“ Address: Coursers Road / London Colney / St Albans / Hertfordshire / AL4 0PF „
We decided to take our first trip to Willows Farm today for the first time in a a year and a half, and I must say I was very impressed. Entrance is quite pricey, with a bill of just shy of £50.00 for two adults and two children, although our baby went in free, so it was £50.00 for three kids and two adults.
From the minute you get in the gates there is a lot to do. Pumpkin hunts, a full programme of shows, animals kept in very clean conditions, a treasure hunt round the park and the giant soft play area, plus new additions, like the indoor JCB ride (perfect for changeable days) and the Captain Chickens Egg Run (I think it is called that), which is great fun. We loved the frisbee game as a brilliant family activity, costing nothing and suiting all ages.
My five year old was able to hold both an owl and a skunk and the couple who look after the animals are knowledgeable, interesting and fantastic with the children.
The only thing that let it down for us was the food. The kids are reasonably well catered for with a selection of mini bits to choose from, which get packaged in a box, however the hot food provision is frankly awful. We asked for a plain burger and fish and chips. The boy on the counter forgot to put the fish and chip order through, which he discovered when the burger came out, so we had to wait twenty five minutes for it. The burger was covered in mayo and other bits, which I cant eat for allergy reasons, so we took it back - no apology. Two minutes later another burger turned up which was not cooked properly. The burgers are made at Willows so are pink in colour anyway, which I knew from my last visit, but the meat had that gummy, gooey consistency of uncooked burger, which ruined it. We took it back again and ask where the fish and chips were and the extremely sullen teenager on the counter snapped that it was supposed to be that colour and they checked it with a thermometer before it went out. NO apology, no attempt to check it. We ate the chips, threw the burger out and waited for the fish, which was so overcooked it was utterly indedible. I mean it was chewy. Yuck.
Later on we also grabbed a sausage roll in the hope it would be better which it was, but on the whole the food really let down an otherwise wonderful day.
My advice would be go, give yourselves a good five - six hours there and enjoy yourself, but take food with you. It is the safest option, which is a real shame in an otherwise perfect venue!!
Willows Farm Village in Hertfordshire is one of our favourite places to go for a family day out. It is a large farm park with a good range of animals, and lots of other activities for children to enjoy. Located just off the M25 at Junction 22 (London Colney), it's is easily accessible by car from north London and the surrounding areas.
At the moment, they are doing reduced winter admission prices - of £4.50 for adults and £6.50 for children over 2. This increases to £6.50 for adults and £8.50 for children at weekends. However, they will be starting their Easter programme of events from 28th March and the prices will increase at that point. There are no admission prices available on their website for after 27th March at the moment, however last year it was approx. £11 for adults and £12 for children.
The first thing you come to on entering Willows Farm Village is the Guinea Pig Village. This is a barn dedicated exclusively to guinea pigs, who live in themed areas with little houses. There is even a maternity ward where the baby guinea pigs live! At set times, there are staff available to enable children to hold and stroke the guinea pigs. The next door barn contains the animal nursery. This is full of baby animals - goats, piglets, lambs, puppies, rabbits etc. Again, there are set times when the children can get the opportunity to hold a rabbit. You can also feed the animals with the feed available at the main entrance (50p per pot) and the baby goats and lambs will eat right out of your hand! The larger farm animals are in large enclosures around the farm area - there are cows, large pigs, lots of goats and various breeds of sheep, horses, donkeys, reindeer, wallabies and rheas. You can feed some of the animals - the goats and sheep are the most receptive to this, and even my 2 year old is happy to try and let them eat from his hand (unless he's going through a phase where he's scared of everything, in which case he hides behind me while I feed them). I really like the way that the farm is set out - there are large animal pens everywhere, and it is easy to walk between them.
The things that my son likes best are the indoor soft play area (which is open all year round), and the mini fairground rides which are open from Easter to October. He also loves the bouncy castles. The fairground rides are a really nice attraction for young children - there are a couple of roundabouts and some swing boats, all of which are included in the entrance price. There are also playgrounds for various ages, a large sandpit with big JCB diggers and plenty of buckets, spades and construction worker hats so that your child can pretend to be Bob the Builder, and ride on tractors which I always struggle to drag my son away from! These play areas are distributed around the central park of the farm park, so you can just stop for a play at various intervals while walking round to see the animals. I find this invaluable as, no matter how much my little boy likes the animals, he does get bored of just looking eventually and wants to play.
Other Activities and Shows
One of the really nice things about Willows Farm Village is that there are a range of farm-themed activities on offer alongside the animals and the play areas. There is a tractor ride around the bottom edge of the farm, where you ride on a trailer and listen to the tractor telling his story about the scarecrows which live in the woods. This is the same all year round, although they do add a bit of seasonal flavour at Halloween. There is also a theatre which has sing-a-long shows, a Sheep Show to showcase some of the more unusual breeds that they have at Willows, dog and duck trials, falconry demonstrations and my personal favourite, the Sheep Race. The sheep race is well worth a look - you bet on which sheep you want to win and watch them charge round the track, over jumps like a mini Grand National. Only problem is when your sheep decides it would rather stop for a snack before the first fence... as happened to my sister's choice last time we went.
Willows Farm Village also offers a wide programme of seasonal activities. The peak season begins with the Easter Eggstravaganza featuring an Easter egg hunt and other egg-themed activities, including a new animated chicken show. From mid-July they have a maize maze which was really good fun last year - we got a bit lost, but really enjoyed the challenge of finding our way around. In October they have a Halloween theme, with free pumpkins for every child, and at Christmas they have a Santa's grotto, an Elves House and a live Nativity - we didn't make it in December last year, but it's definitely on my list of things to do this year as I think my son would love it.
Eating and Drinking
There are several places to eat and drink around the farm park. Some of these are seasonal, or only open at weekends. We usually eat in the café next to the soft play, as our son can entertain himself while waiting for his food. The food in there is more or less what you would expect for this type of place - sandwiches, jacket potatoes, pasta and pick-and-mix type lunch boxes for the children. Value-wise it is ok, although if you're looking to save money you are probably best to take a picnic as none of the food places are that cheap. The outdoor BBQ is good in summer and the café in the Farm Shop is lovely for tea and cakes at the end of your visit.
There is a really good shop on the way out of the Farm Village - this stocks a range of toys and gifts and is a nice place to browse. This is connected to the Farm Shop which, although relatively expensive, has a great range of different foods including a butcher's counter, a great range of cheeses (usually with little tasting dishes), fresh fruit and vegetables and a good selection of homemade cakes and fresh breads. The butcher's counter often has some more unusual things available - we had kangaroo steaks which were delicious, and they do a fabulous range of kebabs in the summer months, perfect for taking home and putting on the BBQ. There is also a wide range of local produce including beers and wines, and lots of speciality foods - well worth a visit! The farm shop also hosts it's own seasonal events - the next one is the Easter food fair.
Overall, I think Willows Farm Village Is a great place to visit and a lovely day out for all the family. It is expensive in peak season if there are a lot of you, but there are loads of things to do and you can easily spend all day there. Once you're in, you only have to pay for your own food and drink, plus animal feed if you want it, and then all the attractions are free. My son loves it there and is always asking when we're going back... and that is enough of an endorsement for me.
Plenty of animals to see and acres of fun for the entire family.