If you are looking for a hassle-free, fun-filled weekend to keep the kids entertained and utterly wear them out, then look no further than Cotswold Farm Park. What an utterly brilliant place!
Now as the parents of a three year old, we have spent a fair amount of time at farms, farm parks, adventure playgrounds and the like, but Cotswold Farm Park honestly tops the bill.
Cotswold Farm Park is run by Adam Henson, who many would know from ‘Countryfile’, but first and foremost he is a famer. The Farm Park was first opened by his father back in 1971 who started keeping rare breeds to help aid their conservation. Adam took over in 1999 with his old friend Duncan Andrews who he met at agricultural college back in the day. Together they run the main farm (all 650Ha of it), along with the Rare Breeds Farm Park, which is now home to 50 breeding flocks and rare breed farm animals.
We have visited Cotswold Farm Park once before (last summer) and remember having had a great time, so we decided to suggest it to our local mates as part of our ‘yes group’ to see if anyone fancied a fun farm-filled family camping trip. Now you know when your mates are total ‘yes people’ when this simple question results in 9 families, including 17 adults and 21 kids agreeing to come along. Awesome!
We booked for the May bank holiday weekend in order to maximize our time to a three-night stay, and this turned out to be the campsite’s first official opening weekend since being totally re-vamped. When we went last year the campsite adjoining the farm park was a pretty basic affair with minimal facilities.
However when we returned this year it was all-singing and all-dancing with brand-spanking new shower/toilet facilities, a lovely wooden welcome lodge with a log-burning stove, manicured pitches, new paths and a new wash-up block. Clearly some serious money has been invested in this place and it showed. We were met by the lovely campsite warden Sam, who showed us around and talked us through everything that had been built/upgraded.
Now it’s fair to say that the campsite does not have a ‘natural’ feel to it – it’s logical and organized with numbered, marked out pitches, clear paths leading to everywhere and perfect squares of grass/tarmac for the electric hook-up pitches. But it is a great place to say and does exactly what it needs to; its sole purpose is to allow you to access the farm park over the course of a couple of days, and for this it is perfectly-located, clean and comfortable.
Our ‘tribe’ rocked up over the course of the Friday. Morts and I got there first and Oskar even had a couple of hours in the farm park in the afternoon. The deal is that if you are camping at the campsite then your ‘one-day ticket’ to the farm lasts you for the duration of your stay. The ticket costs are really reasonable: £12.00 for an adult, £10.50 for ages 4-12 and £7.50 for ages 2-3. Considering we were there for 3 days, this was only £4 a day for adults, which I certainly think is brilliant value. I have paid far more in other places for far less of an experience. The tickets come in the form of coloured arm bands so each day you just exchange your arm band for the next day’s colour – it’s a good system and the kids go for the ‘collect ‘em all’ approach (obvs), even trying to find old colours to add to their collection.
There is so much to do at the Farm Park and it is so well organized. We literally bounced from one thing to the next for three days solid. There’s the ‘touch barn’ where you can hold and stroke the farm’s smaller residents including guinea pigs, rabbits, new born chicks (adorable!) as well as bottle feed newborn lambs and goats; this was where we spent A LOT of time as the kids just loved it, especially the bottle feeding.
We also visited the demonstration barn where seasonal activities are showcased, including milking and a sheep sheering display, which the kids found fascinating.
A huge hit with Oskar were the tractors of various shapes and sizes: ‘tractor school’ where you could drive big red battery-operated tractors around a little indoor course; small blue pedal tractors to try and navigate round an outdoor course, and the farmyard safari in the back of a trailer, pulled by a real life tractor; Oskar was in Tractor Heaven! And if we ever lost him (which I’m not going to lie, we did on a number of occasions!) he was always to be found in one of these three places, sat on a tractor and beaming from ear to ear.
Another really brilliant experience was the falconery display, which was the best I have ever seen. The falconer was so knowledgeable and had a great sense of humour and he really engaged and involved his audience. The older kids absolutely loved it and many of them had a go at holding the glove and flying the birds, which was something that they did not stop talking about for the rest of the weekend.
A real time vacuum were the adventure playgrounds – a maze, bouncy castle, bouncy pillows (these were the real hit), sand pits, swings, climbing frames, nature adventure trail, soft play, you name it – the kids loved it and were lost in it for hours, while we sat in the sun and enjoyed watching them.
There were plenty of picnic benches scattered around and mostly we made a picnic before we left camp in the morning and brought it into the park with us to eat in the adventure playground area.
Often you come to these places and end up spending a fortune once you are inside, but that was the absolute joy about this place – there were no hidden costs. I think the most we spent was £2 on a coffee and 50p on a bag of food for the goats. That was it!
We saw Adam Henson on a number of occasions around the Farm Park, which was lovely – again, sometimes famous people put their name to things but don’t really have anything to do with it, but this is clearly not the case with Adam. He was always busy about the farm, talking to workers and politely chatting to visitors and posing for photo-requests (mostly from me), and when you spoke to him he was genuinely interested in your experience and what you thought of all the new changes and improvements. From first impressions he seemed like a really lovely bloke who is clearly passionate about what he does. It’s always nice when people live up to your perceptions!
All in all we had an absolute blast of a weekend. A great time with a good bunch of friends; a super campsite with excellent, clean facilities; a farm park where the kids can learn and play all day and utterly exhaust themselves; and all for a really reasonable price. Seriously – get online and book your tickets and camping pitches now as I have a feeling this place is going to be a big hit this summer, and for good reason :o)