Old MacDonald’s Farm, Essex
Date: April 11, 2014
We asked GentleParenting review panel member Louise, and her 1 year old grandson, to review Old MacDonalds Farm in Essex, here are her thoughts:
We took our Grandson, aged 1 for a day out for the afternoon to Old MacDonald’s Farm over the Easter Weekend, to give my daughter and son-in-law a well deserved break!
The farm was very easy to find and the car park was quite full so we thought it was going to be very busy! The main reception wasn’t very well sign posted due to refurbishment and a rather forlorn looking shire horse was situated in a small enclosure right at the entrance.
At the ticket area we were not offered any maps or indication of any events that may be being held that afternoon, and we had to walk through a rather cluttered gift shop and past the very noisy and busy soft play and restaurant areas before getting to the main pathways of the farm so it was all a bit overwhelming and chaotic!
The paths around the farm however, were spacious and very easy to navigate and were pushchair friendly, and we were able to see a variety of farm animals; pigs, sheep, goats and meercats! The enclosures were very basic, brick and concrete built, not particularly clean and looked rather bleak for the poor animals and quite a few were empty. There were only a few noticeboards indicating what species were supposed to be in each enclosure and not much information about their history, habitat etc.
There were some nice seating and picnic areas scattered around the farm and a pretty pond. The indoor enclosures for rabbits, guinea pigs, tortoises were maintained a little better, but they seemed quite dingy and did not have any fresh grass or plants. There was also a building for a Bullfrog Show, but not much evidence of a show… empty and no notices as to when the next show was or what it was about so that was a bit disappointing!
It was reassuring to see a few wash stations with hand sanitizers dotted around the farm to encourage people to clean up after petting the animals.
The outdoor enclosures for llamas, cows and reindeer were centred around a huge electricity pylon and the backdrop of the M25 so it wasn’t very appealing for us let alone the poor animals! The other animals featured at the farm were otters, wallaby’s, rheas, owls and ferrets. There was also a small aviary with parrots and budgies but these were very small and again, it seems like more could have been made of showing the animals off at their best.
It’s a real shame there were not more notices with information about the animals, or a tour guide, guide book or an opportunity to see a display or show of some kind. We did see a sign for an Easter Egg Hunt but were not informed when or where this was or how to go about taking part. Many of the enclosures were unsupervised and staff manning the rides looked bored.
The children’s play areas and rides were of a very good standard though and featured a sandpit, tractor and train rides, climbing frames and jungle gyms with slides and nets, a large inflatable slide and traditional helter skelter so there was definitely a good variety of activities which seemed to be very much enjoyed by younger children. The selection of themed farmhouse buildings and piped music also added to the ambience of the place.
The restaurant was busy but tables were not very well cleaned and outside bins were overflowing. There was a range of hot and cold food and snacks but nothing particularly healthy, just burgers, chips and sandwiches etc. A ploughman’s lunch and some old-fashioned cider would have gone down well!
It seems that Old MacDonald’s Farm is suited to younger children for an afternoon out – there’s not enough to do for an entire day. Organising a programme of events to really engage people (sheep shearing/milking/horse riding, falconry display, petting area etc.) and training staff to be more informative would really help people learn make the experience more interactive.
We would visit the farm again when our grandson is a little older and able to appreciate it more and we would recommend it as an afternoon out for younger children, however, it’s a shame that it doesn’t quite live up to its full potential and hope that some of these points are taken onboard to improve the overall quality of the experience.
Tickets for Old MacDonalds Farm cost £12.50 for adults and £11.50 for children aged 2-15 years (children under 2 are free) if bought online in advance.