Last week, I described my failure to farm out the children. Today, I turn instead to farms.
Did you know that farms are no longer smelly places where Eddie Grundy swigs a magnum of cider, vaguely tries to milk a pig, then gets mown down by Tony Archer in a Massey Ferguson?
No, most of them have transmogrified into high-gloss activity centres of childish joy and screaming. Far from requiring subsidies, these places are now, well, cash cows I guess is the most apposite phrase. All right Farmer Giles, put down your rifle, I’m just kidding.
Many a happy family scene can be enjoyed at these new kinds of farms, including ‘stop the child eating the sheep pellet’, ‘handle the monster tantrum caused by giving the farm their Shetland pony back’, and ‘say no no no no oh bloody hell all right then’ to ice-lollies, plastic snakes, Dora Explorer beanie-babies and other excessively marked-up bits of tat which offer final proof that modern life has gone to hell in a hay-wain. What? Yes, sorry, doctor. Just taking the meds now.
Here, then, is my handy cut out and keep (or download and ditch) guide to home-tested summer farm fun for kids! Exclamation marks free of charge! At least something is!
Spring Barn Farm Park, Lewes
Entry fee: HOW MUCH??
Pros: Rather good pedal go-karts, and the popular bouncy pillow. Indoor stuff to do if it rains. Nice café. Other purchasing opportunities mainly limited to packets of chicken-feed, which cost, well, chicken-feed.
Cons: Too many words in its name, becomes Spring Fark Parm. Grown-ups humiliating themselves on the bouncy pillow. Children wearing fleeces should keep away from the hay-bales, unless you want to pick straw out of your house, car and hair for the rest of your life.
Heaven Farm, North Chailey
Entry fee: Cheap as chips.
Pros: When Thing Two dropped his ice-cream, they replaced it for free. Hokey corn-dolly craft shop. Heaven Farm allows immense scope for imaginative outdoor play, because…
Cons: There’s not much to do there.
Washbrooks Farm, Hurstpierpoint
Entry fee: Somewhere between Spring Sparn Bark and Heaven Farm.
Pros: Tractor rides and trampolines. Ain’t nowhere better to see painted plastic cows.
Cons: The alien-painted plastic cow produces terror in small children, and horror in adults who think plastic cows should have the decency to look realistic.
Middle Farm, Firle
Entry fee: None (usually).
Pros: Suitably Lewes-ish organic food shop. Shed where parents can sample Eddie Grundy’s cider.
Cons: Becoming increasingly bewildered and losing the children after too much time in the cider shed.
Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, East Dean
Entry fee: Not as cheap as you were imagining.
Pros: Good for explaining trajectory from cute fluffy baby lamb to Irish stew.
Cons: Full of sheep.
Blackberry Farm, Whitesmith
Entry fee: Almost as bracing as Spring Spark Farg.
Pros: Haven’t been there yet so it’s probably the farm I’ve been waiting for.
Cons: Their website ominously boasts of ‘high quality toys’ in the gift shop, which is asking for trouble.
Beth Miller, 11th August 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by John McGowan