The sun has finally shown its face and in the spirit of Leaving The House, I decided this week that it was high time I took the small one out to try another New Thing. Preferably one which included the purchasing of milk, as we’d just run out. What better destination on a sunny day than a local farm park? It was on our way home from music class, there would be a shop to buy milk (fancy, locally-sourced, farm shop milk to boot) and, best of all, we might get to see some lambs a-frolicking. (OK, me. I might get to see some lambs. B3 really couldn’t give a shit about baby farm animals if there are tractors and inflatables to mount.)
I’d heard about Lockey Farm from various local sites. It’s a working farm in Arborfield with play area, café/pizzeria and farm shop as well as a few local businesses attached. It’s free (with donation boxes at the entrance) and kids get the chance to meet farm animals such as sheep, donkeys, goats, etc, as well as play on a wide range of outdoor equipment.
It sounds perfect on paper, but I have to admit I was a bit nervous about this one. I’d looked it up and read a few negative reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook about the quality of the play equipment, run-down animal areas, staff rudeness and bad toilets. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go, and actually I came away pretty impressed. Despite a few areas, including the main playground, being out of use, there was plenty to keep my toddler entertained and we ended up having a fantastic morning out. There was a large, clean sand-pit to dig in ‘like a doggy’. Two massive, inflatable pillows to bounce on. A large, ‘real life’ tractor to clamber all over. Farm animals to wave at. A little house to play in. Bigger-kid play equipment to insist upon trying (luckily nothing too heart-attacky). Not to mention plenty of open green space to generally run around and burn off energy. I have to admit we didn’t see an awful lot of the animals promised on the website and I’m not sure what happened to the whole meet-and-feed-them aspect, but there were spring lambs gamboling about, bleating and being all goddamn adorable.
It’s not perfect. There are definitely some areas that could do with a bit of work… The rabbit enclosure was overgrown and deserted. There was a mini-golf course which had clearly been out of action for a while (but, actually, all the toddlers I could see were having a great time climbing on all the different obstacles and, to be honest, if you’ve ever tried to do mini-golf with an under-5 you’ll know the removal of small, hard balls and hitting implements is, if anything, an improvement). The main playground was clearly undergoing some sort of refurbishment (but looked like it would be a lot of fun for my kids’ age range once up and running). I did ask in the shop when it might be back in action but the lady said she didn’t know (not unpleasantly, I might add, after reading some of the reviews about the LF staff I was expecting daggers at the very least.) The animals we did see appeared happy and well catered-for. The farm shop was much like most other farm shops I’ve been to. We bought our milk, some local ale for Hub and a couple of extortionate chicken kievs (which were definitely NOT worth it, sadly).
All in all, for us, the positives outweighed the negatives – for families with little kids looking for an inexpensive, fair-weather attraction to spend a couple of hours, it’s ideal. Is it the best farm park I’ve ever visited? No, but I’m pretty sure it’s the only free one. I think the thing to remember is that it’s clearly a farm and a shop first and a park second. A quick glance at the website will tell you that – it’s called Lockey Farm Shop and Butchers, not Lockey Farm Park. If you’re going in there expecting it to be like Bocketts or Odds, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re just looking for a quick, free thing to do with the kids on a sunny day (and buy some milk) look no further.