“ Address: Firle / Lewes / East Sussex / BN8 6LJ / England „
January 2013 me and Hollie took our first trip down to Lancing, West Sussex as that is where my partner's family live. We went for a week and the family had planned some days out for us when we arrived. It was awful weather when we arrived as the snow had been settling very well across the country and it had been freezing over over night.
One of our first day trips was to Middle Farm in Lewes as his family keep chickens and needed to go get some supplies. It was only a 25 minute drive and we were excited to go see all the lovely animals. When we arrived it was parking at the front and a shop at the entrance selling all sorts of animal feed, bedding and even runs/cages for smaller animals. As it was early, we were all frozen and desperate to have a coffee in their café.
****Middle Farm Plough Monday Restaurant****
The day we went to the restaurant, it was short staffed and the owners daughter was working and she couldn't make a hot chocolate which most of us wanted so poor freezing cold 4 year old Hollie had to have a bottle of milkshake as they had nothing else for children. We didn't mind as we could still have tea and coffee and they had an amazing selection of cakes. I ended up with a scone that was bigger than my hand. The coffee I had was horrible though and I think there was a bit too much coffee put into the machine as it was very strong to the point of not being able to drink it.
It wasn't very warm in the restaurant which was a bit disappointing as we had gone in there to seek warmth and something to drink. It was possibly because it was early and we had arrived only 30 minutes after they opened for the day. The seating was lovely and the room had a lovely inviting vibe. The walls were covered in some lovely photography of places around the area or around England taken by independent artists and they were for sale too which was nice. All in all, the food was nice and although my coffee was rancid, I went back for tea which was very nice and warmed me up ready to go outside to see the animals.
When we came out of the restaurant, the cider and perry store was shut due to bring short staffed so we didn't get the chance to have a look in. Outside the shop was a lovely pop up store with some flowers and veggie plants for your garden, but I chose not to bother buying anything as the weather was so bad that month I knew everything would die and not survive the snow.
****Entering the Farm to meet the animals****
We paid £4 each to enter the farm and look around at all the animals. When we entered, Hollie ran off in the direction of a tractor which children could sit on and feel like a real farmer. It was cold and icy but she still enjoyed sitting on it and having her photo taken. She got a very soggy bottom but children don't seem to care whether they are cold or not when they are having fun.
There was also a child's climbing frame area which Hollie wanted to play on so we had to shovel the snow off the slide so she could enjoy herself. The best part of the play area was the see-saw. I had to have a go but I also managed to freeze my bum off so quickly jumped off.
We then went over to where the chickens and hens were and saw some amazing species of poultry. There wasn't as many as there would be in the warmer months when the hens would roost but we saw lots of different ones with beautiful feathers. In the same area there were rabbits and some guinea pigs too. Who knew they could all live together in the same place!
The weather was a big issue with our day here as the whole site was icy. We all wore wellies but it was terrifying. Walking around the farm was difficult as we had an excited little girl trying to run off into the different barns and sections of the farm, and a very wobbly me trying very hard not to fall right on my bum. I would suggest if you are thinking of visiting this farm, to do it when it isn't snowing or icy as it was just too cold to enjoy it well as it was so cold.
We saw an amazing array of different farm animals. We saw some beautiful horses, big huge pigs, Llamas, donkeys, ducks, swans and geese and all the gorgeous chickens that we saw at the start. We saw a few sheep but I think the weather had meant they were moved to a different barn and the same with cows.
Nearer the the end of our walk round, we spotted some photo boards for us to put our heads through and take some photos. They are all farm themed and we had some good fun playing with those.
****Skies and Scarecrows****
Hollie had thoroughly enjoyed herself and so had we all. We were all very desperate to get into some warmth though so we checked out the skies and scarecrows gift shop which we soon exited as it was heavy filled with expensive toys which Hollie was desperate to have so I abruptly left so I wasn't made to feel guitly for not buying her something. The toys had just few associations with farms or animals so I felt like it was more just a toy shop rather than a gift shop. It also sold some handmade soaps and posh toiletries that I had to look away from too.
The shop itself was beautiful and looked very shabby chic and the typical farm style you would expect. The front was very sweet with cute windows and a farm style door. Mostly decorated with wooden panelling and a few farm cats drinking from a milk saucer.
****The Farm Shop****
We popped in here to check out their cheese selection as we had planned to have a cheese board and crackers for lunch so we chose a few different ones. We had, nettle coated cheese, Wensleydale with cranberries and some lovely others which have slipped my mind for time being.
I also picked up some nice home made biscuits which were chocolate orange flavoured. These were beautifully flavoured and tasted excellent.
They do have an amazing selection of different food, home made or bought in. They sell fresh breads, fresh cheeses and milk, vegetables and fruits and every type of preserve I've ever thought of. I did think it was very pricey and we didn't take much cash with us which I was glad of otherwise most of the shop would have come home with us. I did however come away really inspired to make my own jams and preserves as everything looks so yummy. I have since been searching the internet for recipes and have strawberries and blackcurrants blooming in the garden ready for some jams.
I was very disappointed we didn't get to go to the cider and perry shop as I really wanted to try some of their real ales and possibly buy some as a present for my dad but it just means we have an excuse to go back next time we are down visiting. We are also looking forward to seeing a few more animals next time and hopefully some baby animals. We are going down again at the beginning of June so we will try to plan it so we can feed the animals or even give them cuddles.
Even though the weather was so awful, we still had a brilliant time. We will definitely be visiting again and would recommend it to anyone. It isn't just a place to take the kids, it's also a great place for adults to visit and try all their amazing handmade alcohols and foods sold in the farm shops. We all had a brilliant time and took lots of photos and plan to take even more when we go back again in warmer weather. I will still make sure to wear wellies as there are a lot of animals that just walk around freely and wouldn't want to step in any mess!
I've never visited such a lovely farm before and hadn't ever stepped into such a well stocked farm shop before. It was a lovely day out and we all enjoyed the food, the farm and the animals. Don't forget they also sell all the feeds and things for your own animals if you look after chickens or other animals in your gardens. There were sacks upon sacks piled up with feed and beddings in the front stores.
I give middle farm 5/5 stars for being a brilliant day and the staff were lovely and helpful to us.
Thankyou for reading my review!
I'm currently on another visit to my boyfriends home in sunny Eastbourne, and as has become my custom, I've been dragging him out of bed every day to go and show me the local sights, aided by a little yellow book that gains us free entry to a variety of attractions - his mum works in a local attraction herself and gets us these trade passes .
On this occasion , we decided to go visit Middle Farm, nestled at the foot of Firle Beacon, just outside Lewes . As with many attractions in this area of East Sussex, the drive, for a city girl like me is an attraction in itself - driving past stunning sea views part of the way, and rolling Sussex Downland interrupted by small villages full of character filled old buildings and the occasional country pub. For someone whose normal travel in my home city of Nottingham generally involves taking a bus through run down council estates, this is a great drive .
Middle Farm, luckily enough since we were driving, has plenty of parking right outside the door . I should point out here that Middle Farm is not one attraction but many - as well as a working farm, there is also a farm shop, restaurant, gift shop, and the national collection of Cider and Perry . We visited all except the restaurant (our visit was in the afternoon, so we'd already had our lunch).
We visited again a few days later to go to the monthly farmers market too, so I've plenty to write about .
The Farm Shop
I'll start with the farm shop, since that was where we started our visit. You enter the shop and immediately see a colourful display of fresh fruit and veg, as well as walls lined with displays of chutneys, sauces, teas, coffees, and wines . Venturing a little further in is a small dairy section, selling a variety of cheeses, the farms own milk, and also a small selection of olives and sun dried tomatoes .
Further in still is a bakery, with fresh bread and cakes, as well as hot home made cornish and other pasties, and freezers with crumbles , and full meals (Lasagnes, shephards pie, Steak and Ale Pie ) all ready to take home and slip into the oven.
