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Woodside Farm and Leisure Park (Luton)

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Address: Woodside Road / Slip End Village Luton / Bedfordshire / LU1 4DG

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      17.04.2010 20:50
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      A short but lovely visit

      Woodside Farm and Leisure Park


      The sun had finally come out after such a long cold spell and so off we went out to somewhere different. Somewhere in which we could enjoy the sunshine as well as entertain our little two year old daughter. I was a little worried, being a Saturday and lovely weather, that anywhere we chose would be full of crowds so we opted for Woodside farm which was situated far from any large towns in the hope that it would not be too busy. Luckily, it wasn't.


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      GETTING THERE
      ********************

      Woodside Animal Farm and Leisure Park is situated in Bedfordshire near Luton;

      Woodside Road, Slip End Village
      Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 4DG, UK

      Although it is near Luton, it is actually not far from Whipsnade in a very quiet little village town. It is very easy to find with directions and a helpful map on their website though as far as I can tell, there is no train station or bus stop nearby. The easiest way is by car and is only five minutes off of the M1 (J9 & J10), or the M25 (J21). It is well signposted from quite far out and so after following the little brown signs, you find you are there before you know it.

      Once there, it is difficult at first to see where you are meant to park though a helpful car park attendant showed us the way round to the side where a fair sized car park is situated. This is not a large car park though and fills up quickly. We had arrived just before 12.00 and already it was nearly full up.

      Around the car park before you enter the actual farm you will find a shopping village. This is free and not part of the farm pay area. Included in this area is a shop to buy various farm products such as eggs and farm made jam and many different fruit and vegetables. There is also a large pet store filled with pets to buy as well as all the housing, feed and other such things you may need for your pet. Next to this there is also a pet holiday home if you feel like going away though they do not accommodate the obvious pets like dogs and cats! Prices vary and to find out more you will need to call 01582 841044. You will also find Poultry & Waterfowl shops, a Self Service Dogwash, a Fairtrade Café, Doggy Daycare, a horse shop for children and a do-it-yourself carwash.

      To be honest, we didn't really look at these shops as both me and my daughter wanted to get into the actual farm area to see what my daughter said were 'proper animals!'

      The farm opening times are as follows;

      Monday - Saturday 8am - 5.30pm
      Sunday - 9am - 5.30pm

      With a traditional funfair within the farm grounds at the weekends and school holidays between 11.00 - 5.00.

      The prices to get into the farm are quite reasonable at first glance. They boast that they are the cheapest in Beds, Bucks, Herts and London though this, as we found out later, is only the admission! To lower these costs they want money everywhere else in the farm!

      Adults: £5.00
      Children (2 - 16 years): £4.00
      Young children (1 year old) £3.00
      Children under 1 year: FREE

      The annual membership seems reasonable as well starting from 9p per day for children at just under £40 for adults. To see the full price list please visit their website; http://www.woodsidefarm.co.uk

      Now that we have got the details out of the way, let me take you into the farm.


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      MEET THE ANIMALS
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      The first thing we saw when entering the park were a couple of very large, very hungry llama's and a couple of equally hungry full grown goats! Luckily on entrance, we had brought a pint cup sized container of food for £1 and my husband more than my daughter at first was eager to feed them! I was immediately impressed by these large animals which are not seen as much in other farms. We spent a good 20 minutes with these two species, my daughter giggling at the tongue licking her hand when feeding them and cowering behind me when they became to over excited. From this great start, I had high expectations of the rest of the farm though this was soon to be knocked away. I will say this now, the farm is a nice short day out though it is very small and ends up being very expensive if your children want to make use of the fairground and other leisure activities or if you even want to eat here! More about that later...

      As we had arrived later than planned, we looked for a picnic area as we had brought our own food for lunch which I was thankful for after seeing the prices at the café when buying a couple of drinks. There are many little picnic areas dotted around, one right by the entrance, which we bypassed as at that time it was busy with everyone coming into the farm, and another larger area near a small wooden play park and quite a few different tractors for children to climb on. Luckily my daughter decided she was hungry enough before wanting to go and play though really there was not a huge amount to play on for younger children. She did love playing on the tractors which were static ones. We did see some other smaller tractors which children could ride around though these were electric ones and cost even more money.

