A February sun finally came out this weekend and we celebrated this first tentative tiptoing of spring by heading out with Roo to Odds Farm in Berkshire. It turned out we weren’t the only ones with this idea and on the first day of half-term arrived to find the over-flow car-park in full use!
Odds Farm Park, near Marlow and High Wycombe, is set-up with younger children very much in mind. Odds Farm is home to a whole host of farm animals, including some rare breeds and has recently acquired the coveted title of Farm Park of the Year 2013. From the traditional cows, pigs and sheep or chickens with exciting hairdos (see the photo below) to crowd pleasing domestic pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs, you will find all shapes and sizes and many different species at Odds Farm.
We first visited Odds Farm on Roo’s first birthday and she particularly loved exploring the outside enclosures. The pigs were a favourite with her squealing in glee as they galloped over to the fence but she also took great delight in pointing out the ponies adjacent to the entrance way. It is testament to the fun she must have had last time that despite not visiting since, upon arriving four months later she ran straight to the edge of the same enclosure and pointed in great excitement, despite it being empty on this occasion.
For those finding the winter very long, Odds Farm is an uplifting place to visit. In February, spring is very much in full swing – in fact the baby lambs were looking decidedly large when we visited, having been born in December! In addition to the many round bellies of the animal mammas-to-be, children and parents alike were going gooey over a beautiful litter of wriggling pink piglets, snouts aquiver and tails wiggling as they fought their siblings for the best sleeping or feeding spot.
There were lots more animals to visit in the pens in the indoor animal barn, including some very friendly goats and sheep who were jostling each other to climb up on the fence and greet each mini-visitor in the hope of a few food pellets. For that is an additional fun factor – for the older children you can purchase a few hand-fulls of food from 20p to lure over your new furry and fleeced friends who will gladly nuzzle in your hand for a morsel or two. For the price conscious or younger tots, rest assured that the animals in the barn are so used to snacks that they will be happy to investigate any hands appearing over the bars and little ones will have their fill of patting and petting most of the smaller livestock.
Sadly on this visit, due to the prolonged wet winter weather we have had, there were no animals in the outside runs. Despite being notified of this on a board before paying to go in, it was still a disappointment and it was obvious that quite a few of the larger animals who could not be rehoused indoors were elsewhere. This meant that visitors were concentrated more than normal on the indoor barn with space at the rails to pet the animals more of a premium than normal. A farm is of course subject to the elements and you are advised to call before visiting Odds Farm to check on its current status but all the same, it did seem a shame that there was no discount offered on what are already rather steep admission prices.
Advice to others visiting at busy times and seeking less bustle – time your visit to the indoor barn with lunch time when most other families will have headed to the cafe and picnic areas or coordinate with a live demonstration when older children will be kept occupied elsewhere.
The prices are indeed the major drawback of Odds Farm. Adults are £11.50 each with no family rate offered and senior citizens only attract £1 discount. Usually where adult prices are fairly high, this is done in order to make child rates seem comparatively cheap. However, whilst under-twos at Odds Farm go free, children of two years or older are £10.50 – the same prices as a senior citizen. This seems a bit steep when despite the staff at the farm going all out on providing as much entertainment as possible, this is still a place you visit mainly to visit the animals and many parents would welcome the opportunity to cut costs by buying a ticket excluding access to the other facilities on offer, no matter how good they are. Odds Farm do offer a season ticket which pays for itself after seven visits. This offers much better value for money for local parents wanting to pop in frequently for short trips.
On the plus side, there are plenty of other activities on offer at Odds Farm and they are really trying to focus on special events and entertainment, particularly at weekends and holidays. We visited on the first day of half-term and there were plenty of live demonstrations (fancy milking a cow or getting up close and personal with the bunnies?) and promises of entertainers every day. We didn’t stick around long enough to check out the latter – I have an irrational fear of strangers dressed up as animals or characters and was not about to embarrass myself in-front of a bunch of under fives by hiding behind the shed door when one came past! Instead we made the most of the sunshine and headed to the furthest of two great adventure play areas, complete with picnic benches, plenty of grass for kids to tear about on and brightly coloured tractors for budding farmers to climb on. These were a hit with Roo – we had to tear her away!
The outdoor kids areas have been developed sensitively and with different age ranges in mind. There is also a soft play indoor area for rainy days although I must admit I have avoided it on both visits as despite looking lots of fun, the sea of pushchairs and mums nattering with coffees put me off. That’s just me though – it is a real plus for many visitors to have such a broad spectrum of entertainment on offer. For me and Roo though, a visit to Odds Farm is with one purpose in mind – to get up close and personal with the animals and opportunity to run wild outside. Luckily for us and our visit this weekend, there were plenty to be had!
Odds Farm is open from 1000 to 1730, 7 days a week year round – weather and animals permitting (call before setting off to check for up-to-date information). Odds Farm can be found near Marlow and High Wycombe at HP10 0LX and is easily accesible via the M40 motorway. For more information on Odds Farm Park, you can visit their website.