Today we had a family day out at Doonies Rare Breed Farm – http://dooniesfarm.co.uk/ It is only a short drive from where we live, and somewhere over the years the boys have loved to visit.
The farm has a large acreage, part of which is an area with paddocks of animals that can be fed by the children using the buckets of vegetables you buy on the way in.
In recent years, the farm has had plenty of turmoil. It was operated by the council who decided a few years back it could no longer warrant subsidising it, and so pulled the funding and it had to close to the public. People power pulled back though and a charitable organisation was set up to save it. It re-opened with much delight from those that had been regular visitors over the years.
The boys were really excited when we said we were going there for the day. They love anything that involves meeting animals. At £10 for a family ticket, the price has stayed the same for quite some time. On this visit though, you had to pay extra for the buckets of chopped cabbage to feed to the animals – the children had always had them included in the entrance price previously.
Now I have to admit we hadn’t visited since last summer, when we had spent several hours traipsing along the paths that separated the pens, the boys complaining they had used up all their feed really quickly. On this visit though, we had been all the way around in 3/4 of an hour as there were so few animals there. Those that we did see were great, with a couple of huge Tamworth pigs, as well as horses and sheep. The animals were few and far between. The boys actually had to go back to finish up their buckets of cabbage, as they had paced themselves giving it out, and there weren’t the animals to do so! M was quite upset that many of the pens had the information panels blank, so he couldn’t learn what the particular breed of animal was he was looking at. The half story of it’s a pig, it’s a sheep, etc, just doesn’t cut it with him anymore, he needs to know what type it is and why its different from the previous ones. M was also quite disturbed by the empty over grown pastures that had previously been occupied areas. He found it hard to understand they were no longer being used.
There is a play area there, with a good climbing frame, and the boys did enjoy themselves on that. However after all of the climbing they needed a drink, and there is no facilities to get one there. Being a working farm, there is no food or drink allowed near the animals. They have a picnic area but that is accessable from the car park only.
M commented that he couldn’t understand why there was no café at a place like this, and I have to agree with him. Most other farms we have visited, both large and small have some kind of facility for feeding the human animals as well as the farm ones! After all, tea and cakes can be very profitable, along with a shop that kids cant help but waste their pocket money in. But none are there.
I think it is sad, that something like this hasn’t had the investment it surely needs to make it a tourist destination – be it local or incomers. It really needs money, which they don’t have being spent on it, if it has any hope of surviving in a time when everybody is watching where they are spending money. We could have taken the boys to the petting area of the local park for a fraction of the money spent on this visit, and they probably would have had a far better time.
Don’t get me totally wrong, the boys did enjoy feeding the animals, and the play area, but both were asking if that was it when we had been the whole way round.
I think we will limit our future visits to the spring when the baby animals are there as obviously at other times they haven’t got enough in place to occupy the children.