“ Park Hall, Oswestry, Shropshire SY11 4AS. Tel: +44 (0) 1691 671123. Fax:+44 (0) 1691 671173. Email: email@example.com. „
"Are we there yet?" if I had a pound for every time I heard that cry, I wouldn't have to write about it to earn my fortune! Eventually we did arrive at the Farm Park and the cry turned to "Can we go on that pleeeease?" as strategically placed next to the car park is the driving school, making it impossible to miss. We hadn't even paid to get in yet! To do so cost £3.95 each for us and £2.95 each for the kids. We thought that this was rather expensive and from April 1st it will cost even more at £4.50 and £3.25 to get in. At the moment it is only open for the February school holidays shutting again after that until April. The girl at the entrance was very polite and helpful and she provided us with a map of the site with a timetable of events. I was too desperate for the loo to think of anything else so we followed the signs to the toilets. When I had done what I had to do I noticed that the toilets are OK but nothing special. There is a separate cubicle with average baby changing facilities in it, again nothing special. I asked Pete and he said he hadn't noticed any provision in the men's toilets for this so I don't know how a single dad would cope. This surprised me as it is mainly aimed at toddlers and only opened in April 2000. If a little more thought had gone into it they could have provided separate baby changing facilities for either sex to use. Upon leaving the toilets we were faced with a rather large cow of the four legged variety. The boys stood and listened fascinated as a man explained and demonstrated hand milking, he then asked if anyone wanted a go. At this point they both turned and ran like hell, my big brave boys!! When we caught up with them we got the map out to try and decide where to eat. A very nice man, (a very, very nice man!) asked if he could help and pointed out all the places where we could have a picnic, recommending the woodland adventure. He pointed us in the rig
ht direction and we set off up the gravely path; it wasn't far to walk at all but it was up a small hill. When we arrived we noted that there is a large but limited playground made from logs, with platforms, balancing beams and stepping logs. The boys had a great time, proving that sometimes less is more. We were astonished to find that there were some hand basins there to wash our hands, and later noticed that there are numerous basins located throughout the farm, far more than at other farms we have visited. Next on the agenda was the cart ride (with tractor), we had 20 minutes until it left so we strolled down to where we had seen it earlier. 15 minutes to go ? "No it's not time yet, lets look at the animals." 10 minutes to go ? "No it's still not time, don't worry there isn't even a queue, wash your hands in the basin over there." 8 minutes to go ? "No we can't get on it, it's full." Someone had appeared out of nowhere with steps and suddenly the cart was full. As it only holds about 15 people this did not take long. Apologising to the children, we told them that we would try again in an hour. We suggested the bouncy castle as an alternative. The main arena houses an unsupervised bouncy castle as well as a large tractor circuit. This is where we spent the majority of our visit. I must admit it is very well laid out (for optimum profits of course) as the tea shop is there allowing you to sit and relax while the children play. Tea for one cost 60p and there was enough for about 3 cups so it not bad value. Off this arena is a small soft play area and games like skittles, giant connect four and jigsaws. Upstairs there is a computer centre with about 10 computers, table tennis (£1 deposit), an education room and a very small children's craft area with glue, paper etc. As far as I could see there is no access for the disabled or prams. We entered via a wooden stair case
and came back down a very scary see-through metal staircase outside the building. By now it was time to try the cart ride again so off we set, just to have a very similar experience as the first time. We looked at the board next to the very small cart and it informed us that it was hourly, at half past the hour, and any changes would be posted. We explained to the boys that we weren't going to be here for that long and headed off in the direction of the driving school. Upon arrival at the school we realised why it has been strategically placed at the front where all the kids would see it upon arrival, it has an extra charge of £1.50 per child for 7 minutes. So as not to disappoint them again we went ahead and paid. The small track includes road signs and a set of working traffic lights and there are about 6 electric cars to choose from. In the leaflet that I picked up it said "you can negotiate our roads and earn a driving licence" so we thought great it's rather like Legoland and they will get a little licence to keep. When they had driven (badly, just like Daddy!) around for about 7 minutes they were asked to park in the car park and thank you for coming. That was it no driving licence - nothing. I imagine that come the summer there will be large queues for this attraction, and that the times will have to be cut down. Other than the facilities already mentioned, there is a small vintage garage, a Welsh Guards collection (I'm not sure what this has to do with the countryside), sand pits, parlour milking and a gift shop. The leaflet also advertises Quad bikes. We saw no evidence of these anywhere so your guess is as good as mine as to whether they will be present in April. There are also some walks that you can go on if the ground is not too wet. These paths are used by the elusive tractor and cart ride, they were too muddy to use that day. Incidentally the cart was just starting up as we left at 3pm, and there was no e
vidence of the time changes being posted anywhere as they promise. All things taken into consideration we will not be revisiting Park Hall Countryside Experience as there are plenty of other better, cheaper farms to choose from. They seem to be trying too hard to keep all of the people happy all of the time. I think with a little less quantity, a little more quantity and a lot more thought, they could have made this a more rewarding place to visit.