We round up the best family-friendly activity centres, shops and working farms that offer a taste of country life.
SACREWELL FARM AND COUNTRY CENTRE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE Set in the grounds of an 18th century watermill between Peterborough and Stamford, this farm park and country centre allows groups to explore, play and stay thanks to its on-site camping facilities that welcome tents, campers and caravans. Younger members of the group will love the rare breed pigs, goats and sheep, and if you’re looking ahead to spring, bear in mind that March is the start of lambfeeding season, with lamb racing on offer later in the year once they’re weaned – so get ready to place your bets! Come rain or shine the popular indoor playbarn has a large soft play centre, go-kart zone and snack bar, and children can enjoy the wildlife trails, animal village and discovery centre. Older members of the group will be drawn to the centre’s rich heritage. While the watermill itself dates back nearly 300 years, the land it sits on has been farmed since the 11th century and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Indeed, Sacrewell holds a special place in the history of British farming. Over the years it’s helped to pioneer large-scale milk production, played host to the Women’s Land Army and seen the earliest bovine embryo transplants. Since the early 1960s the farm’s been part of the William Scott Abbott Trust, a charity founded to provide agricultural education for everyone, from school parties and animal husbandry students to any visitor who wants a greater insight into where our food comes from and how farming and wildlife co-exist in rural England. To this end, it offers group visits, with discounted entry and camping rates for groups of more than 10 adults or 10 children. In the past, the team at Sacrewell have worked with Duke of Edinburgh, Scout and folk music groups, and the farm welcomes mill enthusiasts interested in the restoration of its watermill. There’s also a large, group-friendly café on site. Visit www.sacrewell.org.uk to find out more.
COTSWOLD FARM PARK, GLOUCESTERSHIRE Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park is run by the BBC Countryfile presenter and was founded by his dad, Joe, in the early 1970s to help protect some of the rare breeds on the family’s farm. Today, Adam and the team are committed to educating groups of all ages about farming and conservation, and the farm’s home to rare breed cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and ponies. Groups can camp out at the farm between March and October, and the attraction’s popular with groups from the WI, U3A, social and holiday clubs. You can expect to be greeted by a member of staff when you arrive who’ll talk your group through all the activities available (special rates are available for groups of 20 or more). Visit the website to find out more at www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk
THE SUFFOLK PUNCH TRUST, SUFFOLK Dedicated to preserving the Suffolk Punch horse, as well as the skills of the people who handle these gentle giants, The Suffolk Punch Trust is more than happy to throw open its (stable) doors to groups. Coach parties and smaller groups can enjoy a pre-arranged visit, with a guided tour that includes: ● A short welcome talk about the horses and their history, with an opportunity to meet the centre’s resident equines ● A horse and wagon ride or tractor trailer ride around the farm ● A tour of the harness room and stables ● A visit to the implement barn with its drays, wagons, parade vehicles and horsedrawn farming equipment ● Refreshments at the visitor centre and time to explore the on-site museum with its historical displays of rural Suffolk life Find out more about the centre at suffolkpunchtrust.org
LECKFORD FARM SHOP, HAMPSHIRE Far from being just an upmarket supermarket chain, Waitrose has now opened its very own farm shop on the Leckford Estate to the public. Hailed as the first supermarket-owned farm shop in the UK, it sells more than 1,000 products, with a strong emphasis on locally and regionally sourced food. Find out more at www.leckfordestate.co.uk/the-shop● Denny Abbey Farming Museum offers a glimpse into the history of Cambridgeshire life, visit www.dennyfarmlandmuseum.org.uk