Thursday, 14 July 2016

Old Hall Farm Attraction in the Lake District

We visited Old Hall Farm by chance on a bright but breezy day. We had originally had other plans, but unfortunately Grandad was feeling unwell and so we had a quick glance through some leaflets we had picked up on the local area, and decided to give this place a try. My children all love farm animals, and in fact dream of having their own little farm one day, and so with it being less than half an hour away from where we were staying in the Lake District (White Cross Bay) we decided to have a day out there instead of our original plan.

It was relatively easy to find with the Sat Nav, and it was also signposted from the main road, though the signs state 'Working Farm' as opposed to the actual name of the attraction. Once off the main road, there is a short distance to travel along country lanes, before the farm and the car park can be easily spotted.

On entry into the car park, we were greeted by a man who was sat at the entrance and directed us where to park. Once out of the car, the gentleman was very friendly and said that he hoped we had a lovely day. This was a nice welcome to have, and we made our way to the main entrance.

First impressions were that it seemed really quiet and relatively small. However, appearances can be deceiving, and whilst not the largest farm we have ever visited, there was certainly plenty to see and do.

I felt that the admission price was very reasonable at £24 for a family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children, as it usually costs me that just to take my children to the local play centre for an hour, so I was more than happy with the price we paid for entry. The lady working in the shop was very polite and told us where everything was, and there was a board just as you entered that had timings on for events throughout the day.

As we entered, we noticed a crowd around a beautiful  Clydesdale horse, and everyone was stood listening attentively to the staff member who was explaining all about the lives of working horses, the equipment they wear to plough the fields and how they are cared for. This is where this farm became very different to others we have visited, as Old Hall Farm actively encourages everyone to get involved, both children and adults, and you can literally participate in everything to do with the working life of the farm. My two sons were delighted to have the opportunity to groom the horse, and when one of the ladies leading the talk noticed that my 3 year old wanted to join in, she went and fetched some small steps so that he could climb up and brush the horses mane. He absolutely loved this!

Unfortunately I cannot remember the names of both the ladies that led the activities and talks throughout the day, but they were both very passionate about what they do, as well as being extremely informative. It was great to be able to ask questions and receive knowledgeable answers, and their enthusiasm and general cheeriness made the day an absolute delight.

All the visitors were then invited to help in the field to gather manure! Who would want to do that right? Well, believe me there were plenty of volunteers, as all the budding little farmers raised their hands, keen to participate. The horse was kitted out, and a large trailer attached, everyone gathered a spade and then followed the horse down to the field, where manure was eagerly thrown into the back of the trailer before being returned to the yard.

Once we were back in the main yard, we decided to explore and have a look at the vast array of old farming machinery displayed there. A lovely added touch in each of the sheds was a tv display that played information on farm life, and the way the equipment was used. Some of the equipment was in pristine condition, and others not so much, but it was very interesting to learn how farming used to be done, prior to the introduction of all the machinery and gadgets that are available to use now.

After this, we had a wander around the sheds, and met some lovely animals. There were chickens roaming, some huge pigs, and shetland ponies to name a few, aswel as a beautiful donkey.

Once we had met some animals, we decided to go to the play barn, we washed our hands, bought some ice cream and sat in the undercover seating. The play barn is literally towers of hay, with a big rope swing in the middle. The hay bales have all been securely fastened, and range from various heights with a mix of tunnels, steps and walkways around the barn. This is simple play at its finest, no fancy gimmicks, just hay and lots of it, and do you know what, the kids LOVED it! They spent a good hour in here after eating their ice cream, before moving outside where Riley chose to play on the mini tractors, and Emma and Ben went on the larger go karts.

After a play, we returned to the main yard area, where the Shetland Ponies had been brought outside along with the donkey, and it was nice to have the opportunity to get up close with the animals. There is the opportunity to feed the cows, sheep and ducks, and there is also the chance to try your hand at making butter using traditional methods. Before we knew it, several hours had passed, and yet we were still enjoying ourselves and finding new things to see and do.

The shop where you both enter and leave the attraction, was stocked with some lovely gifts that were also a reasonable price. My children had been given pocket money that morning that was burning a hole in their pockets, and they usually end up buying rubbish, but Riley managed to purchase a lovely large set of farm animals for only £4 and a small plastic tractor for £1.99. Both were really nice toys, and I was especially pleased with the farm animal set as they were a really nice size as well as good quality and offered great value for money.

Food can be purchased from the shop, and again these were reasonable prices, and sandwiches, crisps etc were available. There was also a small tea room area, however we did not venture in there, so I am unsure as to what menu is available, but there was sufficient dining facilities to have your lunch there. However, if you fancied something more filling, I noticed that there was a pub offering cooked meals just a short walk down the road.

Overall, I would highly recommend this place. The entry price is very reasonable, the staff were extremely knowledgeable and friendly, and it is literally a little gem of a place. I definitely hope to be able to return here as a family again, in the not too distant future.

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