      (more on the café below)

      After lunch we went to find the rest of the animals. One thing we found a lot of were different birds which included some lovely owls, many chickens, ducks and other smaller birds - many of which were up for sale at very high prices between £70 to well over £100.

      We eventually found what we had been looking forward to - the monkey house. Now on the website there is a photo on the interactive map which shows a woman walking through the monkey house being very close up to them. It is also called the walk-though monkey house but when we got there we found that this was a tiny little hut on the other side of glass looking at the inside of their houses and on the other side a small path leading past their cages. There were a few little monkeys which my daughter loved though the website is very misleading on this so I was disappointed.

      There was also an inside baby animal part which was lovely to walk through and see the baby lambs and baby goats. Also in here was a huge tortoise or three! My daughter's aunt has a small tortoise but when she saw this one, her eyes literally popped out! There is also a small reptile part which my husband avoided completely as he has a fear of reptiles which my daughter found funny and tried to pull him nearer. At the end of this inside part is a seating area where demonstrations are presented at different times of the day. Unfortunately we didn't get to see any of these as it was not very well advertised and we missed them. Certain activities here included lambing and bottle feeding the lambs which would have been fun to see.

      There is a small walkthrough enclosure of flamingos, peacocks and other brightly coloured birds which I wasn't sure what they were but they were beautiful. This is all open with security gates at the entrance and exit and so you get a great look at these birds. My daughter was impressed with the peacock when it opened its feathers but by this time she had seen the bouncy castle dragon and her mind was set on that. Myself and my husband found this small area lovely though.

      Just down the path from these birds was a small enclosure containing two donkeys next to an enclosure with two different types of large pigs. One thing that I found great about this farm was that here and many other areas you could be up close with the animals and feed and stroke them. This was a growing love for my daughter after she had got past her fear and my husband loved it too. Although I am not a great animal lover, I even enjoyed petting and feeding the animals, especially the baby goats - one of which tried to eat my bag!

      So after meeting the animals, what did I think?

      There were a nice range of animals in the park and the petting and feeding part was certainly a hit with me and my daughter, though there just was not many animals at all. This is due to the farm being so small so I guess with the size taken into account, there was a decent amount. I would have loved to have seen more though the majority of the farm area was taken up with other leisure things as you will see below.


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      TAKE A RIDE
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      As already mentioned, we went on a Saturday which included a fun fair. Having not been any other time I wouldn't know what exactly runs in the week though from what I can gather, most of the following is not available in the week apart from at school holidays. In this case, I am glad that we came at the weekend as otherwise it would be a very very short visit.

      On thing that struck me was the price of everything. Yes, the entrance price was great though they do not mention that everything has to be paid for once inside the farm. It is not a large amount though it will quickly add up especially if you have more than one child. There is three ticket booths around the park where you buy tokens for everything. Each token is £1.00 with an optional wristband for just under £4.00 which allows unlimited rides on Helter Skelter, Teacup & Saucer ride and Carousel, as well as one game of Crazy Golf. This seems like a good price at first though the carousel and teacup ride are for very young children, the teacup ride being closed at the time, and the helter skelter has a height restriction on so take a look before deciding to buy this wristband. Of course, you could always buy one and give it to one child at a time and that would save you money but that is cheating...!!

      The crazy golf was actually a nice size though was two tokens (£2) per person to play and we didn't think our daughter was old enough to really appreciate it. The helter skelter was amazing to look at. It towered above the rest of the farm area and was one of those old fashioned beach type ones. Our daughter was too small for this and we were glad as heights are not a passion for either me or my husband and believe me....it was high! My daughter did have a go on the carousel which she loved and gave her a very long ride and luckily she was happy with that.

      Other leisure activities include a large bouncy castle, a set of six large trampolines, electric tractor ride ons and a tractor/trailer ride. From what we could tell, the bouncy castle and trampolines did not require token - at least there was no member of staff there and so our daughter had a little go on the bouncy castle for free. The tractor/trailer ride was one token (£1) per person and literally a two second ride to the top of the farm and back so we gave that a miss and instead had an ice cream!

