“ Address: The Old Shire Horse Centre / Bath Road / Maidenhead / Berkshire / SL6 3QA / England „
My daughter came home from school late on in the term with a little booklet called Raring 2 go! This excellent little book provides parents with lots of ideas of places they can take their children to in the local area, particularly with the holidays in mine. One of the places featured in our book was Village Life near maidenhead, and as it had a free child voucher I thought we would give it a go.
Village Life is situated on the A4 between Maidenhead and Twyford and is pretty much impossible to miss as you drive along the main road. It used to be the Shire Horse Centre but all of the horses have long since gone! Instead there is now some small farms and an activity playground, a few craft shops and a tea rooms. If you just want to visit the shops and have a cup of tea you don't pay to get in, but to go through to Shires Farm, there is an entry fee. As this is where we were heading I dutifully paid the admission for one adult and one child - don't forget i had one free child voucher. It costs £4.95 for children under 16 to enter and £3.95 for adults. I quite approve of the adult being charged the lower price as you are only there because of your child but you do pretty much end up paying the same amount anyway.
The first thing that struck me was just how small the site is. It looked like it would only take about ten minutes to walk around and that is probably about the time it did take. One redeeming feature though was the large bouncy slide that faced us as we walked in. In many places you find these, you have to pay to go on, but in this case it was free. Needless to say, my daughters had a lot of fun climbing up and sliding down. There is also a lovely playhouse with lots of interesting climbing structures in the shape of trees, old boots etc. This was well thought out and the girls had a lot of fun playing on the different things. It is probably only suitable for children up to about the ages of six or seven.
We did walk around and see the animals but as I mentioned before this did not take long. There were quite a few different animals including birds, ducks, goats, pigs, sheep and donkeys in the different enclosures and they all seem perfectly happy and friendly. In fact some of them were a bit over friendly almost climbing over the fences which made my younger daughter jump a bit! I think that the animals were so friendly because they knew that you were probably going to feed them. This is because there are lots of dispensers of animal food that you can get for 20 pence a handful. Most people seemed to be feeding and the animals were very keen. I did feel that there should have been more handwashing facilities around the site though as there was only one handwashing station that was past all the animals.
After the farm and the sliding we did stop and have a drink at the cafe. We just had drinks and a bit of cake (£8 for one coffee, two juice cartons and two cakes - slightly expensive!) but they do also serve sandwiches and light snack lunches as well. It all looked very nice and I have to say that my slice of lemon cake was delicious! There is quite a lot of space to either eat indoors or outdoors.
There are a number of small shops around an attractive courtyard. I avoided these as I knew that my daughters would start pestering me to spend more money but I did notice a dolls house shop, a chocolate shop and a food hall among others. It might be a very good place to call in at to do a bit of Christmas shopping nearer the time!
I did pick up a small information leaflet and couldn't help noticing that a visit to My Village was being described as 'a big day out!' To my mind, this is a gross exaggeration as you would be hard pushed to spend more than a couple of hours at the place. I am not criticising what was there - which was fine - but there definitely is not enough to warrant a whole day out - nor the entrance fee either. Having said that though, both my daughters really enjoyed our visit but they are only four and six and I have to say are easily pleased! I certainly would not take older children as I suspect that most would soon be bored.
The centre is open from 10 am until 5pm every day and does occasionally hold special events although I did notice that the one planned for the August bank holiday weekend has been cancelled!
A retail, craft and leisure village.