Standalone Farm won Best Family Attraction in the Muddy Awards this year. My cousin Jacqueline went along to check it out with a friend and her two young daughters
Easily to get to, Standalone Farm is 3 miles from the A1(M) Junction 10. Head for Letchworth Garden City look out for the clear signs that will lead you right there.
Standalone Farm is run by the the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation – along with its other award-winning venues – Broadway Cinema & Theatre and the Broadway Studio & Gallery. The farm is perfect for children up to about 6 years old, and it’s a wonderfully gentle introduction to all things furry, feathery and fleecy.
I visited midweek with my friend Tanya, and her two children, both under 5. We arrived just after it opened at 1oam and there was already a gaggle of excited children gathering. Parking is plentiful, with the overspill area offering dappled shade. Temperatures were soaring, but we were in holiday mode, sun hats and suntan lotion to hand.
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 help develop 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. Children who might want to feel the softness of the fur under their fingers or the gentle nibble and peck, although you can get closer during the daily, supervised sessions. Pony grooming 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