      Inside the main café is an indoor soft play area split into two parts. On the ground floor in two levels is a play area for three years old and over. My daughter ventured into the entrance though quickly came out when the older children ran towards her. As she is only two we made our way upstairs where the toddler area is. This, I found, was not very well planned out as people with younger toddlers have pushchairs and getting them up the stairs to a tiny area is no fun, though we didn't want to leave our pushchair outside as we had all our bags on it so I left that part to my husband to sort out! Once up there we found we were sitting right outside some very smelly toilets which we later found out were blocked up and took the staff forever to come and clean after a few people went to complain. The toddler area itself was very small with a few soft play blocks and climbing parts which entertained my daughter until some seven or eight year olds went in and threw the large soft play bits onto her. Where were their parents? Why was there no staff member keeping an eye on who goes in and stopping the older children ruining the fun for the little ones? Another visitor to the farm seemed very angry as his small toddler got knocked over a few times. There are clearly signs up saying about age limits though parents and staff do not seem to keep with this which was a shame for the younger ones. Luckily it was such a nice day that we were happy to go outside and look around some more.


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      FOOD AND AMENITIES
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      The main café is central to the farm and is in the same place as the indoor play area so there is not a lot of room. It was difficult to find a place to sit once we had found our way through the closely knit tables. We had brought our own lunch so was not needing to buy food though after finding out the prices of the drinks we were glad that we did not want to eat. We bought a coffee (which was thimble sized and my husband drank in about three mouthfuls!), a fruit shoot and a small cup of diet coke. All this came to nearly £5.00.

      The café sells a wide range of food from burgers to candy floss to ice cream. There is also a good range of drinks available, both soft drinks and alcoholic bottles which was surprising as I haven't seen that in other farm café's before. There is also a burger bar and ice cream van near to the funfair area which sells the same sort of ranges as the café though some of the drinks here did seem cheaper though not by much.

      There are many toilet areas, all quite small though as there are a few of them it makes up for it. Most are easily accessible to all though the toilets in the café/play area are upstairs and not suitable for wheelchair users. There are also baby changing facilities by all the toilets.

      The whole farm is well equipped for wheelchair users (wheelchairs can also be hired) and pushchairs with ramps to most places except the one mentioned above and all paths are concrete so easy to manoeuvre around the animals.

      There are a couple of first aid buildings, one inside the farm area and one near to the car park. I did not see any staff inside these though that does not mean there wasn't.


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      PARTIES AND GROUPS
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      Although I am unable to comment on how the parties are as I have never been to one here before, I felt it only right to offer this information.

      Parties start from £12 per child and there are three different types of parties available;

      Farm parties
      Crazy Golf Parties
      Play barn Parties

      The parties offer basically the same thing included within the price with some subtle differences with each choice. With the play barn option play is the main aspect of the part with a special meal in one of the party rooms in the indoor play area. With the crazy golf option, the children get to play a game on the crazy golf course and have a go on the rides and with the farm party option the children get close animal encounter sessions.

      The parties look around the same sort of prices as most farms offer with the added funfair excitement.

      To see what is included in the price visit their party page on their website.

      For large groups or school parties, Woodside also offers educational rooms to talk to the children and reduced prices.


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      FINAL WORD
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      If you are looking for a full day out then I don't think that this farm can offer you that. We stayed for about 3 and a half hours and had done everything possible before our daughter's tiredness decided for us that it was home time. I couldn't see us staying much longer than that as it is a very small farm and apart from the indoor play area and the animals, everything else will delve into your savings. It is a shame that everything costs so much these days though we do come to expect it and the entrance fee is very reasonable though they have obviously pumped up the prices in the café to compensate for this plus everything else costing could really work out an expensive day especially if you have more than one child who wants to try everything.

      Did we have a nice time?

      Yes, the time we spent at the farm was great. The animals were lovely and the added extra's were a nice addition if not for the added expense though this added expense is a choice if of course your children let you get away with it! I doubt we will go back there again as I have taken my daughter to bigger and better farms though I am also glad that we went and if you are near the area I would recommend a look.

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