Last week I went with my boys – ages 3 and 9 months – to Cotswold Farm Park in Cheltenham (just under an hour’s drive) together with my older son’s best friend and his mum. We had an absolute whale of a time!
The weather forecast didn’t say rain but 5 minutes before we arrived the heavens opened and it didn’t really stop for most of the day. We were disappointed but as it turned out there was still so much to do that we easily and happily filled the day.
It feels as though the farm park has been designed by parents for parents and it’s about as family friendly as it gets. There are pram-accessible walkways everywhere, toddler level sinks for handwashing, baby changes, indoor picnic areas (and joy of joys you can take your own picnic in!), it’s spotlessly clean and well-maintained and the keepers are so welcoming and friendly.
The keepers also seemed very caring of the animals. One was tenderly helping a chick to hatch from its egg after it had got stuck. Another told us proudly while snuggling up to a gigantic rabbit that it had been a rescue and originally quite aggressive, but now a few years on in their care was one happy camper.
There are lots of excellent play areas at the farm park. Outdoors there is an adventure playground, ride on peddle tractors, a woodland forest-schooly type area with logs to climb on and dens with a pond at the end, and a couple of model cows to milk. We didn’t spend as much time as we would have done on these if the weather had been nicer, but all the elements were really well done and up together, and I thought there was a really good range of things to do.
Not yet open for the high season but they’ve also got two huge bouncy castle-style ‘Jumping Pillows’ which look absolutely awesome.
For indoor play there are electric ride on tractors… Oh yes. Worth the visit alone. My son and his friend both absolutely loved these and kept heading back there at any opportunity. They are in a large, covered area with a track painted on the ground for them to go round. Our three year olds could easily reach the peddles and mostly got the hang of steering…
There’s also a large play barn divided into three areas – the first is a huge sandpit, the second is a little forest-style race track with a tree house in the middle, and the third is a construction zone with ride on diggers, complete with hard hats. So a really nice range of things to engage kids and ours enjoyed flitting between the three.
And again nailing it from a parents’ point of view, there are benches all the way up the side of these three play areas where you can sit and see your kids (and this is where you can have your own picnic). There’s a café in there too although it was closed when we were there – but there’s another café near the entrance where we got our caffeine fix from instead.
We also discovered a soft play area towards the end of the day in amongst the farm animal section. This was lovely and clean and warm.
Animals-wise there are two large barns. The first is the ‘Discovery Barn’ which has lambs, piglets, rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks and goats. The second is the ‘Animal Barn’ where they currently have all the pregnant sheep and goats for lambing – but it changes for other events throughout the year (lambing runs til 28th April 2019, next is live milking, then shearing). Both barns are really clean and well-maintained, and all the animals had fresh straw and a decent amount of space.
There are more animals outdoors – goats, cows, sheep, pigs and horses – and some of these you can feed (you get the food from the ticket desk on the way in). These all have large grassy pens that you can walk around.
There is just so much to see, do and explore (and our boys loved it all) and I haven’t got onto the activities yet! There’s a schedule of daily activities you can go to which are between 30 minutes and an hour apart which pace the day nicely.
First up for us was the lambing talk which takes place in the Animal Barn. The talk is very informative and I felt a bit more aimed at older kids and parents, I definitely learnt a few things! It was good to get an insight into all that goes into lambing and to watch the pregnant sheep and goats waddle around.
Later in the day a goat gave birth to triplets in there. One of the keepers rounded us all up to go and see and it was amazing. I wasn’t that keen on the idea of lambing, being quite squeamish and having given birth myself fairly recently, but it really was so exciting and magical. The keepers took great care of her and only intervened when they needed to. It was so beautiful to watch the mummy goat lick her new babies clean.
The next activity was bottle feeding the lambs, which we enjoyed so much we also did it in the afternoon. It’s every bit as cute as it sounds… you grab a bottle and pop it in the mouth of the nearest lamb who slurps it down in seconds! In both the morning and afternoon sessions there were a lot more bottles than people so we got loads of goes at this, and it never got old!
The farm safari was next – this is aboard a trailer being pulled by a tractor which made our boys very happy. We couldn’t see loads as there was plastic covers down to keep us dry – so this would be much better on a sunny day, and it looked as though the views would be gorgeous.
There’s also a ‘Meet the farmyard’ session in the Discovery Barn where you can stroke some of the smaller animals and talk to the keepers about them. They also had some piglets scampering about in the straw.
Last but not least they have a shop crammed with utterly beautiful things – both for kids and for parents, a restaurant serving hot and cold food (including kids packed lunches) and a café. We didn’t try the food but it all looked yummy and just as classy as the rest of the farm park.
We got free tickets in return for this review but I wouldn’t recommend anything that I didn’t think was good – and this place is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! There’s so much to do, it’s fun, family-friendly, immaculate and the animal welfare seems excellent… and because it’s all so well thought out, it’s a pretty relaxing (yes, really!) and very enjoyable experience for us parents.
You couldn’t not have a great time here and we’re seriously considering going back in the summer when their campsite is open. It would be easy to spend two or three days there, especially once the Jumping Pillows are open!
For more info about Cotswold Farm Park, their website is here.
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