Best of British: On the farm

BY Fiona Hicks

1st Jan 2015 Travel

Best of British: On the farm

Not only will kids love the animals at these agricultural attractions—there’s plenty for adults to enjoy too.

Cotswold Farm Park, Gloucestershire


Did you know that between 1900 and the early 1970s, the UK lost 26 of our native livestock breeds? This is because they were traditional, multi-purpose varieties that were becoming increasingly unsuited to the single-purpose efficiency of modern farming.

Farmer Joe Henson decided to step in. He chaired the first meeting of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in 1973—and we’ve not lost a breed since.

His son, TV presenter Adam Henson, celebrates his father’s efforts today with a bustling farm park in the pretty Cotswolds. “We’re incredibly proud of our heritage,” says Adam. “Educating the public about the UK’s native farm breeds is still at the centre of everything we do.”

Here you can see many beautiful and historical animals, including woolly mammoth-like Highland cattle and rare Tamworth pigs. 

Visit cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk for details


Cannon Hall Farm, Yorkshire


Steeped in history, this site near the village of Cawthorne was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The 1086 description read, “Manor. Calthorne. Alric [a Norman Lord] had three carucates of land to be taxed and there may be two ploughs there.”

These humble “carucates” of land have operated as a working farm for the best part of 1,000 years, once providing food for the majestic Cannon Hall and, since 1989, operating as one of South Yorkshire’s most popular tourist attractions.

“It’s a real, working farm,” says director Richard Nicholson. “More than 2,000 baby animals are born on-site every year.”

As well as viewing the animals through purpose-built galleries, kids can enjoy hours of fun in The Hungry Llama indoor play area, which features nine squeal-inducing slides. Adults, meanwhile, can enjoy a fresh meal in the farm’s restaurant, The White Bull.

Visit cannonhallfarm.co.uk for details


Smithills Open Farm, Greater Manchester


Once a dairy farm, this 70-acre space is now home to more than 25 species of animals, including the conventional cows, pigs, goats and sheep, as well as the more exotic llamas and eagles...and even Burmese pythons!

As say the owners, “Our animals are a very happy bunch. They’re all well-loved (and fed!). You can get up close to them because they’re nice and well-behaved. You can even feed them—and hold them—if you wish.”

The farm particularly prides itself on hosting superb birthday parties. After petting the animals (excluding, perhaps, the python), children—or indeed adults—can enjoy an array of other attractions, such as the bouncy castle, inflatable assault course and a tractor tour.

Visit smithillsopenfarm.co.uk for details


Mrs Dowsons, Lancashire


Six decades ago, Mr Dowson’s grandfather bought Hawkshaw Farm, which then comprised 54 acres, 12 cows, 200 chickens and a rather doddery old tractor. As the years passed the farm established itself as a major milk supplier, at one point filling more than five million pints a year.

However, the farm faced major challenges at the turn of the century, with the decline of local milkmen and the glass-bottled milk industry. Resolute, the family decided to diversify...and the famous Mrs Dowsons ice cream was born.

Today, this sweet treat is famous all over the county and beyond. With flavours such as amaretto and black cherry, smooth strawberry and Yorkshire parkin, it’s easy to indulge in a whole tub. In fact, it’s dangerously convenient that, in addition to the farm’s friendly cows, there’s an ice-cream parlour on-site.

Visit mrsdowsons.co.uk for details


Foel Farm Park, Anglesea


This beachside site proudly offers patrons a chance to experience the sights, sounds and (rather cheerfully) the smells of a real working farm. For a very reasonable £7.50 per adult and £6.50 per child, visitors have immediate access to a generous mix of attractions including feeding the animals, tours of the farm on a tractor and trailer and—a particular favourite of little (and big) boys—mini-trailer rides with a quad bike.

The other huge draw is the farm’s gastronomic offering. The Y Foel Tea Room & Café Bar is incongruously but delightfully Mediterranean-themed, just in case you fancy a bowl of olives as you overlook the majestic landscape of Snowdonia.

There’s also a chocolatier on site, which means you can watch delicious fondants, pralines and chocolate animals being made and— rather more crucially—taste them.

Visit foelfarm.co.uk for details


Mabie Farm Park, Dumfries


A sparkling stream, a wildlife-filled pond, a surrounding bluebell wood...it’s easy to understand why this Scottish attraction commands up to 1,000 visitors a day. It’s a labour of love for Allan and Julia Shuttleworth, who set up the farm as a tourist attraction at the turn of the century and have been continually enhancing it since. A key feature is the 5,000ft “Playbarn”, which—with bouncy castles, trampolines and a traversing wall—keeps kids occupied for hours. Says Julia, “With three children and eight grandchildren, we know what children and parents are like!”

There’s also an impressive variety of rare animal breeds, including Vietnamese pot bellied pigs. You can buy feed from the shop and feed the creatures at any time.

Visit mabiefarmpark.co.uk for details


Hackney City Farm, London 


In the 1800s this city locale was home to a food market, which turned into a brewery later on in the century. The steady supply of punters attracted a range of small businesses (such as a button manufacturer), which either folded or moved away over time. In the 1980s, a community-minded group decided to regenerate the area by turning it into a farm.

The aim was to give city youngsters a chance to become more in tune with nature’s cycles. Says farm manager Chris Pounds, “There’s the chance to get up close to the farm animals, maintain the site and volunteer in the gardens—all in a very busy urban environment.”

Visitors often while an afternoon away with the farm’s cherished donkeys, Larry and Clover. There may no longer be a brewery on site, but there are plenty of pubs nearby for a post-farm pint.

Visit hackneycityfarm.com for details



Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more inspiring stories

Enjoyed this story? Share it!