Fun on the Farm
Standalone Farm won Best Family Attraction in the Muddy Awards this year so it didn't take much persuading to get my cousin Jacqueline, her friend and two kids to check it out on a sunny day this August.
Standalone Farm in Letchworth Garden City is a doddle to find (well signposted and 3 miles from the A1(M) Junction 10) which when you have babies and toddlers in tow is a godsend. They may not have started the ‘are we there yet?’ chorus at this age but getting lost with restless, hungry and on this particular day, hot, little ones is not a fun way to start your day out.
The farm is run by the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation – along with its other award-winning venues – Broadway Cinema & Theatre and the Broadway Studio & Gallery – and is perfect for children up to about 6 years old, introducing them to all things furry, feathery and fleecy with feeding sessions, cow milking demos and tractor rides too.
I visited midweek with my friend Tanya, and her two children, both under 5, so we were armed with the perfect age demographic ready to be entertained. We arrived just after it opened at 10am and there was already a gaggle of excited children ready to run amok. Parking is plentiful, with the overspill area offering dappled shade which was a relief as temperatures were soaring the day we visited. We were in holiday mode, sun hats and suntan lotion to hand, ready to learn all about the animals and overfeed them with paper bags full of unappetising pellets.
Don’t imagine vast plains or fields that stretch into the horizon – this is compact and buggy friendly. You’ll find most of the traditional farm animals here including pigs, sheep, horses, goats and chickens. No reference is made to bacon, sausages or lamb shanks: this is a sanitised introduction to farming. For those looking for something a little more exotic there are alpacas – a fashionable animal right now and the current ‘must have’ guest for many brides and grooms on their wedding day.
Interspersed with animal enclosures, there are several attractions to help burn off excess energy. The two play areas, both safe and age appropriate, were a great hit; the clucking of hens in the background reminding us we were in beautiful, rural Hertfordshire. A play barn with ride on tractors and coin operated trains require adult supervision, and these proved to be not only exciting but also helpful for developing those fine motor skills.
By then refreshments were necessary and we were tempted by the delicious chocolate cake in the cafe. It’s an affordable and attractive lunch spot. Seating is plentiful, not only in the main restaurant but also in the light and airy conservatory. If the weather is inclement and the British spirit of picnicking in all conditions pervades, there is a huge rustic barn where you can almost hear the cows mooing from yesteryear.
During the summer holidays there are various additional attractions such as circus skills, falconry displays, donkey rides and a dog and duck show. These are run by specialists, and apart from the donkey rides, are all included in the admission price. There’s no booking, and it’s first come first served, so remember the early bird catches the worm! And keep an eye on the Standalone Facebook page for what’s on during the day that you visit. Every day during the school holidays you can watch milking at 1.30 and 2.30pm and children can help to groom the ponies at 4pm.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Standalone Farm is a working farm that hasn’t been over commercialised. No big dippers, carousels or expansive, or indeed, expensive gift shops.
Good For: Ideal for pre-school aged childen. Perfect for whiling away a few hours in the fresh air and learning about farm animals from the information boards. Lots of space and scope for running along the wide grassy footpaths and getting back to nature.
Not For: Older children who might want a more eclectic mix of activities and children who want to feel the softness of fur under their fingers or a gentle nibble or peck, although you can get closer to the animals during the daily supervised sessions. Pony grooming runs every day during the summer holidays at 4pm. Milking at 1.30 and 2.30pm.
The damage: Outstanding value! Family ticket: £24; adult: £7.00, child: £5.50; under twos: free. An annual pass is £75 for a family (two adults and up to three children).
Words: Jacqueline Boakes
Standalone Farm Wilbury Road Letchworth Garden City SG6 4JN