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Old Down Country Park (Tockington)

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1 Review

Address: Foxholes Lane / Tockington / BS32 4PG / United Kingdom / Tel: 01454 414081

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      25.04.2010 11:25
      Very helpful



      Great day out, as long as nobody needs to use the loo

      I can thoroughly recommend Old Down Country Park for a grand day out. It's basically an attraction for families with younger kids that is centred around the grounds of a laregish (Victorian?) manor-house - now apparently being done up probably as conference facilities. It doesn't occupy a huge site, but if the weather's good, there's easily enough there to keep a family occupied for a lazy sunny day. Most of the 'farm animals,' there are basically pets, though there are some pens of presumably-at-some-point-for-eating rare-breed pigs near the main building, and a flock of free-range egg producing chickens. In the paddocks by the adventure play area are various types of fancy poultry and also slightly more unexpected residents for a farm in Gloucestershire such as reindeer, wallabies, rheas and guanaco.

      The setting for the park is quite spectacular - on a low ridge / hillside looking out from a height right over the Severn Estuary. The grounds / gardens around the manor house incorporate small areas of woodland walk and an ornamental lake, and are very attractive for a visit. On the sunny spring day when we visited, when the crocuses and other small flowers were just coming into bloom, these parts of the park were really beautiful indeed. The whole place has a very relaxed atmosphere - unlike some similar local attractions of this sort that we've visited, there don't seem to be people or wardens lying in wait about the place waiting to tell you off for little apparent reason - and what staff there are seem friendly. Also once you've paid the entrance fee of £5.50 per adult (£3 for kids and under 2 year olds free) everything in the park seems to be free, and though there isn't to be honest all that much that could be charged extra for, I can see in other places that they'd easily charge for use of eg. the deckchairs and bouncy castle. Actually, the lack of soft-play-areas and gubbins like that made for a pretty refreshing change, I thought.

      While most visitors on the we went seemed to have pack their own picnics, the on-site cafe sells a range of surprisingly moderately-priced home-made cakes, as well as snacks- including excellent home-made sausage rolls - and hot / soft drinks and ice-creams. There is a charming Victorian walled garden, with espalier-trained fruit trees and a couple of nice grassed-over areas; one with swings and trampolines etc. for the kids to play on, and the other with abundant proper posh deckchairs for their parents to lounge on, along with a sandpit and a few outdoor toys / games including mini push-along cars for the kids to ride on, and on the day we went, a small bouncy castle (not manned by staff or apparently pegged down to the ground however). There is a farm shop on site that sells a small range of quite moderately-priced souvenirs, but apart from some vacuum-packed bacon / sausages, and eggs, not all that much in the way of farm produce. We did however visit very early in the tourist season, and it may well be that there will be more for sale there later in the year.

      Old Down Country Park isn't terribly easy to find, and although it is signposted from the A38 from just outside Bristol, the signposting doesn't continue all the way to the venue itself, so it is very easy to miss - especially as it is situated off a bad bend down a small, overgrown and easily overlooked country road. (In fact, even knowing exactly where the Park is, I have gotten lost trying to find my way to twice). I have to say that the unfortunately the road map given on the Park's website isn't much help; possibly stopping nearby and asking for directions, or using your satnav would help.

      The only downside to Old Down Country Park - and unfortunately in my book it is something so serious that lovely place though the park is, it would preclude a return visit - is that at present it does seem to be something of a victim of its own success. We visited on one of its 'Spring Lamb Days' - one of the first sunny weekends we've had this year, and the car-park that day was chock-a-block, so obviously they'd had a lot of visitors.. Unfortunately the park seems to have VERY limited public toilet facilities, and though there is a ladies' and a gents' and a wheelchair-user-access lavatory these, frankly, hadn't coped with the influx at all and had....failed, basically. (Probably because the Park's septic tank, if that's what the problem was, was full to overflowing - because that's what the toilets when you flushed them, were certainly doing). The member of staff we reported the...flooding...to said she wasn't surprised, and it was probably on account of the high volume of visitors.

      I think they need at the very least, to install some portaloos.


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