“ Our comprehensive collection of over 50 breeding flocks and herds of British rare breed farm animals was established by Joe Henson and his business partner John Neave, in the late 1960s when many of our traditional breeds were faced with imminent extinction. Besides being a vital shop window for the work of rare breed conservation, it is an important breeding centre for many of the animals we keep. „
There are plenty of farms for children dotted around Britian, I should know, I've been to a fair few of them since kids entered my existence. The Cotswold Farm Park is, in my mind, a Farm for children and families to visit with a difference or two that makes the trip well worthwhile and one of the best Farms that I have ever visited.
Located near to Bourton-on-the-Water and Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds (directions on the website, link at the end of this review), the Farm Park is one of the original, if not the original hands-on farms.
I went there recently, but before that, my previous visit was in about 1979 by my calculations, when I myself was a welly clad little girl. The Jacob's Sheep that I saw on my most recent trip may well have been the great great grandchildren of those I petted as a youngster, but all those years on the farm park which was a yearly visit in my childhood and always a treat, still has a lot to offer to young and older visitors alike.
The farm was established in 1971, and since it began, it has had a mission to protect and ensure the survival of rare breeds that were facing extinction in the 1960's, the director Joe Henson having become aware that in the face of modern farming various breeds needed protecting. The farm has breeding herds today and also has an educational role as well as being a fun place for a day out.
We visited at a peak time in the school holidays. I suspect that a weekday visit would be a very different to ours, however the park coped well with a lot of visitors on what was a busy day. Entrance is fairly reasonable, at £6.75 for an adult and £5.50 for children from age 3, there are also family tickets available as well as season passes.
The park is well laid out for visitors to wander between the different areas. There are animals to see, of course, with food being purchasable at the entrance, but also a number of play areas and attractions. A couple of the play areas looked like they were pretty unchanged since my distant youth, but a new attraction for 2009 huge "pillows" of air, a bit like a bouncy castle, only with no sides, was very popular on the day of our visit and great fun. Sensibly the two pillows were for seperate age groups - the under and over 5's, and though these were not policed by the staff at all, the visitors on the day we were there seemed to respect the guidance given.
We enjoyed going around the fence maze, woodland trail and also went to one of the demonstrations; the sheep talk. This was more exciting than it sounds, it was a "history of sheep through the ages" illustrated by live sheep of the age in question with audience participation as members of the audience were asked to dress up in "period costume" to illustrate the period of time that was being talked about. The guide hosting this kept his audience engaged and interested, no mean feat when most of your audience is under 10!
There were various other talks and demonstrations during the day including milking and egg collecting. We didn't actually manage to see any of the other talks as we were too busy looking at the animals and also playing on the ride-ons and the aforementioned pillow. We would have liked to go on the tractor ride around the fields, but this was the one thing that proved to be rather too popular on the day we went and so we weren't able to wait for a ride.
We did find that there was plenty to do and that we could have easily spent a full day in the park, in good weather. Part of the Farm Park is inside but much of it is is in the open air, as you would expect, so I think that the Farm Park is best visited in good weather.
I did find that I learned quite a lot about rare breeds during my visit, and that it was more interesting than other farms of its ilk that I have been to. Maybe nostalgia coloured my judgement a little, but I do think that the touch and play barns were quite nicely done, and the Farm Park seems to be genuinely aimed at providing a good experience for visitors at a reasonable cost, whilst aiming to conserve rarer farm breeds.
Parking is free on site, toilets were clean, with changing areas for babies. Disabled access would probably be difficult given the hilly nature of the site - the paths were buggy accessible but some of them were quite steep. There is a restaurant, which seemed averagely priced, and a small shop.
It is always daunting to go back to somewhere you loved as a child, disappointment is nearly always inevitable. I was not disappointed by my trip here at all, it was just as fantastic as I remember it being when I was a child, and seeing the joy in my children's eyes as they had fun in one of the playgrounds of my youth was very special. It was also educational, interesting and value for money. If you are in the area I think a trip here is a must.
More details: http://www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk