Farmyard frolics at Woodside
PUBLISHED: 10:14 12 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:14 12 August 2013
ON a sunny Saturday, we decided to head to Woodside Animal Farm for some fresh air and for Theo to meet the animals. Tucked between Slip End and Aley Green, Woodside turned out to be a little gem of a farm, strongly geared towards younger children and offering an unusual mix of animals.
When we entered I initially thought it looked quite small, but its appearance is deceptive. It isn’t spread across a huge area but we kept finding ourselves being led into different places that revealed new things, so in the end, it took us the whole afternoon to make our way round and see everything at a toddler’s pace.
At the entrance, once I had managed to prise Theo away from the tractor, I was surprised to come face to face with giant tortoises and squirrel monkeys. Woodside is certainly not your average English farm, unless our farmers are hiding a few flamingos in with the chickens. It mixes a few animals you would expect to find in a zoo, such as the lemurs and flamingos with more traditional breeds like goats, ponies, alpacas, llamas and chickens.
You can buy bags of animal food at the entrance and feed the animals directly from your hand. We had a bag of food for the larger breeds and it was great fun feeding the llamas, goats and ponies. They were eager but gentle and although Theo was a bit young to be doing the feeding, there were plenty of older kids enjoying stroking the animals and dishing out handfuls of food.
The squirrel monkeys were popular and when they disappear into their little house, you can go into the hut and watch them. The flamingos are also a highlight and you can walk through the centre of their aviary to get a closer view. There is also a smaller animal section which is undercover and where the daily animal handling sessions take place. I held a two week old chick but I wasn’t quite brave enough to tackle the corn snake. You can also stroke and hold a bearded dragon and chinchilla.
I quickly discovered that there are an adequate number of hand washing points, just as well when your toddler takes great joy in eating dirt and sucking his thumb while fixing you with puppy eyes.
In between the animal enclosures, we found several different play areas including tractors for climbing on, a wooden play area with slide, a sandpit, small sit-on tractors, swings, a trampoline and electric tractors for kids aged three and above which cost £1 to run. There were a few fairground rides and a free farm-themed crazy golf which is a good size and more popular with the adults and older children.
Woodside has catered well for kids who want to run around and let off steam in between looking at the animals.
Some of the play areas are tucked away, like the swings which Theo was delighted to discover at the end of the chicken cages, so you need to don your explorer caps to find everything, which I think makes it more fun for children.
There is also an indoor soft play area, located in the café. The downstairs one is for children aged three and above, and upstairs there is a smaller section for toddlers, both with seating for parents.
The café is immediately to the right of the entrance and offers hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and a few hot meals along with plenty of snack foods. Nothing fancy but reasonably priced. There is also a kids’ lunch box option for £3.95 and plenty of benches half way round the farm if you want to picnic.
There are two toilet stops, one in the café and one by the picnic benches and snack caravan. Note that the farm only accepts cash and this is signed at the entrance, but the farm shop, accessible from the car park, offers cash-back if you are caught out.
We had a really enjoyable day and I would say that Woodside Farm is a good destination for younger children. It might not be as polished or as new as some of the other attractions we have visited but children don’t notice that, and we thoroughly enjoyed the animals, the fact that you could get so close to them, and the play areas were an added bonus.
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