and walked into a small courtyard which had some picnic benches and a small wood-chipped children's play area featuring painted wooden animals and a small slide. There was a brown horse and a grey donkey in a small field adjoining the courtyard, and the visitor centre building on the left which includes a gift shop where you can buy fresh farm eggs and seasonal produce, and a cafeteria selling homemade cakes and ice cream(which was shut between 12-1pm on the day we visited, but is probably open all day during weekends and holidays).
The ticket prices are Adult £6.00, Child (3 to 16) £2.50, Concessions £5, Family (2 adults & 2 children) £15.00. We were also given free site maps.
When we walked out of the visitor centre into the main farmyard the first thing we noticed was the smell of the pigs! There is a group of three styes, one houses the older piglets who were playing with a muddy football, and the mother is in the next stye with her new piglets. There is a gap in the wall between the styes which is designed to let water run through for cleaning, and the keeper was trying to wedge a washing up bowl in the space through concern the little piglets would get through the space and get bitten by their older relatives. Even though dry wooden steps are provided, there is a fair bit of muck and mud around the styes and a change of shoes would be sensible!
The farm is set in the Victorian age and the staff from the museum guides to the farm hands and dairy maids are dressed in Victorian outfits.
There is plenty of Victorian farm machinery around the site, from shepherds huts, to horse drawn bread vans, ploughs, etc. We didn't see much of that as we were focusing on the animals. There were plenty of babies around - a pen of goslings, some chicks in a specially lit tank (I was told you can request to hold one), and there were two lambs running round the farmyard causing mischief together like delinquent school-children, very cute! There were some pregnant cows resting in stalls, and lots of chickens and guinea fowl wandering around. Also there were several hutches of rabbits and guinea-pigs, some were available to buy.
The Manor House was very interesting. Even though it was a quiet day for them, there were staff dressed in Victorian costume offering craft demonstrations, and in the kitchen the cook was making bread according to the recipes of that time, the smell was wonderful.
We were given lots of information by a guide who explained some of the features of the house are dated back to the 1200s, he was very knowledgeable about the Victorian era too.
Actually the staff were so friendly it had the feeling of a family home more than a museum. Several of the restored rooms were open to view, with an audio commentary provided.
My sons favourite part was a drawer full of things they'd found under the floorboards, mostly rat skeletons!
A couple of the rooms had dressed mannequins, so we got a bit of a fright when we walked into the parlour, not paying any attention to the mannequin until it spoke to us! It was a member of staff sitting in a chair making lace!
There was also an activities room in the house where children can try on Victorian clothes and play with replica toys and games.
At the back of a house is a beautiful flower garden with benches. There were butterflies everywhere on the day we visited. The side gate on the left leads to the goat pen. The goats were the highlight for my son, they were very friendly and gentle with him as he fed them, even while they were head butting each other out of the way!
On the other side of the garden is a walled garden with picnic benches and fields of cows and sheep bordering. The farm cat seemed permanently stationed by the benches waiting for picnickers, smart idea! He was lovely too, demanded lots of attention and stroking from us before we could carry on past.
It did rain while we were there, but you are never far from a building to shelter in, so that was no problem at all.
We didn't have time to see everything, there is also a granary, an orchard, a shrunken medieval village in the cow field(I don't think you can see much of that anyway), some fish ponds, and some nice country walks, a moat, etc. I think we saw a lot of it though.
Regular activities at the museum include demonstrations of:
* feeding the pigs
* buttermaking (on most Sunday afternoons)
* work of the Victorian maids in the Manor House
The programme of special events includes:
* theme weekends
* daily activities for children and families in the school holidays
* summer evening performances
Opening Hours for 2009
Open from 7th April - 31st August
Tuesday - Friday 10:30 - 17:00
Saturday & Sunday 11:00 - 17:00
Bank Holiday Mondays 11:00 - 17:00
Last admissions, one hour before closing. Closed Mondays and Good Friday.
The telephone number for enquiries is 01993 772602
My son absolutely love the farm museum, it is still all he is talking about (any parents of autistic children, you will know how obsessed they can get with new interests!) and I really enjoyed it too. We will go back again this summer, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good family day out.
Summary: A replica Victorian working farm. Fun and educationsl.
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