One of the best things I love about living in the countryside is being surrounded by open space and being able to take my children out for the day where they can play safely and engage with nature. It is said that getting outdoors and interacting with animals is good for your wellbeing and lifts the spirit so imagine my delight to discover that there are lots of innovative local farms who have made a huge effort to transfer their properties to offer families some outdoors fun and adventure. Here are some of my favourite local farms within an hour of Newbury that I think are worth visiting for a great day out with the children, come rain or sunshine!
Roves Farm, nr Swindon, Wilts
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This farm is not often talked about in my mummy circles, but it makes an excellent day out, especially if you want to combine it with a cheeky trip to the Designer Outlet Centre in Swindon, plus its only 40 minutes away from Newbury. The farm was nice and quiet on the day we went, and so we were able to walk around the fields and feed the animals in the barns with ease. Their big selling point is the huge indoor cafe and play area where little ones will delight in the sand box, inflatable bouncy castle, rabbit warren and enjoy whizzing down the slides! They offer daily activities such as meeting the animals, toddler time (10am and 1pm), tractor rides and craft sessions. There is a decent cafe in the play area with lots of seating and coffee, cakes, sandwiches etc – you wont go hungry. My children particularly loved the outdoor treehouse and play area. Overall a pleasant day out!
Finkley Down Farm, Andover, Berks
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Finkley is only 30 minutes from us and is a huge hit in our household. My daughter asks to go there at least three times every day as she loves it so much! Once a sprawling working farm, Finkley is still a family-run business but is focused on providing family fun both indoors and outside. There are activities throughout the day including the famous sheep racing, pony rides (weekends and holidays), birds of prey displays, reptile handling and calf feeding. Children will enjoy the spacious outdoor play areas with dedicated toddler zone and trampolines, whilst inside the huge Play Barn there are soft play areas for different age groups, a delightful cafe and dedicated areas for children’s parties! The big draw is of course the cheeky animals, here you can feed the goats and sheep as well as pet the other animals in a safe environment. We particularly enjoy the special events at Finkley, as they really do make a great effort to entertain and engage the children. There’s the Summer Spectacular, Halloween Half Term and Magical Christmas, but they also host events such as the Teddy Bear’s picnic. If you are local I’d definitely recommend investigating the annual pass – top tip is to sign up before your little ones turn 2! This place can get manic in the holidays, but it’s large enough to cope.
Manydown Farm, nr Basingstoke, Hants
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I was not too sure what to expect from this Hampshire Farm, as it is only open during the holidays (please check), however, I needn’t have worried, it is a really fun day out for the kids and they loved it! As it is still a working farm, it is not quite a polished and set up as some other purpose built ones we’ve visited, however, I felt it offered a more authentic farm experience and the owners have made a real effort to provide lots of activities for the kids. It is definitely one of the quieter farm visits, but I thought this was a huge positive point, and the Family Fun site is deceptively larger than you initially think. They’re Summer highlight is the Maize Maze – this year in the shape of a unicorn! I have two young toddlers, so was a bit nervous about taking them in there, but older kids will have a blast finding they way through the field! The farm has all the animals you would expect, and I liked the fact they were kept in large areas so you can take a stroll through the woods and fields, enjoy the fabulous views and feed the animals as you go. The animal barn is very engaging for the children as they can handle rabbits, guinea pigs and chicks plus they have sheep racing and other activities throughout the day. The play areas are well set out with pedal tractors, climbing tractor tyres, bouncy castle and giant bouncy pillow, as well as the essential sand pit! Mum’s can take a breather and enjoy a coffee whilst watching over the children (I did anyway!). All in all a good, wholesome outdoorsy day out.
Millets Farm, Frilford, Oxon
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I remember when Millets Farm was just a farm shop and pick your own in summer, but now it offers the family so much more that you can easily spend the day here! This summer they have their Maize Maze which is a separate area with plenty of fun play for the children, including three mazes (the largest can easily take an hour to navigate through!). There are also woodland walks with hidden dens, trampolines, crazy golf, a sand pit and lots of games and puzzles to keep they little ones fully immersed in the seaside themed fun. It was pouring with rain on the day we were there, but it did not dampen our spirits and we were able to have lots of fun and taking shelter under the marquees when it was too wet. The main farm centre offers even more surprises including a farm area where you can meet the animals and delightful walk through Phoebe’s Wood. You can visit the falconry which is home to 90 birds of prey and is the largest centre of its kind in Oxfordshire. It seems that the activities are ever expanding with a new indoor play barn opening this winter – sure to be a big hit! The Farm Shop has a wide selection of local produce and there is a lovely gift shop, cafe as well as a very popular and large restaurant. Over the summer the pick your own fields are a must especially with the children to help them an understand how our food is grown and to of course go home with delicious strawberries! Time will fly and the children will sleep well after a day here.
Bucklebury Farm Park, nr Thatcham, Berks
We visited Bucklebury Farm late last year and were glad we made the 40 minute journey. The farm is well laid out across 74- acres and I think has one of the best cafe/restaurants of all the farms I’ve been to (but alas not the cheapest!). The deers really steal the show here and would be the main reason to come to the park. It reminds me of Richmond Park, London, but better, as you can sit in the tractor trailer and listen to the informative commentary from your guide as you are taken round the fields to see the deer up close. They are incredible animals! The Farm offers plenty of other fun things for children to do – they can feed the farm animals, den build, go on the tractor ride, play outdoors and whizz down the slides inside. This is more of an outdoor farm as the indoor area is limited for the smaller members of the family, however, I think that is its appeal. It certainly has a wide range of animals to see and pet including their reindeer!