I had heard lots of good things about Brooks Farm in Leyton, and I had been meaning to check it out with the gang for a while. This may be a little too early to admit this kind of madness, but previously my ability to park has often dictated our days out. I am so bad at parking that if I know there is no car park somewhere; I am likely to give the place a wide birth. For this reason alone, I have journeyed to Foxburrows Farm at Hainault Forest Country Park many times (also good!). Because like a dipstick, I would rather travel the distance than face the fear of not being able to parallel park, be forced to admit defeat and then dump the car ten roads away. But on this occasion my bravery was rewarded and I found a spot right outside the entrance. Result!
The entrance is small opening next to a newsagent’s on Skelter Lane, a narrow residential road. Driving past, you would no idea what delights are lurking just inside. As you enter the park you are faced with a fantastic play area, with a huge fort style wooden structure that the kids can climb, with several slides varying in size suiting all ages, plus the usual swing sets. Bend just round the corner to the left and you’re find the entrance to Brooks Farm – you can’t miss it. Being the eager beavers that we are, we had arrived just before the farm had opened, concerned we didn’t want to miss the start of the toddler session starting at 10am. But rest assured, this is not something you need worry about. You have plenty of time to fanny around, take a toilet visit and get your ticket from the café before the session actually begins, as the session didn’t get going until closer to half ten. I actually think this is a good thing as it’s nice to know there’s no mad rush for a change (although the lady running the session did announce they would need to be punctual after half term as a someone from Baby Sing & Sign was coming down and I wouldn’t want you to miss the start!)
Upon arrival, Coco rushed into the farm much how I imagine kids do when they reach the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. However she was stopped in her tracks by some rather tame (terrifying) turkeys – more from them later.
The toddler session is held at the back of farm in their classroom and there is sheltered area outside to leave your prams (although the lady running the class did kindly let me bring the pram inside, as Raf was asleep. This of course lasted five minutes). There were Duplo animal toys and puzzles left out for the kids to play with as the remaining mums arrived and everyone signed in. Now, I have to say my overall experience of Brooks Farm was great and I will definitely be visiting again, however the toddler session was not so great. The woman running it did give it her all, but it turns out toddlers are a tough audience and their attention was quickly lost. After the children finished ignoring the story being read, we were taken out to give the animals their brekkie – the main lure of the class. The kids were first taken to feed the ducks and then we were allowed special access into the bunny area. The only problem was there were a lot of toddlers, in quite a small space, so it was a bit of a scramble to get to the front and take a turn. To be truthful, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to feed any of the other animals, but I think this might have been a seasonal thing and the kids didn’t seem to care. They were more than happy to scurry off and take a look at the nearby pigs and ponies once the session had finished.
We then decided to grab some lunch at the café at the farm, where they sold a selection of sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, juices and hot drinks. The sarnies they had on display were a bit too adult for Coco’s taste, but the man serving was happy to make up a plain cheese for my fussy eater (although sadly the bread was a little stale). Whilst Coco pondered over whether to have a banana milk or apple juice (come on!), the real fun was going on outside. My friend had taken the first lunch shift and was feeding her two bubbas when a slightly over zealous turkey decided to help himself to her little girl’s sarnie. Cue screaming, fast flapping wings and a hungry turkey in the pram – thankfully Raf wasn’t in it at the time. We appeared non-the-wiser ten minutes too late just as the commotion was coming to an end, and thank god. Although I try not to act it in front of the kids, I can get pretty nervous with animals and that would have been a proper pee in my pants moment for me. After this, we made a swift decision to leave the animals behind and set up camp just outside in the park. The next hour or so was whiled away whilst the girls played happily in the huge wooden fort mentioned earlier, and us mums managed to have a good old gas. A sure sign of a good day out!
Top tips for future visits:
- Toddler sessions run on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 10-11am (as advertised) and cost £1.50, however there is no entrance fee
- You can park outside the entrance on the residential road. There were quite a few spots on Friday morning, but I fear this may not be the case on a weekend
- There are toilet facilities for adults, a separate kids loo and baby changing facilities. Raffy kindly did the biggest crap of his life, so I spent quite some time in baby changing and they were very clean
- They are also two hand washing stations clearly labelled and the staff were very good at making sure the kids washed their hands after touching the animals
- Warning: we didn’t spot any cows (much to Coco’s relief – she has a strange aversion to them)
- Next time, I would ditch the toddler session, check out the animals at our own pace, and attempt to be better organised by packing a picnic to have outside the farm in the park – far from the terrifying turkeys!
- During half term we were notified that normal classes would be cancelled and there would be special events such as pony rides and animal handling taking place. If it weren’t for the darn potty training, we would check it out
- For further information and other scheduled classes, please visit http://forestymca.org.uk/brooksfarm/what-s-on
Overall an easy, cheap and fun morning out for the kids – we will be back! Where is your favourite farm?