There is also a butchery section, selling some lovely meats, including a variety of smoked meats (duck, venison, chicken) some lovely flavoured sausages (Venison and Merlot , and Beef and Harveys (Harveys is a local real ale) being just two examples) and some lovely looking joints and chops .
I was delighted with the fact that there were plenty of samples out for us to nibble on, particularly in the cheese section . I'm a bit of a cheese addict, in fact my dream job would be to work in my own cheese shop, so I was in heaven here, and sampled seven or eight different cheeses , including Cornish Yarg with Wild Garlic, Scrumpy Sussex , a local cheese made with locally produced cider and flavoured with garlic and herbs , Red Windsor - a dark pink coloured cheese that takes it's colour and a lot of its flavour from being soaked in port!
We purchased a selection of items from the shop - Huntsman, Scrumpy Sussex, and Smoked Applewood cheeses, some untreated jersey milk from the farms own jersey cows, a chocolate yoghurt cake, and some Beef and Harveys sausages.
The milk was lovely - I don't think I've ever had untreated milk before - it was rich, thick, and very creamy. In fact, we skimmed off some of the cream to use with the chocolate cake, which although very flavoursome lacked moisture .
The sausages were plump and moist, and went wonderfully with a cheesy mash made using a small amount of the Applewood Smoked cheese grated into the mashed potato.
The huntsman cheese ( Red Leicester (I believe) with stilton running through the middle we used on some lovely fat burgers, and it melted quite happily onto the meat tasting wonderful, and the Scrumpy Sussex we simply cut chunks off and ate .
We enjoyed everything we purchased from the shop. The prices were a little high, although not extortionate , and I do believe you pay for quality .
The National Collection of Cider and Perry
This was the next section we visited on the farm - as well as selling a huge range of bottled ciders, perrys, real ales, wines, spirits, and mead, it also has 100 or so barrels of cider and perry lined up along the walls and on various surfaces. I am delighted to say that sampling was again encouraged, and we simply picked up our small plastic sampling pots from the front counter, and made our was around the room, sampling as we went.
I can't remember the names of every cider I tried, but a few stood out in my mind . Hellishly Strong Cider for example, with the abv on the cask displayed as *&?!, rather inplying an uttered curse, had to be tried . Sad to say, it was foul, and an enquiry at the front desk informed me it weighed in at 13.5 %, which certainly is very strong .
We then tried Oldfield Perry. I'm afraid I've forgotten the percentage, but I was tempted by the label saying it had been sampled by James May and Oz Clarke . It was very sweet, with a slight aftertaste of bananas, and a delightful fizz . We purchased a litre of this to take home, but sadly when we wanted to drink it several hours later, it appeared to have grown considerably sharper, and tasted slightly of vinegar.
Now, I had the bright idea of adding in a little sugar to see if I could make it bearable again . Sadly, due to the strange way my boyfriends mum likes to organise her kitchen, I instead ended up lacing my drink with a considerable amount of salt, making it utterly beyond redemption.
We also purchased 2007s champion cider, Janets Jungle Juice, which was a medium dry cider with slight tastes of roses and pineapple . This cider remained drinkable when we were home, which was great considering the Oldfield Perry seemed to have suffered from the journey.
I also purchased a small sample sized bottle of honeyed mead - which was pretty potent with a strong honey taste . Not something I could easily drink on a regular basis, but I could imagine adding a hearty measure to a lemsip to combat a cold .
We tried a fair few ciders there - its really a shame I didn't have a notepad handy to take notes really, as some of them were truly marvellous . I did very much enjoy being able to sample the ciders for free , and loved the smell of the room, a strong smell of apples and alcohol that took me back to my younger days working as a pub barmaid.
It should be noted that ciders can be purchased by the pint or by the cask . If purchasing in pints, the prices vary between £1.55 and 2.30 a pint as far as a I recall, bear in mind you do have to pay extra for the containers to take it home in, which I think is fair, and isn't expensive really, at around 20-50p depending on the size of bottle . You can also pay more and get a stoneware jug to take your cider home in, I forget the price but it would make an attractive gift for someone .
Although I didn't purchase any real ales on my visit, its worth noting that they had an extensive range of locally produced ales, many of which I'd sampled already in the local pubs .
Skies and Scarecrows Gift Shop
We didn't spend too much time in here, it mostly sold home decoration items, such as candles, blankets, etc, as well as locally made toiletries . It sold a small range of traditional childrens toys, and some books on local history , which tempted me but seemed expensive for what they were, however, you have to pay here to enter the actual farm section.
With our cheeks pleasantly flushed from our cider sampling, we finally made our way to the open farm . This is the only part you have to pay to enter (although we had free entry vouchers) and entry is a flat rate of £3. Upon entering , we saw chickens and cockerels, some wondering about freely, others happily nestled in their coops . It was very amusing watching one of the free cockerels antagonising one which was cooped up.
In a barn to the side were young chicks and younger chickens - and a cacaphony of various squawking and chirruping . There are a wide variety of different breeds of chickens here, including some that has legs so feathery it looked like they were wearing giant flares.
A little further along still was a shed that housed mice, ferrets, guinea pigs and rabbits, and one duck that had wondered in and made its home with the guinea pigs . There was an information board telling the names of all the guinea pigs and rabbits, although I was a little concerned about the Guinea Pigs and Rabbits being housed together, as my dad keeps guinea pigs and I've always been informed that rabbits are much stronger than guinea pigs and can inadvertently cause them some real damage with a kick.
Further along still was a field, with fields on all sides of it which housed Llamas, sheep, and horses . The animals were not as friendly as I've seen on some open farms, and stayed back from the edges of the fields toward the centre . I found this very disappointing, as was the fact that any petting of any of the animals was not encouraged . Having visited another working farm in the area which sold feed and encouraged interaction, I found this farm not doing so frustrating . If I'd just wanted to look at animals, I could have done so in a book, or online .
We then went to a milking display. Well, I say display - the man hooked the cows up to the machines and let the pumps do the work . Despite there being a crowd of 15 or so people watching, he made no effort to interact with us or to explain the process - the only thing that explained it to us was a small chalkboard, sadly placed uncomfortably high for me to read, so I imagine even more useless to a child.
The farm did provide a tap for washing hands, located right next to the exit - although since we couldn't pet or feed anything, I don't see how dirty we were expected to be!
The farm also has a small swing park - Nothing too exciting .
One feature of the farm children might enjoy is the hay play barn - a barn stacked full of hay bales for children to clamber over . However, I feel this is not enough to draw my own daughters interest (she was not with me, but I was visiting with the intention of seeing if it was suitable for her) and certainly wouldn't pay again to visit this section of the farm .
The Farmers Market
This is held each month, generally on the last sunday . We decided to return to the farm to visit this. There were a wide variety of stalls selling all sorts of produce - locally made soaps, home made baked goods, a stall selling slices of hog roast in buns , cheeses, teas, chutneys, sauces and fruits . We had fun sampling, and discovered some delicious fruit vinegars, a lovely Assam tea, and a cheese that was a combination of cheddar and parmesan, which I imagine would be lovely grated over some pasta . We purchased a stilton and celery quiche from one stall, which we ate later in the evening and was delicious . As each stall is run by a separate trader, I imagine the products on sale vary with each market - however, I do think it's worth a visit .
The farm shop, the market, and the cider collection were all wonderful, and worth visiting in their own right, particularly as sampling was encouraged . I had a great time trying all the different ciders, and the cheeses, and this made my shopping fun . I recommend visiting these areas, especially as they are free to enter.
However, the actual farm section of the visit I found dissapointing - the staff didn't try to engage us during the milking display, and nothing was pettable or available for us to feed ourselves . If you are looking for a fun family farm visit, I recommend giving this place a visit, and instead paying a visit to the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, near to Beachy Head, which encourages both petting and feeding.
I'm going to award this place 4 out of 5 stars - while the farm section was dissapointing, I still had a great time in the shop and cider areas.
a six gerneration working farm that covers over 625 acres.