Reviewed by Sarah Bryan
We visited Fairytale Farm in Southcombe, Chipping Norton in the beautiful Cotswolds on a sunshine and showers sort of day. It was quite easy to find as it’s on the main road A44 but keep your eyes peeled for the sign as we missed it the first time, only spotting it at the very last minute so had to turn around further up the road. It’s a fairly new attraction though so hopefully a sign will be erected to give prior notice.
The entrance and parking area is spacious and plentiful with an overflow car park and clear signage showing the way in. We were greeted by friendly welcoming staff who were enthusiastic about the farm and knowledgeable about its history, the animals, the vision and future plans.
You can tell Fairytale Farm is in its infancy, there are signs up explaining this around areas under development and lots of the shrubbery is yet to mature but there were gardeners quietly beavering away in the background and building work going on further afield beyond the borders of the farm at the nearby Spa as well as the next phase of the Farm itself but keeping that in mind, it’s not yet finished.
We arrived just in time for the scheduled baby animal petting which was enjoyed by us adults as well as the children ages 2 and 5. There were baby bunnies to be cuddled and ducklings and chicks to be stroked.
We particularly liked to “Mousetown” which was an indoor miniature mouse world with real mice living inside the buildings. The children repeatedly wanted to revisit this section to wait and see if any more mice woke up to run around the shops.
Fairytale Farm is a nice sized farm with plenty to do. We spent 5 hours there which allowed us to split the visit with a break for lunch. After our visit to the baby animals, we had a play in the sandpit and explore the various walkways such “The Giant Rabbit Burrow” which is a simple polytunnel leading to a little house with a play kitchen – the kids loved this. The Enchanted Walk is a sensory experience with lots to see, hear, smell, touch and interact with and the giant singing mermaid with her watery friends was a favourite with lots of children. There were a large number of decorations which would look amazing at night – posters showed there would be sessions open to appreciate the illuminations.
The large outdoor play area complete with a combine harvester to climb and play in, a fairytale climbing frame with bridges and slides and other play activities such as a swing for wheelchair users was a good chance to burn off some energy. Nearby picnic benches meant you could have a sit in the sun while the kids played happily. It had a very safe and secure feel to it, you knew each section was secured with farm gates so the children could be free to run and explore without the worry of them escaping! The duck race was another favourite which would have provided a lot more entertainment had the heavens not opened and all visitors headed to the indoor Beanstalk Cafe and play area.
The Beanstalk Cafe was a delightful place serving freshly made sandwiches, jacket potatoes and other hot specials as well as a selection of homemade cakes – all very reasonably priced allowing a family to not only enjoy a day out but also enjoy a delicious lunch too. Our group ordered the jacket potatoes, scrambled egg on toast, spaghetti on toast and the chocolate cake as well as a latte or two, all scrumptious. I was pleased to learn that the eggs used were the farms’ own. The staff were very busy ensuring the seating area was swept clean and tidy.
Just across from the eating area is the indoor play area so parents/carers can sit at the table enjoying their cuppa while the children play in plain view with a selection of toys/drawing/dress up etc. The indoor play is more playgroup level, forget giant indoor softplay mazes; this is a back to basics simple affair and perfectly loved by the little ones. The Beanstalk Cafe and play area is appropriately themed and nicely decorated.
After a break for lunch we headed to the rear of the farm, the “animal zone” to see the sheep, ponies, pigs, donkeys, goats, turkeys, chicken’s amongst others – all were well kept in their pens in what is a wonderful countryside setting. A great idea is the “self-serve” seed area where you can purchase more animal feed if you hadn’t brought enough upon entry to the farm. Unfortunately the machines had clogged up but there was a staff member nearby who quickly assisted us by going to the farm entrance to get us some more bags of feed for the animals.
The facilities inside were adequate for this type of attraction and were kept clean and tidy, there was baby change available.
The farm is big enough to allow plenty to do but not so big that you are too far from away from any section. Staff presence made you feel it was cared for and well looked after and there was lots of handwashing and signage to encourage good hand hygiene – just one addition which would be helpful – stools at the outside handwashing hut, this would allow small people to be able to independently wash their own hands without having to be lifted up. Fairytale Farm has been designed in a very thoughtful manner, it really is accessible to all and everyone can enjoy what is on offer and that’s its appeal. It’s not huge, you could probably do it in half a day if you had another attraction nearby to see but you’re not fighting to ensure your little cherub gets to stroke or hold an animal, there is space so you don’t feel rushed or crushed and the staff seem very happy to work there.
For a different sort of “Farm Day Out” that’s got lots to see and do, animals to feed and a decent affordable cafe head to Fairytale Farm. It’s got a natural feel rather than commercial and it’s still under development in parts so we will return at a later stage to see what’s new to do.
I’d say the farm is suitable for children up to age around 7, and for all abilities. Our two aged 2 and 5 enjoyed it immensely and didn’t want to leave.
Tickets cost £5.25 (children 3 to 16 years, under 3’s free), £5.50 (adult) – book in advance online to save 10%.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.fairytalefarm.co.uk.
Fairytale Farm, Oxford Road (A44), Southcombe, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 5QH