At Willows Farm, it’s so much Fun there’s Lots to See and Do!

photnoI feel a poem coming on! I think that I could write a good one if I only had the time. However, despite the presence of our lovely au pair, my gorgeous Alexander wants to play with me and every time that I close my bedroom door, he starts crying! So, here goes. It’s a been a while coming and this place deserves a great write-up. Most mothers in the vicinity already know about it but if you are within a reasonable distance of St. Albans and you have children then make it your business to find out and go visit – you won’t regret it.

Willows Farm Village is the perfect day out for kids. Set in acres of Hertfordshire countryside, my most favourite aspect of this wonderful place being that you really do feel as though you are in the countryside and not some plastic amusement park. There are even two real farmers, Andrew and Anna on the farm!

When you become a parent you suddenly realize that your time is not your own. When you have little ones, the easiest way to get withrough the day is to be doing something! No more leisurely breakfasts, lie-ins, late lunches. No, keeping kids occupied is the secret to happiness as a parent. If you disagree, I’d love to hear your views! So, with this in mind we took our first visit to Willows Farm. I have to admit that I was skeptical. I was traumatised long ago as a young adult by Legoland ( I have heard subsequently that it’s fantastic!) and expected much of the same; overpriced and underwhelming.

When we arrived, I was already pleasantly surprised by the bales of hay and the fields. The animals grazing; llamas, sheep, cows. I was expecting more of a ‘funfair’ . Through the turnstiles and we were in. The only problem that we had was which direction to go in first. Down the hill towards the lake and the nature walk or the a ride through the fields on Tristan the Runaway Tractor?

photoAlexander is at the age where animals are truly amazing to him so armed with a cup of animal fee, sold at the gate for a few pence, we headed down towards the Goat Bridge ( as it says-it’s a goat bridge for real live goats!) and to the outdoor animal feeding area where you hold out hand and wait for goats, the cutest baby kids and the llamas to come and eat right out of your hand. All around you see little children excitedly feeding the animals. Getting to see them close-up. Of course hygiene and safety is paramount and there are sinks and special handwash provided with the strictest instructions to wash hands after touching the animals. In fact, you will notice signs everywhere at Willows to the same effect, with little sinks and handwash everywhere. They know well that it’s a brilliant experience to offer children the opportunity to be close to the animals but that these aren’t household pets they are farm animals.

Sticking to the many outdoor activities all sprinkled around the green farm, interspersed with the many shaded and unshaded picnic tables (a great option to take a picnic and also a great economy) there is a plethora of things to do. There are trampolines, bouncy castles, assault courses, climbing and play areas for toddlers and older children alike.

There’s also sheep racing, falconry displays, childrens’ shows, funfair rides ( just a tasteful but well chosen handful- I’ve had the pleasure of the roundabout, squashed in next to Alexander just a few times!). Have a look at this interractive map because there really is so much to see and do that I can’t do it justice and I might miss out one or two things!  Map.phbboto

When the little ones tire or slow down just long enough to eat, there is also a good choice of options. From the aforementioned picnic tables that can be used for your homemade picnic or for a burger from the Farmhouse Barbecue, or an ice cream from the Ice Cream Kiosk (a little more exciting than it sounds!). There are microwaves in the Wooly Jumpers Coffee Shop and the Farmhouse Restaurant for heating all those baby essentials and you will find a good selection of all the simple favourites from freshly made panini and baguettes to jacket potatoes and pasta. More importantly, there is a brilliant section dedicated to the little ones with mix and match pricing on mini sandwiches, fruits, yogurts, drinks and healthy snacks too – a welcome relief for us parents whose little ones cannot even manage a full children’s portion which isn’t such a great deal cost-wise when it gets thrown away!

Willows Farm isn’t  just about outdoor activities either.There’s loads to keep the little ones happy for a day when the weather doesn’t hold up. There are two huge soft play areas – one for the younger children and one for the bigger ones. On our visit we could neither drag our little one of twenty one months, nor our niece and nephew of 12 and 13 away! Luckily, the soft play is right by the coffee shop, so plenty of seating and refreshment for supervising parents. Also indoors, is a really wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals;  a brand new Farmyard Favourites barn housing donkeys, cows, pigs, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs along with their cutest of cute young ( you can see baby chicks being  reared; kept warm in special  housing).  Armed with animal feed, you can get up close and personal and the children can really learn about the animals at the same time.

phiohotoThere’s a theatre, a sand play area, a maze, a ferret run and an ice rink in winter all so sympathetically situated within the farm grounds and if that’s not enough (believe me, I’ve only mentioned some of what is on offer), there are many different seasonal attractions and events including activities like sheep shearing and potato harvesting. Events change regularly.

If all of this isn’t enough, Willows also hosts children’s parties and has a nursery school too. Membership isn’t the cheapest but it’s brilliant, brilliant value and well worth it because Willows is a place to return to over and over again. Some people go every weekend and I can see just why. No tack here, just good wholesome fun!