Updated January 2015: Since this review was written, the Hampshire Culture-all Passport annual pass used to access this venue and other Hampshire County Council attractions is no longer available.
I had my first child 8 years ago and soon my mummy friends introduced to Staunton Farm as a place to bring babies and children. I joined as a member and I have renewed my Hampshire Culture-All Passport annual pass (allows access to all 9 of Hampshire County Council’s venues) pretty much every year since. I have been many, many times over the years, but every visit is fantastic!
What can you possibly do at the farm, over and over again and not get bored? Well, that’s a great question and here’s why:
1. The play parks
Kids love play parks – this is a universal fact. Even if we bypassed everything else in Staunton Farm and just used the play parks it would still be worth the entrance fee. When we arrive at Staunton we usually head straight for the parks and the boys usually play for at least an hour before even contemplating seeing anything else!
George’s Play Barn was a new addition a couple of years ago, and while it may not be massive, my boys love it. There are two play areas in George’s Play Barn – the first is a a soft play for the under 4s and a climbing frame, rope bridge and the second play slides for the 5s and over. There is a small seating area for the adults to sit and have a drink while the kids let off steam. The indoor play barn is converted from a Gothic barn, and the whole area is maintained to a high standard. I wouldn’t say that it’s not terribly warm in the winter, but that’s what the hot drinks are for! My boys play here for ages – and there is usually someone else to make friends and play with.
The outside play park hasn’t changed much over the years, but it is again well-maintained and great fun for all ages of children. It has the added fun of chickens and turkeys wandering around getting in the way/scratching about in the ground.
2. The animals – feed, look, touch
Obviously, the aforementioned chickens are wandering around the farm, as are the Peacocks. They may be incredibly pretty, but they are also loud and they usually greet visitors at the entrance with their mewing sounds. If you are lucky, you get to see their amazing feather displays.
There are the usual farm animals to look at – sheep, cows,pigs, goats, chickens and other birds etc. Dotted around the farm are many other animals such as alpacas, lamas, Shetland ponies, owls, fish, giant snails, bees, cockroaches – it’s great fun hunting for them.
If you get to the farm early enough you can buy a reasonably sized bag of food for around 75p (September 2014) and feed the animals. There are some animals you cannot feed, but these are clearly labelled. It’s great fun and so easy to do – just hold your hand out flat and let them munch away. The kids love it and there are loads of large, oversized sinks to give your hands a good clean when you’ve finished.
There is also a ‘petting’ area when you can get up-close-and-personal with more animals wandering around in a purpose built field. My boys aren’t too keen as the goat always tries to chase you for the bag of animal food – greedy thing!
There is also an area to look at rabbits and guinea-pigs which are always a must-see from the Mayne boys.
3. Exploring the grounds – the working farm and country park
The farm area is always interesting to walk around. There is also a walled garden and glass house left over from the old house that once stood there. The kids love going into the glass house to look at the fish in the pond and for some of the year there is a butterfly enclosure. It is hot in the glass house, so in the winter it’s a great place to warm up, but in the summer it can be oppressive!
The Farm is separated off from the country park area which is over on the other side of Middle Park Road. You have to pay to gain entrance to the Farm, but the country park is free. This was once the formal grounds of Leigh Park House, now sadly gone, but if you look carefully as you wander around the park there are relics and walls that give you a taste of the grand house that once stood there. There is also a wooden play area, a large lake and some fantastic wooden carvings.
4. Café or bring-your-own picnic
Back on the farm, there is the obligatory café which sells coffees and cakes and usual café fare. It’s great in the summer as the kids like to cool down with an ice lolly!
If you are going to stay more than a couple of hours, then you can always bring a picnic – there are plenty of green areas within the farm and plenty of tables and benches if you prefer to be off the ground. The kids usually just run off an explore and make new friends while you can relax and enjoy a few minutes peace! Watch out for the wandering animals too…
You could also take your picnic across the road to the country park and enjoy your lunch with a great view of the lake and have plenty of space to kick a ball about.
5. Meeting friends and making friends
It’s a wonderful place to meet up with friends as invariably we’ve all got an annual membership of some kind or another. During half term and holidays there are also extra activities for the children to take part in – my boys especially like Halloween as there are various spooky things dotted around to spot.
It’ll be a sad day when my kids are grown up and I won’t have an excuse to renew the Culture-All Passport annual pass any more!
If you’ve not been to Staunton Farm then go – it is one of the best working/petting farms in Hampshire.