Review by Judy Cera
On a beautiful sunny autumn day (Saturday November 1st 2014) I took my two sons, Ben aged seven and Toby aged 11, to the Cotswold Farm Park. The website instructed us not to use satnav as it would direct us through a deep impassable ford. Directions were given on the website from a few towns but not from Gloucester where we were travelling from. Consequently we had some trouble initially finding the Farm Park. In the end we had to stop and switch on the satnav, and we just used it until we saw signs to the park and then followed the signs. It would have been helpful if the website had given us either directions from Gloucester or an alternative postcode to follow.
Once we arrived at the farm park we were warmly welcomed by the staff who explained what activities and events we could enjoy. These included some Halloween activities such as Halloween themed face painting and crafts, and a witch hat hunt. We took part in the witch hat hunt; we had to follow clues and find ten witch hats around the farm for which the boys were given packets of sweets as a prize.
This weekend was a special Bushcraft weekend run by Cotswold Forest School. The boys had a go at starting fires by making a spark, as well as toasting marshmallows on a camp fire. This was Toby’s favourite activity of the day.
Next we went on a tractor safari. We sat in a trailer and were driven around the farm while the driver gave a fascinating commentary on the history of the farm and all the animals we passed. The Farm Park was set up in 1971 by Joe Henson in order to protect some rare breeds of farm animal. It is now run by Joe’s son, Adam Henson and is still home to many rare breeds. Some of the animals are now no longer in danger of extinction because of the successful breeding programmes that are carried out. One breed of Gloucester cattle was so rare that there were only fifty in number, but they are now being bred successfully.
After our tractor safari we had some lunch at the restaurant. The restaurant and shop are in a grade 1 listed building. The food is made as much as possible from ingredients produced on the farm. Ben had sausage and chips; the sausages were made from Gloucester Old Spot pigs bred on the farm and even the chips were fried in oil made from oil seed rape grown there. The food was excellent and there was a selection of delicious home-made cakes too.
After lunch the boys played on some of the play equipment around the park. There was a bouncing pillow, a zip wire, sand pits as well as various slides, swings, climbing frames and ride on tractors. We tried out the maze where we had to answer questions about animals in order to find out the right way through to the exit. The boys were given badges as a prize for answering all the questions.
Next we went to a sheep history show. Nine different sheep were brought onto a stage from different periods in history. The first sheep was a breed dating back to Neolithic times and the last was a modern breed. One breed of sheep could have up to 6 horns while another breed, known as Cotswold Lions, had a lock of hair resembling a lion’s mane falling in front of their eyes. This lock of hair is traditionally left when the sheep is shorn so that anyone wanting to buy the fleece can simply inspect the sheep’s wool on its face in order to determine the quality of the wool. This breed was once on the brink of extinction but thanks to the farm’s breeding programme it is now flourishing. During the show, children from the audience were given props representing the different periods of history. Ben was delighted to be given a Bronze Age helmet to wear and a sword to hold.
There were many other activities that we could have taken part in such as a milking demonstration or rabbit handling, but there was not time for everything. There really is something for everyone and you can easily spend the whole day here and still not do everything. At £30 for a family ticket the farm park is good value for money. I would wholeheartedly recommend it as a great family day out. Check the website for special activities such as the festive crafts weekend.
Tickets cost from £7.95 to £30.
For more information or to book tickets online visit www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk.
Cotswold Farm Park Limited, Guiting Power, Nr. Cheltenham, Glos, GL54 5UG | 01451 850307