“ Address: Arley / Northwich / Cheshire CW9 6LZ / England „
My friend and I decided to take her little nephew out for the day a couple of weeks ago to give him a bit of a treat. As neither of us has children we weren't exactly in touch with child friendly places near where we live and decided to search online for somewhere to take him. Luckily the weather was quite promising for once so we decided to stick to the outdoors and as her nephew loves animals we set about hunting for something that would entertain him... and hopefully tire him out as well! We came across a place called Stockley Farm which I can actually remember visiting when I was a little girl, many years ago now, and decided to give it a go.
Where is it?
Stockley Farm is located on the Arley Estate in the town of Northwich. This can be found in the county of Cheshire which is located in the north west of England. The farm is easily accessible from the major motorway networks and is just a few miles from the M56 and the M6 too. More detailed directions to the farm can be found on their website or you can use their postcode (CW9 6LZ) and have a look on a route planner. The farm itself cannot actually be accessed by car, instead you're requested to leave your car at the nearby Arley Hall and you'll be transported down to the farm by a big tractor pulling a wagon filled with straw bales behind it!
What is it?
Stockley Farm is an organic farm which has been open to the public since 1987. It's a fully working farm with around 750 acres of land being farmed and around 200 cows being milked there every day. However it's slightly different from your typical farm in that it's been made into a bit of a tourist attraction as well. There are a range of activities to do on the farm which are aimed at young children in particular, making it an absolute haven for my friend's nephew. The great thing was that as soon as we'd parked up we were thrown straight into it!
The tractor ride to the farm lasts about ten minutes and all the children who shared our trailer seemed to be squealing with delight during the entire journey! The tractor drops you off just before the main farm yard leaving you to walk just a couple of steps until you're in the centre of the farm. Standing in the main yard you'll be able to see the main attractions offered by the farm. These include an indoor play barn, an outdoor play area, an animal barn, a soft play area, a large sand pit, a birds of prey area, a milking barn and other animal areas too.
The main animal barn is one of the biggest attractions where you'll be able to see cows, calves, sheep, lambs, goats, pigs and chickens. At the back of the animal barn is a pet's corner where staff are on hand to let children hold and play with various animals including chickens, guinea pigs and rabbits. In the other animal areas around the farm you'll find birds of prey and horses as well. One of the main highlights in the animal feeding time which occurs twice everyday and allows children the chance to feed the calves and lambs via a bottle.
Another regular occurrence is milking time at the farm and here you can see the cows being milked in the milking barn as well as learn about the whole milk journey. Other activities include the daily birds of prey flying sessions and the sheep races as well. There are various different play areas, all aimed at different age groups, which allow adults the chance to have a sit down and watch the children rolling around in the hay barn or clambering around in the outdoor play area. When you feel like you're about to drop you'll be glad to know there is a...
Tea room! Here you can enjoy a relaxing drink, a snack or simply a sit down to recharge your batteries. Prices are all really quite reasonable too, from memory I found that a pot of tea costs around the £1 mark and sandwiches start at £2.50 upwards. There are some basic hot meal options available including chips and nuggets for children. Next to the tea room you'll find an ice cream shop selling locally produced ice cream with a small cornet starting at around £1 and a gift shop selling the typical trinkets that you always seem to find in places like this.
I want to go...
If you decide to visit Stockley Farm then it may be useful to know that it is open weekends, bank holidays and during school holiday times from 11.00am to 5.00pm. During the school term times it is only open for school trips and special visits. It generally shuts from mid December until the end of March each year as well. Admission prices for 2009 are £7.50 for an adult, £6.50 for a child and £26 for a family ticket of two adults and two children. You can also get season tickets which cost £30 for an adult, £25 for a child and £95 for a family ticket.
What did I think?
I had a really lovely afternoon at Stockley Farm when I visited with my friend and her nephew. The tractor ride to and from the farm was brilliant as it really got people in the mood and the children loved being able to sit on the hay bales and look at the passing animals and countryside. The tractor runs back and forth from the car park during the opening hours, during the summer they even have two tractors on, meaning that we only had to wait ten minutes either end for the tractor to come and take us to and from the farm on our visit.
When we got to the farm everything was clearly signposted and it was nice to walk around at our own leisure rather than being herded around in a group with other people, a bit like animals really. All the different activities such as feeding times were clearly announced ten minutes or so in advance meaning you could get to where you needed to be in plenty of time. We went to the lamb feeding and were all told to sit on these hay bales before they released the animals who came hurtling in, searching for anyone who had a bottle, it was great!
My friend's nephew loved walking around making animal noises and especially loved the pet's corner where he got to hold a chick and a rabbit... which he then tried to steal! There was plenty to do and in total we spent about two hours walking around looking at everything before he spent nearly an hour in the different play areas while we had a well earned drink. I'd say you could easily pass a good four or five hours here, we found that just under four was enough as after that he was getting a little tired and we were glad to see the tractor coming.
So do I have any criticisms? Well when we got there I was a little shocked at the price, it cost us over £20 for the three of us to go to Stockley Farm which did seem quite expensive. However when I remind myself that we're in the 21st century now and that tourist attractions all seem to be putting their prices up it doesn't seem so bad. It's certainly somewhere I'd only go once or twice a year as once you've seen it all there isn't really anything new to do the following week and it would be rather expensive, unless you took advantage of the season tickets.
The only other criticism I had was that some things seemed a little dated; it was clear that the indoor play barn had been modernised quite recently but the tea room in particular seemed very dated and almost a little tatty looking. However when you consider people are traipsing around in muddy shoes I can understand why they've not put cream carpet and expensive furniture in there. The toilets also were quite busy and not the cleanest really, I'm not sure how often they get cleaned on the busy days at the farm which put me off slightly.
Overall thought we all had a good day and said we'd definitely go again, towards the end of the summer or even next year maybe. There was plenty to do and it's ideal for young children, I'd probably say that little children up to about eight or nine would love it here but it may be a little basic for older children. The staff were all really helpful and friendly, they were even laughing at me and my friend during the feeding time when we were squealing as the lambs came hurtling towards us. It was a great day out and I'd recommend a visit.
Thanks for reading.